If there is one thing the Green Bay Packers need to do in the 2014 NFL Draft it’s find a long-term solution at safety. The position has been an issue ever since the career-ending injury Nick Collins suffered back in 2011 and after two years of lackluster play, an upgrade is desperately needed and General Manager Ted Thompson needs to deliver.
Fortunately for Green Bay, the 2014 draft has a number of quality safeties that will be available in the first two rounds, providing Thompson and the Packers the perfect opportunity to address what is unquestionably the team’s biggest need.
Of course if you follow the draft process you probably already know the names of the top safeties but as a quick refresher, there’s Ha Ha Clinton-Dix from Alabama, Calvin Pryor of Louisville, Jimmie Ward of Northern Illinois, Deonne Bucannon of Washington State and Terrence Brooks of Florida State.
If the Packers had their choice, Clinton-Dix would likely be the guy. He has an outstanding pedigree after playing for Nick Saban at Alabama and has all the skills you would want in an ideal safety. However, he will likely be gone by the time Green Bay picks in the first round, so unless Thompson plans on trading up for him, he won’t be a Packer.
Pryor should be available when the Packers pick in round one but to me he’s more of a box safety than a free safety and at this point Green Bay needs someone who can play the deep middle, helping to prevent big plays in the passing game like Collins once did.
Ward is another solid player but the 21st pick is too early for him and with Bucannon’s stock on the rise, Brooks is looking more and more like the safety Green Bay should target in round two to fill the need at free safety.
Brooks, a 5-11, 198-pound safety from Florida State, spent his first two college seasons as a backup corner before he was shifted to safety before his junior season.
In two seasons as a starter, the speedy Brooks, who was clocked at 4.42 in the forty-yard-dash, notched 107 tackles (nine for loss), four interceptions, three forced fumbles and 11 passes defensed.
While Brooks is a little undersized for the safety position, he is a physical player that is not afraid to come into the box and mix it up. He also has a tremendous burst, which allows him to close in on ball-carriers in impressive fashion.
Brooks, like Collins, has the kind of coverage skills needed to drop down and cover a wide receiver in the slot, while also possessing solid ball skills playing the deep middle — and despite being undersized he is not afraid to mix it up in the run game. He is a physical tackler and misses tackles at times trying to make the big hit, but he is good enough to play in the box if needed, which is important because the Packers are so interchange with their safeties.
The former Seminole standout might also be the closest thing to Collins available in this draft as the former Pro Bowler also played corner in college at Bethune-Cookman before being converted to safety by Green Bay. When you see Brooks play (see video below), streaking across the field to make a tackle, break up a pass or make an interception, it bears resemblance to Collins. That sheer speed and playmaking ability is something the Packers defense needs desperately and he could be the guy to provide it.
Brooks may not be the highest-rated safety in the 2014 draft but he might be the one with the most upside — and when it comes to the perfect marriage between value and need, no one is a better fit for the Packers than Brooks, who might finally give Green Bay a competent replacement for Collins.