As Packers fans, we have all seen the struggles Darnell Savage this season. After how he finished last season big things were expected of him in his third season. Joe Barry was coming in to run the defense and he was bringing the Vic Fangio/Brandon Staley defense with him.
Barry talked of a new position in the defense called the ‘star’, which ended up being a fancy name for the slot cornerback. There would be some added responsibility and some more blitzing and other stuff that they would do, but for the most part it was the same. Its very similar to the ‘robber’ that Charles Woodson played in Green Bay. See the reasons below:
There was much talk and speculation about who would man the position. Barry himself had mentioned about four guys who could fill the role. After Sullivan had a down year as a the nickel back in 2020 the prevailing thought was that they would play different players at the star spot. His season started out slow like the rest of the defense, but Savage never seemed to return to his play of the previous season.
Darnell Savage’s Measurable
His size also lends itself to playing corner/slot. He measured 5’10 3/4ths and 198 pounds at the combine. Savage also only did 11 reps on the bench which is low for a corner let alone a safety. His lack of his size and strength shows on film which you can get away with better at corner/slot versus safety.
Darnell Savage’s Coverage
Savage’s coverage stats also seem to indicate he might be better off playing the ‘star’. In the 2020 season he had the 3rd lowest QB rating in the slot (58.0). The total completion percentage he allowed in 2020 was 56%, but in 2021 it went up to 64% where he played a lot less slot. Touchdowns given up also went from only 2 in 2020 to 7 in 2021.
Strong Draft Class
The draft class of free safeties, or guys who can play it, is also a good group. You have guys like Kyle Hamilton from Notre Dame and Daxton Hill from Michigan who are the elite safeties of this class, but they won’t be there when Green Bay picks. After them, though, there are a number of guys who should go in the 2nd-4th round range.
Guys like Jaquan Brisker from Penn State, Lewis Cine from Georgia, Verone McKinley from Oregon, Markquese Bell from Florida A&M, Nick Cross from Maryland, Kerby Joseph from Illinois, Bryan Cook from Cincinnati, Bubba Bolden from Miami(Fla.), and Kolby Harvell-Peel from Oklahoma State just to name a few.
In conclusion this would allow the Packers to stay strong in the secondary and remain versatile. Sullivan probably won’t be resigned due to cap issues. Also, being not as important as guys like Rodgers, Adams, Alexander and Campbell when it comes to free agency. Darnell Savage can play all over with Jaire and Stokes manning the outside spots. Then you have Amos at one safety spot and your rookie filling in when the Packers are in nickel. This would be a very dangerous group to throw against.
Finally the last ranking group! This is the 2022 NFL draft safety rankings. This years class is pretty strong at the top and deep overall. It is a lot like the corner group. There is probably at least two that will go in the first. Now lets get into the 2022 NFL draft safety rankings.
1. Kyle Hamilton – Notre Dame
The top ranked safety in many 2022 NFL draft safety rankings. A huge dude who is an elite athlete. Elite sideline to sideline range. He can play all over the field. He can play free, strong, slot, or nickel backer. Hamilton is a good tackler. He has had some different injuries that should be checked into. Is not the smoothest when flipping his hips. He also has corner-like ball skills.
2. Daxton Hill – Michigan
Hill is another uber-athletic safety. He has played all over the defensive backfield. A very similar player to Darnell Savage. He shows great range and ball skills on film. Despite his size, he has been a solid run defender. Hill though still is raw due to his lack of experience as a starter. His frame is still a little underdeveloped, so you would like to see him add some bulk to his frame. He also shows a great closing burst to the ball when it’s in the air.
3. Jordan Battle – Alabama
Battle is another in a long line of solid safety prospects to come out of Alabama. Battle brings good size and athleticism to the field allowing him to play either safety spot. He shows a very good explosion on the field and shows smooth hips. He is another player that has shown his versatility by lining up all over the field. What he does need to work on is his tackling, he can be a little inconsistent in that area. He is a solid run defender. Battle can also improve in coverage. He doesn’t always play full speed and could make more plays if he did.
4. Brandon Joseph – Northwestern
Joseph is long and athletic, with crazy range. He is also in another long line of versatile defenders, having played in the slot, single high, two high, Strong or free. His instincts seem to be on another level. He brings wide receiver-like ball skills to the field. He competes in the run game but could stand to fill out his frame a bit more. His aggressiveness can get the better of him sometimes.
5. Jaquan Brisker – Penn State
Brisker brings good athleticism and length to the field. He can smoothly flip his hips in coverage. His best physical asset is probably his agility. He shows an ability to really explode when closing on the ball or a ball carrier. He also brings a high level of football IQ to the game. Also Brisker is a willing run defender who could become even better. Overall his biggest issue is he tends to show some inconsistencies. He could also improve as a tackler.
6. Lewis Cine – Georgia
Cine is a very physical hard-hitting safety. He plays very well against the run and shows good awareness in the run game. For a guy known as a physical hard hitter, he shows solid athleticism on the field. He shows good COD skills. He has lined in in a few different spots, even having lined up at cornerback some. Overall ball skills are a bit of a weakness, especially having trouble finding the ball when his back is to it. He seems to do fine when in zone coverage.
7. Verone McKinley III – Oregon
McKinley is another in a long line of athletic, versatile defensive backs out of Oregon. He started as a corner at Oregon and it shows in his coverage skills and ball skills. He excels in zone coverage. While he’s not the biggest guy he plays hard and aggressively. He only has average length and that may affect him more with him not being the biggest guy. He can easily transition to playing the slot once in the NFL, but long term where do you play him? His size can affect him sometimes in the running game.
8. Jalen Pitre – Baylor
Pitre jumps out on film with his explosiveness and energetic style. Pitre brings versatility to the game since Baylor moved him all over. While he played esentially a linebacker role at Baylor he has shown to have solid zone coverage skills. From the jump he should be able to help on special teams as he learns. The biggest questions following him is how will he transition and will he be able to do it?
9. Tykee Smith – Georgia
Smith transferred over from West Virginia. He has shown to have high quality football IQ. Smith is solid all around against the run and in coverage. He’s been a really strong tackler in his career. While undersized he plays a super physical game. One of the questions about him is his ability to play other positions like single high or covering receivers/tight ends out of the slot. His lack of size can hurt him at times, especially against bigger players.
10. Isiah Pola-Mao – USC
Pola-Mao has good size and athleticism with great length. He has shown good power in the running game for such a long guy. He has shown good agility and can flip his hip easily. The problem is he has been inconsistent against the run and at times in coverage. He also has had some trouble getting off blocks. Pola-Mao can also be fooled with misdirection or the quarterback’s eyes. He has shown some versatility on the field lining up all over. More bulk and strength are needed.
This final list will focus on defensive backs. This years class looks strong at cornerback. With the safety class it could be pretty good if everyone shows improvements. There are a lot of young/inexperienced guys in this class that could take it to the next level.
Jordan Battle (S) – Alabama
Two-year starter entering his third. Battle has solid size at 6’1 210 and is filled out. He is strong in coverage and against the run. Deconstructs blocks. Smooth hips and he has the speed to keep up with receivers down the field. Shows great leadership skills and an excellent communicator. Shows an ability to read the quarterback. His biggest strength is his versatility. He can line up anywhere. His tackling angles and form could use some work. Battle has good ball skills but could turn in more interceptions if he timed it a little better. He could also stand to show more aggression on the field.
Bolden is very talented. His change of direction skills are impressive. Although his straight line speed is just average. He has size at 6’2 205 and long arms. His long arms really help him in his tackling. Has experience lining up at free safety, in the slot, and on special teams. Bolden is a heavy hitter. His film is inconsistent. He has yet to have much ball production, but he has flashed production in coverage. Comes in out of control when trying to take down a ball carrier causing missed tackles.
Andrew Booth Jr (CB) – Clemson
Great cornerback size at 6’1 195. Booth is raw with only 4 games started in 2020, but He did play a lot before that. His athleticism is off the charts. His straight line speed may not be elite, but it is still better than average. Booth shows natural cover skills, although His route recognition skills still need work. Plays a physical game and is a willing tackler. Booth is not yet talk about much in the national media. With a big junior year he could really jump in the rankings. It might take him a couple years in the NFL to reach his potential. He could end up the #1 corner in the class.
Lewis Cine (S) – Georgia
Cine has solid size at 6’1 200 with good all around athleticism. His speed is close to elite for a safety. Cine played has played mostly free safety. Super physical player and that shows in his hitting. Also an elite tackler. He needs work on his coverage skills. If that can be improved he will move up boards. He has a lot of potential to be an elite all around safety. Cine could easily play the dime safety/nickel linebacker role in the NFL. So far his ball skills have been lacking. Needs to try and play the ball more.
Kaiir Elam (CB) – Florida
Big size (6’2 195) with a lot of potential. His overall athleticism is very good. Explosive with quick hips. Has great football IQ. He does a good job at reading the quarterback and anticipating the receivers route. Elam’s ball skills while not elite are solid. The current gator plays an all around physical game, and he likes to play bump and run. His long speed is just average. Elam also needs to improve his tackling technique. His footwork could also use some work. He could challenge for the #1 corner spot in the draft. Definite 1st rounder.
Ahmad Gardner (CB) – Cincinnati
Gardner has great height at 6’2, but only weights 188. His frame though looks like it could hold another 10 pounds though. Gardner has vines for arms, which allows him to affect the receiver and gets his hands on more balls. He has been a starter since his freshman season. Athletically he is solid overall, but not the elite level that some of the other guys in the class are. He is more fluid than freak athlete. Gardner also shows excellent burst on the field. Aggressive and solid tackler. With that being said sometimes his aggressiveness can get the better of him. He also has trouble getting off blocks. That maybe be due to a lack of bulk. Due to his average athleticism he will have to improve and stay on top of his technique.
Kyle Hamilton (S) – Notre Dame
Hamilton is the top safety in the class and its doubtful that still wont be the fact when the 2022 draft comes around. Elite size at 6’4 220 but with the athleticism of someone three inches shorter and 20 pounds lighter. His range and athleticism is off the charts. Fluid and explosive. Elite ball skills with the length to impact the passing game even if he doesn’t come down with the ball. He can come down and cover receivers or tight ends in the slot. Even with his long lanky frame he is an excellent tackler. Hamilton is a little high hipped which can cause some issues with his transitions. He has also had a couple injuries that should be checked into.
Daxton Hill (S) – Michigan
Hill is a little small at 6’0 190-ish. He could stand to pack on around 10 pounds of muscle just so he can handle the riggors of the NFL. Hill is an elite athlete. He ran a 4.3 and had a 43 inch vertical coming out of high school. Hill has the upside to be an elite free safety, but he is still raw. He shows good tackling form on film. Also shows great range and ball skills. He played a lot of special teams early in his career. Despite his size he has shown good skills in deconstructing blocks. He has solid man to man skills and can be lined up in the slot. The current Wolverine has good length for having average height. He has only started 9 games in his career and that shows in some of his under-developed skills. Hill has flashed but needs to turn those flashes into consistency. He could really move up if he does that.
Josh Jobe (CB) – Alabama
Jobe has solid size at 6’0 195. He does have good length and wingspan though. Three year starter who has been a good starter that has gone under the radar. Jobe plays a physical game. He likes to play up at the line of scrimmage. Smooth hips in coverage. He could stay lower in his back pedal. Uses the sideline in coverage well. Solid hitter and tackler. Willing against the run game. Only has played on the perimeter. He does not have experience in the slot. Jobe is a little bit of an older prospect ( will be 24 as a rookie). He has a habit of getting grabby with receivers. His feet also can be a bit choppy, and some teams may see him more as a safety. He has experience on special teams which helps a lot. Jobe probably needs a year before he’s ready to start.
Brandon Joseph (S) – Northwestern
Solid size at 6’1 192. Great length for his size. Joseph has wide receiver like ball skills, with 6 interceptions in 9 games as a first year starter. He should still add some muscle to his frame and get around 200+. Joseph will only be a redshirt sophomore so he could end up returning. He is also raw only having one season as a starter. He is a willing tackler and is not afraid to stick his nose in the run game. Does come down out of control sometimes, he needs to work on his form and keeping in control of his body. Joseph also has had some work in the slot. Seems like he has the instincts of a three year starter. He already shows good skills in both man and zone coverage.
Derion Kendrick (CB) – Georgia
Major backround/off the field issues that need to be looked into. Transferred from Clemson after being dismissed for off the field issues. He was also arrested in 2021. Kendrick does have good size at 6’0 190. His frame looks like it could handle a few more pounds as well and he could use more strength. Kendrick is still raw as a prospected due to limited experience at corner. Great ball skills for a former wide receiver. His tackling could use some work; the effort is there its mostly technique. Has the size, length, hips, and feet to be an excellent corner. His straight line speed is average. Kendrick feels more comfortable in zone versus man. He could be a boom or bust prospect depending on his off the field issues.
Trent McDuffie (CB) – Washington
He is a well put together 5’11 195. McDuffie is quick, fluid, and explosive. He is also a strong physical tackler. Shows natural football instincts. Shows an ability to force turnovers on film. Very good in press coverage. While his size is decent his length is some what lacking, causing him issues in deconstructing blocks. McDuffie’s ball production is very minimal which speaks to his lack of length. He may never have much ball production. He still needs work in zone. Could be a real solid slot corner.
Nehemiah Pritchett (CB) – Auburn
2020 was his first season as a starter. Pritchett has good height and length at 6’1 but a bit on the small side at 180. Good overall athlete with loose hips. On film he has shown good man coverage skills. Willing and good tackler for his size. He has played well against the run as well. Still a bit raw with his first year as a starter coming last season. Can get a little grabby down the field. So far he has been best in press coverage. Zone is a bit of a weakness for him. Pritchett has a lot of upside and could move up the boards if he has a big season.
Derek Stingley Jr (CB) – LSU
Stingley came in as a freshman and looked like a three year starter. He has great size at 6’1 195. Great length and elite athleticism. Another explosive corner in this class. Elite at mirroring receivers. Stingley puts his experience at wide receiver to use with his ball skills. He can play both zone and man. Also he can play press and off. Like a lot of college corners he can get handsy at times. He has great footwork for someone so inexperienced at corner. Good tackling skills, could show a little more aggression. He could also stand to play a little more aggressive. Going into the 2021 season he is being looked at as the #1 corner in the class. He will probably maintain it.