Past Draft Failures Are the Biggest Reason for the Packers Continued Need at Cornerback

Cornerback is once again at or near the top of the list when looking at the Green Bay Packers draft needs in 2021. It seems like the need at this position is a recurring theme for this franchise recently. While the salary cap, free agency and injuries have played a part in this need, the team’s mixed record when drafting cornerbacks is the primary reason for this recurring problem.

The Packers have drafted a cornerback five times in the top three rounds of the draft since 2015 but they haven’t gotten a lot of help in this area despite the priority they have placed on it.

Of the five cornerbacks the Pack have selected recently, they have truly hit on only one of them and that is Jaire Alexander who Green Bay selected with the 18th overall selection in the 2018 draft.

Alexander was good even as a rookie, but in 2020, his third season in the league, the former Louisville star blossomed into a shutdown cornerback and made the Pro Bowl for the first time. He spent the entire season at or near the top of Pro Football Focus’ grades for cornerbacks.

Ja’Money is fast, smart and supremely confident. He enjoys the challenge of going toe-to-toe with some of the best receivers in football and shutting them down.

The only thing that is preventing Alexander from perennial All Pro status is his lack of big plays. In three seasons, he has just four career regular season interceptions. He did pick off Tom Brady twice in the NFC Championship Game, which shows he can rise to the occasion, but he needs to increase his interception total a bit more to take his game to the next level.

But the other corners the Packers have taken since 2015 have not been as successful in the NFL. The Packers used their top pick in 2015 to select Arizona State defensive back Damarious Randall. Randall’s talent made him best suited for safety, but the Packers tried to make him a cornerback and the results weren’t great.

In three seasons with the Packers, Randall picked off 10 passes and returned two for touchdowns, but he also struggled with consistency and was burned too often. He was traded to the Browns in 2018 and was converted to safety where he played better. He spent the 2020 season in Seattle but was not a starter.

In the second round in 2015, the Packers selected Quinten Rollins with the 62nd overall pick. The former Miami of Ohio star lasted only three seasons with the Packers and never reached his potential. He started 10 games in his second season in the league but never established himself as a full-time starter. He intercepted three passes in three seasons, returning one for a touchdown during his rookie campaign.

The Packers attempted to convert Rollins to safety before the 2018 season, but the position change wasn’t successful and he was released prior to the start of the season. He later signed with the Cardinals and 49ers but never played in another NFL game.

Two years later, the Packers again used their first pick in the draft (second round) on a cornerback and selected Kevin King. King had his ups and downs in Green Bay. His biggest issues were staying healthy and being consistent.

King led the Packers with five interceptions in 2019 which was his best season, but nagging injuries and inconsistency hurt him. At times, King could use his size and length to cover opposing receivers but he also gave up too many big plays at inopportune times. Fans will remember his coverage blunder just before halftime in the NFC Championship Game against the Bucs this year which gave Tampa Bay a lead they never relinquished.

The Packers are unlikely to re-sign King this offseason. He has developed into an average second cornerback and still may be able to improve his play if he can stay healthy and play in the right system.

The jury is still out on Josh Jackson who the Packers took in the second round in 2018 right after they took Alexander. The Iowa alum lacks top-flight speed and after showing some promise early in his rookie season, he has yet to establish himself as a reliable starter in this league.

In three seasons with the Packers, Jackson has yet to intercept a pass and has started a total of 15 games. Ten of those starts came in his rookie campaign while the other five came when King was injured and out of the lineup this year.

By the end of the 2020 season, Jackson was often inactive and he did not play in four of the Packers final six games this season and both playoff contests.

Jackson will have another chance to show what he can do in training camp. His strength is zone coverage and new defensive coordinator Joe Barry likes to play a lot of zone. This may be his final chance to prove he deserves a spot in the lineup for Green Bay.

Because the Packers didn’t hit on their draft picks at cornerback, they had to sign free agents like Davon House and Tramon Williams as stopgap options.

Expect the Packers to draft another cornerback this season, most likely on the first two days of the draft. Adding an experienced player via free agency is also an option. However, unless the Packers hit on these picks, the cycle of needing and drafting cornerbacks is bound to continue for several more years.

You can follow Gil Martin on Twitter @GilPackers

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Comments (58)

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ricky's picture

February 27, 2021 at 12:21 pm

The draft is a crap shoot. A lot of fans were very happy when Jackson was drafted in the second round, considering him to be a steal. Now, unless the Packers try to make him a safety, he's gone, IMO. King was a different story. A lot of fans really wanted TJ Watt. Oh well. It seems likely King will come back on a one year "prove it" deal. And if he stays healthy and has a good year, let him walk. Because it's all too common for a player to suddenly get a lot better in their contract year, then fade back into obscurity once the big bucks have come their way. However, if King proved to be part of the reason the Packers made the SB, good enough.

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13TimeChamps's picture

February 27, 2021 at 12:46 pm

If he's done little to "prove it" in years 1, 2, 3 and 4.....what is it you anticipate him proving in year 5?

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Leatherhead's picture

February 27, 2021 at 09:15 pm

Well, he started every game that he was healthy enough to play, so that would seem to prove he’s one of our best DBs if he’s not hurt.

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13TimeChamps's picture

February 28, 2021 at 09:11 am

I agree that makes him one of "our" best DBs. I also believe that is more of an indictment of the overall depth at the position.

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jannes bjornson's picture

February 27, 2021 at 04:37 pm

Player personnel people get paid big bucks to secure solid players. Taking gambles on guys with injury histories and questionable smarts is not the formula for getting into the Big Game.

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Coldworld's picture

February 28, 2021 at 02:12 pm

And the difference is fractionally better success than another team. There is no guarantee even for pro talent evaluators. It’s about trying to be marginally less unsuccessful than the rest. King wasn’t injury prone in college and it’s just one of the factors. Simplicity sounds good till compared with reality.

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Qoojo's picture

February 28, 2021 at 11:59 am

You got it right on the fans. Homers for anything out of WI. Guess right on 1 out of 10 picks, and the packers did not select their guy, and they end up thinking they are geniuses.

Every pick is a total gamble. Obviously, the odds of draft pick success are higher earlier in the draft. There is no 100% sure thing pick. Even at 99% success rate, there is still a chance of a failure.

Like I mentioned, you get these armchair draftniks that think they know what they are doing because they only recall the time they picked right and the packers got it wrong. Whereas if you put their entire draft on the record, and went with their picks, packers would be a shit show and a half.

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Packer_Fan's picture

February 27, 2021 at 12:21 pm

I agree. Just going have to draft more. But I think Gute should sign a mid level free agent to bolster the corner backs

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jannes bjornson's picture

February 27, 2021 at 04:38 pm

He should sign a starter.

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PhantomII's picture

February 27, 2021 at 08:03 pm

You're right and if Gute had done it last year........

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Doug_In_Sandpoint's picture

February 27, 2021 at 12:40 pm

The premise of the article is that bad drafts have prevented solidifying the corner opposite Jaire. While it’s true our drafts haven’t worked as well as we wish, had we drafted studs, they would now be making big money elsewhere. QB1, Bahk, and other big contracts in a salary cap environment preclude us from having 2 shut down corners. Chose your poison.

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Johnblood27's picture

February 27, 2021 at 04:53 pm

IF the GBP had drafted CB better, then Alexander would NOT have been on the radar when he was.

Pick one or the other, both is just fantasy.

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Coldworld's picture

February 28, 2021 at 08:17 am

Good point. The article reaches back a long way. I think it also omits the lack of carry over from the pre Gute era. We had to start from scratch, effectively.

What I’ve been concerned about is less King and more the failure to see any improvement among the cast of characters behind him over the last 5 years. Sullivan was a street find. The rest have come and gone or been invisible.

We clearly need to retool the CB pool behind Alexander. Sullivan deserves both another shot and to have competition. Behind that, need a ruthless assessment of who could realistically be ready to contribute this year. That includes Hollman and Jackson and all those on development contracts. They clearly like Ento, but the man needs to survive camp at least.

To me, we not only need a draft pick early or a decent vet signing but a radical review and potential restocking of the CB depth.

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x24's picture

March 01, 2021 at 10:05 am

"pre Gute era"- Gutekust was director of college scouting in 2015 when the Packer's selected Randall and Rollins.

I think assigning some responsibility is fair

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splitpea1's picture

February 27, 2021 at 03:00 pm

So are we going to draft a sizeable CB like King or a smaller slot corner type? If we're looking at the latter, Asante Samuel, Jr. may be a good choice--he plays bigger than his size (might also be good enough for the outside) and can tackle. Watch him on Twitter undercut A.J. Dillon on in a game against Boston College. Doesn't have much experience in zone coverage, though.

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Alberta_Packer's picture

February 27, 2021 at 01:40 pm

The defense remains the team's greatest area of need - so the first pick is most likely a defensive player. I think that it will be a CB because a good corner is the most difficult position to draft (defensively) and as proven by the Packers draft record. Although if a stud defensive line man (like Kenny Clark) fell to 29th, I would be tempted to take first.

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Gman1976's picture

February 27, 2021 at 03:29 pm

We all know we an OT, DT, and CB. We should take the highest rated player at one of these positions (unless there is someone left on the board that is so great at his position that we will kicking ourselves for years later).

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Johnblood27's picture

February 27, 2021 at 04:54 pm

you mean like Jordan Love?

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PhantomII's picture

March 02, 2021 at 09:35 pm

Or Watt in 1st RD.

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stockholder's picture

February 27, 2021 at 01:56 pm

The only thing the packers proved. Is that the secondary, had "The biggest busts" of their drafts. You would think, after Shields and Williams. And letting Hyde and Hayward go. It just wouldn't turn out that way. Didn't TT sign Charles Woodson? Wasn't Gute in charge of scouting, and in the front office for 20 years? It just blows the mind!! That after King missed so much Time. That nobody can make the jump over a drafted Rookie. Not to mention the money used to resign Williams and Amos. This shouldn't be,"if you can't succeed, Try and Try again". We just have to live with Jackson. Or resign King. Thats the only way to get off this merry -go round. And lets just get this straight. The more you waste time with changes. The more the window closes to get back to the super-bowl.

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jannes bjornson's picture

February 27, 2021 at 04:41 pm

Got Lucky with UDFAs like Shields and Tramon. When you spin the roulette wheel the chances of hitting the mark is in the low end of the bell curve.

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Leatherhead's picture

February 27, 2021 at 02:04 pm

Gil, you need 9 DBs. Let’s say they’re all on a four year deal. How many DBs do you need to draft each year?

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dobber's picture

February 27, 2021 at 02:18 pm

OL and DB: 1-2 every draft.

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flackcatcher's picture

February 27, 2021 at 03:57 pm

Passing league. The NFL is a Passing league. The number of quality DB is finite every draft. Teams must keep drafting at least 1-2 and sign 2+ every year. And hope they hit on one. The Packers got two starting CB when a lot of NFL teams are lucky to have one in their starting lineup. The Packers front office more often than not beats the odds. Too many take that for granted.

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jeremyjjbrown's picture

February 27, 2021 at 02:40 pm

If the Packers are going to play more zone Jackson might have a chance. He definitely can not cover in man to man in the NFL, but he looks passable with the ball in front of him. That's where he made his big plays in College. The Rams mix in more zone than Pettine did so maybe he can contribute.

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Johnblood27's picture

February 27, 2021 at 04:57 pm

My money says he gonna have to.

The cupboard is bare and King aint wearing the GBP jersey again.

Even with a high draft pick, my $$$ say Jackson starts while the kids learn.

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Coldworld's picture

February 28, 2021 at 08:23 am

Jackson couldn’t get on the field while King hobbled, heck he couldn’t get active mostly. Sorry, I’m not banking on him to start, even necessarily make the roster.

As to this idea that we play more zone, if true I’m far from excited as it is always disturbing to take away one of your star’s strengths. I’m also not a huge fan of split zone in a league where injuries happen.

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dobber's picture

February 28, 2021 at 02:06 pm

"Jackson couldn’t get on the field while King hobbled, heck he couldn’t get active mostly."

That's really not true: essentially the only time Jackson played in 2020 was when King was hurt. He started 5 games...all of them games where King was laid up with his varying injuries, and played 90%+ of the defensive snaps in those games.

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jannes bjornson's picture

February 28, 2021 at 01:00 pm

jackson should have been cut two years ago. Judas Priest, does anybody watch the Games?

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PatrickGB's picture

February 28, 2021 at 01:58 pm

I have often thought that Jackson would have made a better safety than CB. I once read that the reason they did not was that they wanted him to learn one position before they would try him at another. He does not have CB speed and gets frustrated when beat so he grabs. It’s time to move him or lose him.
King looked to me (and probably only me) as an average CB. I would not call him bad just not good and healthy enough. He could be a decent backup but I would not pay him starter money.

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Lare's picture

February 27, 2021 at 03:35 pm

King and Jackson are gone.

It''s time to replace them.

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hobowilly's picture

February 27, 2021 at 10:28 pm

fully agree on Jackson...not sure it was a poor pick at the time, but the scouts got it wrong; King should be given a chance-it was Pettine that called the alignment, although on "that play" King misplayed the WR speed, but they weren't protecting the goal line on the last play of the half. We can all argue the point, but the D call was wrong and was the straw that broke Pettine's back. I hope the new DC has some success--he definitely is inheriting a pretty decent group, perhaps the best he's controlled to date. i give him 2 years to maintain or slightly improve..if he can't do that, send him packing.

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Fabio's picture

February 27, 2021 at 04:06 pm

Go acquire Gilmoure and draft a CB to develop. GPG Greetings from Italy

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splitpea1's picture

February 27, 2021 at 04:27 pm

Very unlikely; we won't pay the price, which is probably a second-round pick.

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jannes bjornson's picture

February 27, 2021 at 04:43 pm

So drafting guys like Jackson and J.Jones with a two pick is more sound?

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Johnblood27's picture

February 27, 2021 at 04:58 pm

Thats a GREAT point.

If the losss of a 2nd round pick was the total cost, that would be a great deal.

What about the cap consequences? That is where the 2021 GBP are just franked.

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splitpea1's picture

February 27, 2021 at 06:08 pm

Discuss it with Gute. I simply stated that the Packers don't usually make this kind of move. When's the last time we were "all in"?

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Fabio's picture

February 28, 2021 at 04:34 am

Some time ago I read an article (I think by Cory but I'm not sure) which talked about the possibility of selling pick 1 for a pick 2 and 3. If that were the case I would have no problem acquiring Gilmoure and paying a 2 ° pick
Greetings from Italy GPG

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PhantomII's picture

February 28, 2021 at 11:13 am

We already paid the price. Losing to the Bucs and not bringing home "OUR TROPHY".

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jannes bjornson's picture

February 27, 2021 at 04:44 pm

Bravo, Fabio.

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Fabio's picture

February 28, 2021 at 04:22 am

Thanks so much
Not being very competent I am always afraid of saying things that are far from reality ..... Greetings to all from Italy GPG
PS: I'm afraid we will not acquire Gilmoure, on the contrary we will acquire McCourty

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Packers0808's picture

February 27, 2021 at 04:09 pm

It would seem you would have look pretty hard at this stage of the game to FIND someone worse than King!

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Johnblood27's picture

February 27, 2021 at 04:59 pm

not really...

How about Jackson?
Hollman?
Ento?
Sullivan?

Case closed.

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Packers0808's picture

February 27, 2021 at 06:05 pm

Nope none of them played the times King played except possibly Sullivan! Case WIDE open!

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PhantomII's picture

February 27, 2021 at 08:21 pm

This is a perfect example of NOT taking BPA. Let's throw 4-5 #1's to the wind instead of moving up in RD#1 and getting a better (Elite) CB.
If you need to get better at a position you move up or go get a FA that's proven. These days probably the way to go when you're picking in late 20's or into 30's. Big money players (Edge), #1 CB's, Etc. The way to go is be paying a position and one in the works for quality and a lower cap. Every team has holes, it's just how much lesser talent is below the cream.

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jannes bjornson's picture

February 28, 2021 at 01:05 pm

They have to acquire blue chips, Rodgers cannot bail them out forever. Two mis-played balls by King and two TDs, Savage mis-times a 3rd down toss to Godwin and the ultimate joke of Redmond dropping a end the half gimme.
Three new CBs at minimum for this squad. You cannot have guys that choke on a winning defense. Walsh won a Super Bowl with three rookies in his D backfield, including of course, Ronnie Lott. Blue chips.

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PhantomII's picture

March 01, 2021 at 06:12 am

Thanks, I totally agree. Brady didn't win that game, it was given to him by enormous mistakes at absolutely the worst time by poor play. Brady, 3- int and should have been 4......Unbelievable.....Good teams who PRACTICE and PLAY well step up and don't fall down. There is a disconnect there.

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Fabio's picture

February 28, 2021 at 04:37 am

I'm afraid we'll acquire an experienced CB (most likely McCourty of the Patriots) to complete the roster and a CB in the draft .... and (unless we miraculously pick a new Jaire) the situation won't get much better.
Greetings from Italy GPG

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PhantomII's picture

February 28, 2021 at 11:20 am

We are in a 2-3 year window. Even if we have to use 2- #1's to get the Elite player, you do it. That's #1 WR who starts day one or #1 CB day one, Edge or Best DL to start day 1. When you're picking where we will be next couple years, it's what we have to offer, but really not as much draft stock.

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Fabio's picture

February 28, 2021 at 04:39 am

Although perhaps any replacement for King will always be an update .....

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jlc1's picture

February 28, 2021 at 11:33 am

Shouldn't Casey Heyward have been part of this history? In his case the team found the talent but just did not decide they needed it. Might have been salary cap considerations, I don't remember.

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canadapacker's picture

February 28, 2021 at 01:45 pm

I posted this on Florio's Pro Football Talk site but I guess he doesnt like me because it never passes the moderators. """"I would still really like to see all the people who post their Mock drafts post the actual drafts after the draft side by side so we can evaluate who is a good Mocker and who isnt> Wouldnt that be nice?? """"
- just so we can see who is a good prognosticator and who is not. They can also put out after 3 years who they would have picked by the team and where these guys are now.

As far as GB's failure to draft on the back end - yes I would agree but also letting guys go and having them out of the league is a good evaluator of future talent. But letting guys go ( and as long as they dont want too much money) is a good sign of the effectiveness of an organization - so what does letting Casey Hayword and Mich Hyde tell us?

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Lphill's picture

February 28, 2021 at 02:52 pm

T J Watt would have been a home run he fell in our lap and the Packers took the guy who just cost us a trip to the super bowl.

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ErnieErnie's picture

February 28, 2021 at 04:16 pm

my issue you get what get at the end of the first. any top flight corner is long gone by the time thepack picks and they are not bundling to move up for talent.

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stockholder's picture

February 28, 2021 at 05:52 pm

So far if your watching the CB names. ( Per Conference). Gute is prepared to reach again this draft (Using PFF Board) Campbell is the sure Tackler. Newsome is at 60. And Samuel has made his way up based on pure Athleticism. (From 45) This has nothing to do with 40 times. I can't see passing on a Watt for a King Again.

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Dzehren's picture

February 28, 2021 at 06:02 pm

The good news for GB is WR OT & CB & LB are the strength of the 2021 draft. I believe they are in this order of strength. Edge Rusher has prospects but is more unknown of impact.

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Tundraboy's picture

February 28, 2021 at 10:40 pm

Unfortunately we once again have CB as a top priority. Even more so, as we must capitalize on Jaires greatness and have an excellent corner on the other side. Along with adding a DL with Clark we would then have the makings of a Championship Defense.

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flackcatcher's picture

March 01, 2021 at 11:01 am

Burn out rate for CB and DB is pretty high in the NFL. Packers would be drafting CB(and DB) regardless of need.

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