GREEN BAY – Everything about the Packers’ work in the draft on Friday speaks to how defense is played these days in the NFL.
Cornerbacks keep getting taller. Lining up with six defensive backs is common. Seven isn’t unheard of. Safeties drop down to play linebacker. Linemen move around in different spots, too. Pressure from the interior can be as disruptive as pass-rush from the edge.
A base package with a couple of wrinkles doesn’t come close to cutting it anymore.
“Those days are over,” Packers GM Ted Thompson said. “It’s all kinds of different people out there with different substitution patterns.”
And the expansion of playbooks doesn’t seem to stop. Green Bay’s three selections in Friday’s second and third rounds of the 2017 draft lend themselves to the creativity and flexibility defenses need in the current game.
Washington cornerback Kevin King is 6-3, able to match up against big receivers yet move from the boundary to the slot despite that size. North Carolina State safety Josh Jones can play centerfield, near the line of scrimmage, as a linebacker, or as a cover guy. Auburn defensive lineman Montravius Adams is big enough to play on the nose, agile enough to scoot over, and produced 4½ sacks as an inside rusher last season.
The Packers thought enough of King that they turned down multiple trade offers for the top pick in the second round (No. 33 overall) and didn’t risk him getting away.
At nearly 6-2 and 220 pounds, Jones is “an excellent physical specimen” who Thompson believes is “going to surprise people when they see what he can do.”
As with Jones at the bottom of the second round (No. 61), Adams’ availability near the end of the third (No. 93) “surprised and elated” Thompson.
After the selection of King, Packers director-football operations Eliot Wolf said it was a goal to get faster, and there’s no denying Green Bay did that, too.
The 40 times of King and Jones are in the low 4.4s, and Adams’ 4.87 isn’t too shabby for a 304-pounder.
“We’re taller. Taller and a little faster,” director of player personnel Brian Gutekunst said, specifically about the secondary.
“I just think that’s the way the game’s going. You don’t want to get outflanked. You need to have guys that can run and chase. I don’t think that ever changes. You always want to get faster.”
It doesn’t hurt that this newly acquired speed came in the form of standout players on the defensive side of the ball, where the Packers need the most upgrades after coming one game from the Super Bowl a season ago.
“This is not our grandfather’s football that we’re playing in this day and age,” Thompson said. “Everybody’s fast, everybody’s explosive, and I think that’s what we’re trying to get at.”
They’re not done, either. With six picks on Saturday, beginning with the first choice of the day at the top of the fourth round, the Packers have plenty of work left to do.
They haven’t added any edge-rushers to a unit that lost Julius Peppers and Datone Jones in free agency, so they aren’t finished on defense, even though they haven’t picked any offensive players.
On the as-yet unaddressed side of the ball, Head Coach Mike McCarthy specified this offseason that running backs were a priority, while only one of Thompson’s first 12 drafts has gone by without him selecting at least one offensive lineman, and only once in the last six years has he not drafted at least one wide receiver.
“Maybe we can do something about that tomorrow,” Thompson said, though don’t expect him to pay much attention to labeled positions.
They’re becoming less and less important, and not just with regard to the best-player-available draft mentality.
“We’re going to try to find some more football players,” Thompson said. “If we can do that, we’ll worry about the roster makeup as we go along.”
2017 DRAFT TRACKER