Rico Gafford and his Speed an Intriguing Option at CB

With an opening or two at the CB position, Rico Gafford and his 4.22 speed present an intriguing option for the Packers.

In each of Matt LaFleur's first three seasons, the Green Bay Packers have rostered at least six cornerbacks on the 53-man, including seven in 2019--so it's safe to say that you can expect six cornerbacks on the 2022 team.

We know that the first three spots will belong to Jaire Alexander, Eric Stokes, and Rasul Douglas. I also feel confident in saying that Keisean Nixon will be on this roster with his experience on special teams under Rich Bisaccia, as well as the potential role he could play as an option from the slot.

For similar reasons, I also anticipate Shemar Jean-Charles making this roster as well, although I don't expect him to play as big of a role on defense as Nixon. With that said, if you're not yet sold on the idea of Jean-Charles being on this roster, I understand.

That leaves Rico Gafford, who just converted from wide receiver to cornerback, Raleigh Texada, Kabion Ento, and Kiondre Thomas battling for the final roster spot--or maybe two. And of those four players, it is Gafford who I believe is the most intriguing option.

The 5'10" - 184-pound Gafford went undrafted in 2018 coming out of Wyoming. There he was a cornerback, but in the NFL, he has been a receiver. During his NFL career, Gafford has only four targets with a pair of catches for 66 yards and a touchdown. Most of his time has been spent on the practice squad. 

The reason that I find Gafford an intriguing option is not because of what he can bring to the defense. Although, during his college career, he would allow a completion rate of 53% on 131 targets with six interceptions and 11 pass breakups; that was way back in 2017. More than likely, the move back to cornerback is going to come with a learning curve--and if on the roster, his defensive role would be small to non-existent.

However, Gafford does possess 4.22 speed and is someone who could be a special teams gem under the right tutelage, which it would appear the Packers have with Bisaccia. 

Gafford has just 26 career special teams snaps -- all of which came in Las Vegas under Bisaccia, by the way -- and only one kick return attempt for 12 yards. At Wyoming, Gafford totaled seven kick return attempts and averaged 20 yards per return while particiaping in 244 total speical teams snaps in only two years, according to PFF.

With that speed of his, your initial thought may be that he could provide a spark to the return units, and I'm sure he will take some snaps there this summer just to see what he can do, but where Gafford could really shine is as a gunner.

A 4.22-second 40-yard dash is elite of the elite, and when it comes to being a gunner, getting down field as quickly as possible is the name of the game. During minicamp, Gafford has been taking snaps with the first team special teams unit, and as Andy Herman of Packer Report would note, he's had some nice reps in that role--including flying downfield and recovering a fumble on a muffed punt.

Another important aspect of being a gunner is being a sound tackler. However, at this time, we don't know how Gafford will fair in this part of the game--especially since he is converting from the receiver position. To some degree, this aspect is probably going to be a work in progress given the lack of reps.

Maybe the move back to the cornerback position for Gafford is like riding a bike, but odds are he is going to take his lumps as he adjusts to this position at the NFL level. This is why keeping him on the 53-man roster would be a move that is very much made with special teams in mind--and it's clearly something the Packers have thought of. As a receiver, Gafford was not going to make this roster with how crowded that room is, but at cornerback, he has more of an opportunity to do so.

In past years, special teams have not been an area of emphasis for the Packers; things do appear to be a bit different in 2022. The hiring of Bisaccia signifies this, as does signing free agents Pat O'Donnell and Keisean Nixon--two players that Bisaccia is quite fond of. Bisaccia has also spoken highly of the incoming draft class' ability to help on special teams, and early on, we've seen more starters participating in the third phase of the game as well.

All of which bodes well for a player like Gafford, whose contributions in all likelihood would only come on special teams.

Now, having said all of that, there is still a long ways to go with training camp and the preseason before these roster spots are determined, and who knows, maybe Ento, Thomas, or Texada really shine and earn that sixth cornerback spot. But given where we stand right now, Rico Gafford, his speed, and the Packers added emphasis on special teams make him a very under-the-radar but intriguing fit for this roster.

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Born and raised in Green Bay, WI and I still call it home. After my family, watching the Packers, sharing my opinions on the team through my writing and interacting with other fans is my greatest passion. You can find me on Twitter at @Paul_Bretl. 
 

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11 points

Comments (41)

Fan-Friendly This filter will hide comments which have ratio of 5 to 1 down-vote to up-vote.
Johnblood27's picture

June 13, 2022 at 11:11 am

Can you say... Sam Shields...?

Rico's tackling should be OK since he was a CB before he went astray as a WR. His learning curve for that skill should be relatively short.

Im not sold on Ento, in my book he is at the ento of the line.

Speed kills, let's hope that it kills our opponents and not us.

15 points
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mnbadger's picture

June 13, 2022 at 12:43 pm

Nothing against any of the backup corners, but I'm really hoping a guy with elite speed can make the cut. With high level experience as a WR or CB, you might as well just call him a football player and find a way to use him. Don't abuse him though, he's not very large by nfl standards. Thank you Paul for sharing the story on this player. This type of article is much more useful to me than any more AR noise. GPG!

10 points
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PatrickGB's picture

June 13, 2022 at 02:02 pm

“ he's not very large by nfl standards. Thank you Paul for sharing the story on this player. This type of article is much more useful to me than any more AR noise.” I agree on both counts. This over thinking on Rodgers has got out of hand. I am quite tired of all the parsing of his every word and the intrusive looks into his personal life. IRT Rico, his lack of size was also my first concern but if he can tackle then it’s ok.

7 points
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Coldworld's picture

June 13, 2022 at 05:30 pm

I got curious on the size point.

He was actually 6 pounds heavier (184) than Shields (178) was coming into the league though listed as an inch shorter at 5’10. Both are smaller than average NFL CBs. The long term average is around 5’11 and 193, so definitely on the smaller side, but not prohibitively so.

4 points
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LLCHESTY's picture

June 13, 2022 at 08:03 pm

Shorter guys are fine as long as they have hops. If they look like Woody Harrellson trying to dunk they might have a problem.

1 points
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Leatherhead's picture

June 13, 2022 at 12:47 pm

We dress 5 CBs, maybe 6. The top 3 we know. Nixon, almost for sure. Not a lot of room. Maybe he makes the practice squad, but I'd hate to see him on the field against a top WR in a playoff game.

-3 points
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ricky's picture

June 13, 2022 at 01:49 pm

If he was the best option to put on the opponent's best WR in a playoff game, the Packers would have been bitten really hard at CB by the injury bug. Either that, or Barry would have lost his mind.

2 points
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Rarescope's picture

June 13, 2022 at 02:01 pm

Doesn't have to be him against the best WR. I recently read that your defense is only as good as your worst player. If one of our CBs is playing at less than 100% (Kevin King in 2020 playoff lost to TB anyone?) guarantee any QB able to lead his team to the playoffs is going to find a way to get the ball to whoever that guy is guarding.

0 points
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Johnblood27's picture

June 13, 2022 at 09:41 pm

Think... Ladarius Gunter covering Julio Jones...

Triple YIKES!!!

2 points
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Pantz_Burp's picture

June 13, 2022 at 10:09 pm

Better than LaDarius Rucker...Wagon Wheel baby!

1 points
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Coldworld's picture

June 13, 2022 at 01:04 pm

Gafford is intriguing. Very fast and agile guy with good hands. The parallel with Shields has already been made, but this guy was a corner until his second year in the NFL. Shields showed that, with ability, a really fast player can hone technique on the job at corner. It would be great if Gafford can make similar use of his speed.

On STs, I’d be perfectly happy seeing real speed, whether at returner or gunner. It will be interesting to watch him through the preseason to see. I’m not sold on SJC. Ento has some coverage skills but he has to have learned to tackle. The others are unknowns. This is one area where one or two could impose themselves. Should be one of the more interesting depth competitions to watch in camp.

4 points
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cheesehead1's picture

June 13, 2022 at 01:22 pm

Hope he gets a chance to show his CB skills. I know Aaron Nagler (whose opinion I respect) would disagree, but please don’t resign Kevin King. His track record just hasn’t been very good, plus his injury history is very troubling to say the least.

3 points
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Johnblood27's picture

June 13, 2022 at 09:42 pm

just say NO to both king and nagler....

2 points
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Coldworld's picture

June 14, 2022 at 07:52 am

I’d consider King as a reserve safety/DB on a minimum contract. We lack one known to have deep coverage skills. He actually was not bad last year.

1 points
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BAMABADGER's picture

June 13, 2022 at 01:28 pm

The long hot summer and nothing to write about..........

1 points
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PatrickGB's picture

June 13, 2022 at 02:05 pm

Oh, there are definitely things to write about. Just don’t cover Aaron Rodgers personal life and overthink his every move. Keep writing and I will keep reading.

3 points
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Johnblood27's picture

June 13, 2022 at 09:43 pm

I havent seen enough on Blu Earth yet...

1 points
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Pantz_Burp's picture

June 13, 2022 at 10:13 pm

Yes, let's keep away from that. Waitttt, it could work out overtime', Blu Earth meet Blu It.

COME ON, JUST FUNNIN WITH YA.....go, go, gooo!

1 points
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Matt Gonzales's picture

June 13, 2022 at 02:02 pm

4.22, huh?

Can he run an end around??

6 points
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GregC's picture

June 13, 2022 at 03:50 pm

I've never heard of a player switching from CB to WR when going to the NFL. It makes me wonder what was the knock on him as a CB. Tackling? Coverage skills? Sounds like this guy is a long shot to make the team, but it's summer, so anything goes.

3 points
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Johnblood27's picture

June 13, 2022 at 09:45 pm

Dude, it was the Rai-duhs...

The team of Warren Wells and cliff branch.

of course they are going to try the 4.22 guy at WR.

2 points
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mbpacker's picture

June 13, 2022 at 04:54 pm

Lot of things to write about in the summer
Hot town summer in the city
Back of my neck feeling dirty and gritty..

4 points
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LLCHESTY's picture

June 13, 2022 at 07:59 pm

People looking half dead hotter than a match head.

I remember that one, barely, from back when my first car only had an AM radio!

2 points
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Johnblood27's picture

June 13, 2022 at 09:46 pm

Thank goodness the 8-track tape came along...

0 points
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LLCHESTY's picture

June 14, 2022 at 07:43 am

8 tracks had already come and gone. A stereo salesman did me a solid in 1980 by convincing me to buy a stereo with a cassette deck instead of an 8 track. A year later 8 tracks had all but disappeared.

My first car was just old.

0 points
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murf7777's picture

June 14, 2022 at 08:00 am

The best was when the tape would be eaten by the machine.

1 points
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Josh's picture

June 13, 2022 at 06:47 pm

Watch out for Raleigh Texada - we know he can tackle - 144 career tackles, 116 solo and 4.40 speed, was on Baylor track team. According to what I've read, highly exp, 2100 college snaps, played 4th most games in BU history (53) and not a bad DB with 20 PBU and 4 Picks in a high pass P5 conference. His learning curve with that many games should be short. This is all out on the sites.

4 points
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Je_GPG4life's picture

June 13, 2022 at 07:19 pm

This is an intriguing pick up. Sounds like he has struggled at CB in the NFL but under the guidance of CB coach Jerry Gray, he might develop the skills he needs. Gray seemed to work magic with Easily Douglas...maybe he can do the same with Gafford.

-1 points
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Coldworld's picture

June 14, 2022 at 07:58 am

Small school guy taken as a UDFA. He has done well to still be in the league in any form. Gruden spotted him for his speed and hands combination and asked him to convert, initially running option type plays and then more traditional routes. Kept him in the league if only as depth. Who knows, if he’s a STer and depth, perhaps he could be an occasional option play option even as a DB. Certainly he is seemingly a good addition to the DB/ST depth competition.

1 points
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Je_GPG4life's picture

June 13, 2022 at 07:19 pm

This is an intriguing pick up. Sounds like he has struggled at CB in the NFL but under the guidance of CB coach Jerry Gray, he might develop the skills he needs. Gray seemed to work magic with Easily Douglas...maybe he can do the same with Gafford.

0 points
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Je_GPG4life's picture

June 13, 2022 at 07:24 pm

This is an intriguing pick up. Sounds like he has struggled at CB in the NFL but under the guidance of CB coach Jerry Gray, he might develop the skills he needs. Gray seemed to work magic with Rasul Douglas...maybe he can do the same with Gafford.

0 points
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Je_GPG4life's picture

June 13, 2022 at 07:30 pm

Sorry for extra posts. Failed at editing when spellcheck changed Rasul to Easily? WTH?!!

1 points
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hobowilly's picture

June 13, 2022 at 07:40 pm

I'm with Coldworld, not at all sold on SJC-Nixon will beat him out.

"being a sound tackler. However, at this time, we don't know how Gafford will fair in this part of the game--especially since he is converting from the receiver position"; my thoughts on this is Gafford is working @ the highest professional level, so i figure he's an athlete. Trust me, i was never a J. Bush fan-TT kept him way too long and he was a horrible CB. But with very elite speed: coach Gray, AND coach B let's see what Gafford can do on ST's

0 points
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Grandfathered's picture

June 13, 2022 at 07:43 pm

Texada is 5'10" and 191. Has coverage skills, has good hands, is not afraid to tackle, and runs a 4.37 40. I suppose now isw a fun time to pick a favorite to root for.

3 points
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Coldworld's picture

June 14, 2022 at 08:13 am

I liked Texada as a UDFA from what I’ dug up on him. However, this is probably a 2 opening competition. His pro day was timed at 4.43 as far as I can see though and he seems less agile in a short area than I’d ideally like in a smaller CB, despite his straight line speed. Hopefully thats just the very limited film and technique issues, but 7.11 3 cone is slow for a guy of his size.

Interestingly given the size discussion here, he’s the same height as Gafford and not much heavier.

Unlike some, I’m not down on Ento IF he can show he is willing and able to tackle. He’s a guy with some natural coverage skills. It should be a good competition among these guys and I am not sure SJC is a favorite. Up to him to show he belongs on D.

0 points
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Josh's picture

June 14, 2022 at 04:00 pm

Compare Raleigh Texada (RAS) To Gafford. 8.21 vs 6.22. This is where every test is compiled into an overall athletic score. He is 10 pounds heavier, doesn't have to be taught to be a CB at NFL level and he played in 4th most games in Baylor history, 4.43 is an avg, he actually ran 4.40, comes with a lot of experience at the P5 level. and if you want o pull out 7.11 3 cone, how about a 4.15 shuttle vs a 4.46 shuttle. 145 tackles in his career, PFF said he only missed 7 tackles, so we know he will tackle. I'm just saying, the competition will be stiff and probably based on a number of factors.

0 points
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PhantomII's picture

June 13, 2022 at 08:33 pm

With his WR practice I hope he has decent ball skills and actually becomes the FS...We don't have and fires off and makes INT"S with his Elite Speed. I'm sure it's ST for him and more in case he catches on quick and is a good tackler. I just hope he helps improve the Defense or ST by doing whatever the coaching staff need him to do.

0 points
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Pantz_Burp's picture

June 13, 2022 at 10:25 pm

Gute night everyone...

(I am kneeling bedside): Lord, please give me the patience and strength to share my infinite wisdom on all things Packers. I will not judge and will keep an open-mind, especially to those less fortunate. I know, I know...good point.

God so loved the world that he gave Pantz Burp to CheeseHead TV.

1 points
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Rarescope's picture

June 13, 2022 at 11:51 pm

And thank god for it, I was afraid I was going to be the only one with a sense of humor around here :P

Also I need to apologize on a post I made yesterday, I got my schedule mixed up. Friday through Sundays is when will Arod retire, mondays and wednesdays are which third string cb is going to make the team, and Tuesday’s and Thursday’s are which rookie WR is going to have a breakout year. Happy off-season!

2 points
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Pantz_Burp's picture

June 14, 2022 at 05:23 am

Rare, come here big guy....you, my friend deserve a longgg, steamy HUG! You are like a well, broken in baseball cap! 😁👌👍

0 points
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Rarescope's picture

June 15, 2022 at 09:06 am

Soul of my firstborn for a Meatloaf hug from Fightclub GIF right now.

0 points
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