GREEN BAY – The Packers addressed their need at cornerback by drafting a safety, sort of.
"We'll probably line him up as a corner. In Dom's system, those guys are all over the place," Packers General Manager Ted Thompson said following the selection of Arizona State's Damarious Randall with the 30th overall pick on Thursday night.
With that remark by Thompson, all of Packernation breathed a sigh of relief.
Randall played safety at Arizona State only because the position was too critical to the Sun Devils' success to not play Randall there. He's a natural corner whose talent for playing centerfield in baseball transitioned well to playing "centerfield" in Arizona State's defense.
So, the Packers now have two such cornerback/safety players in their defense. Micah Hyde is the other one and, all of a sudden, the Packers' great need at cornerback has been solved. Hyde and Randall effectively replace Tramon Williams and Davon House, both of whom left Green Bay in free agency.
"We think he's a very versatile player," Thompson said of Randall. "We took a good football player, in my opinion, and took him at a place very reasonable."
Hyde and Randall are new-breed defensive backs. They're cornerback/safety hybrids that give a defensive coordinator the security of knowing his defense won't get trapped with the wrong personnel on the field. If football is all about matchups, and Packers Head Coach Mike McCarthy says today's game is, then Hyde and Randall are grand luxuries for Defensive Coordinator Dom Capers. Hyde and Randall can line up at safety, then move up into the slot against No. 3 and No. 4 wide receivers.
"I think he's a football player. He's got good ball skills, a knack for catching the ball. He's capable of punt returns," Thompson said.
The Packers drafted Damarious Randall in the first round of the 2015 NFL Draft. Photos by AP and College Press Box.
Utah cornerback Eric Rowe was on the board when the Packers selected Randall. So was highly rated defensive tackle Malcom Brown, a seemingly perfect fit at nose tackle in the Packers' 3-4 defense. This was not a desperation pick. Randall is a player on whom the Packers had trained a lot of thought. This was a strategy pick. He was their guy all along.
"For some time now, we've had him pretty high up on our board. The more you go back and look, he's a good football player. Never worry about stuff. We just want a good football player," Thompson said.
So, the beat goes on in the Packers' attempts to build a defense that has now acquired a first-round pick in eight of the last 10 drafts.
"He played a lot of football at Arizona State. We saw what we needed to see," Thompson said of Randall.