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Outside-the-Box Thinking: David Amerson as Packers' First Pick

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Outside-the-Box Thinking: David Amerson as Packers' First Pick

North Carolina State defensive back David Amerson. Photo by Brian Carriveau of CheeseheadTV.com.

Among NFL Draft anaysts, Chris Steuber of Ourlads.com is higher on North Carolina State defensive back David Amerson than most. But maybe he's onto something.

Hear him out.

"He's a great ballhawk," said Steuber on Cheesehead TV's Railbird Central. "He's a centerfield type of defender. He played the cornerback position at NC State, but you see him not having those great cover skills. You see him better in space. He's great reactionary kind of defender. He is very aware of situations...

"He reminds me a lot of Ed Reed when Reed declared for the draft out of Miami. And I think that's what you're going to see in NFL is a playmaker who's eventually going to be a steal for some team, because I think he's a late first round prospect."

On the surface, Amerson makes sense for Green Bay.

The Packers are owners of a late first round selection with the 26th overall pick, and out of any position on the entire team, there's an immediate opening at safety now that Charles Woodson has been released.

Amerson is a true talent, and he has a high ceiling. But the obvious drawbacks are that he's not a true safety and not all teams may view him as one after lining up at cornerback through his entire college career.

"I know that me personally, being a safety in high school, I don't have a problem with it," said Amerson at the NFL Combine. "I just see myself as a playmaker in the secondary wherever."

While at NC State, Amerson gained attention for his nation-leading 13 interceptions in 2011 as a sophomore, a total surpassed by only one player in a single season in NCAA history (Washington's Al Worley had 14 in 1968).

During his junior season in 2012, Amerson grabbed another five interceptions and broke up 12 passes, but he also got burned far too many times for comfort.

In the season opener against Tennessee, Amerson allowed multiple touchdown passes in the first quarter alone, not a good way to start the year. On two separate occasions, Volunteers receiver Cordarrelle Patterson––among the top wideouts in this year's draft class––pulled away from Amerson for long scores. He was also responsible for another receiver on a 72-yard touchdown as the Wolfpack lost 35-21.

As bad as the first game of the season was, Amerson hit his low point at Miami, when he gave up four touchdowns and was arguably responsible for a fifth when another receiver came into his zone.

To his credit, Amerson didn't point fingers. He was brutally honest with reporters at the Combine, admitting he got greedy after nabbing so many interceptions in 2011. He wanted to match or break the record in 2012.

"A lot of it was me just beating myself, just sitting on routes," said Amerson. "I know I'm way better than that and I know I could play extremely better."

Amerson was the recipient of tough love from his secondary coach, Mike Reed (now at Clemson), who told him to stop looking at the quarterback and end his freelancing. The message got through that Amerson needed to get back to fundamentals and let the game come to him instead of the other way around.

Getting toasted so many times is precisely why some feel Amerson would be better off at safety where he can line up deeper in the backfield and scan the action going on in front of him.

Then Amerson ran a very respectable time of 4.44 seconds in the 40-yard dash at the Combine. Suddenly he started to assuage any fears at cornerback if he could just curtail his gambling ways.

But the comparisons to Reed are not to be taken lightly. If Amerson truly can play at a level near one of the best safeties of the past decade, he probably should be considered first-round material, even though Steuber acknowledges others likely have him rated lower.

"Some teams may not view him until the second or third round, but whoever gets him past the first round is getting a steal and a guy that's going to be an instant impact player," said Steuber.

Amerson would be a safety with great measurables. His 4.4 speed to go along with a 6-1 and 205 lb. frame make him an ideal candidate to make the position switch.

Maybe Amerson would make more sense to the Packers if they were to trade backwards, perhaps to a team looking to move up in the first round to find a quarterback.

If the Packers were to take a safety early, that person would very likely be inserted into the starting lineup from Day 1. Sure, that player would receive competition from the likes of Jerron McMillian and M.D. Jennings opposite Morgan Burnett, but it's unlikely either of those players would keep a first-round talent on the bench.

Brian Carriveau is the author of "It's Just a Game: Big League Drama in Small Town America," and editor of Cheesehead TV's "Pro Football Draft Preview." To contact Brian, email carriveau@uwalumni.com.

Comments (32)

NashvillePacker's picture

I'd be concerned with his lack of experience at the position. Also didn't Steuber express concerns with his tackling? Another finesse player is the last thing the secondary needs.

Stroh's picture

He played safety in HS, so its not like he is completey inexperienced at Safety. That said, I don't see him at 26, but if available at 55 and amenable to moving to safety I could definitely see taking him in the 2nd.

QOTSA1's picture

There should be a lot of safety talent available late 1st and 2nd round. I would rather have Cyprien, Elam, Thomas, Rambo, Swearinger, or Reid, rather than trying to convert a CB into a position he has not played in years.

NashvillePacker's picture

Agree here. The Packers need players who improve their tackling. Remember how soft they looked against Vikes and Niners? Also Amerson reminds me of 2011 Sam Shields.

Brian Carriveau's picture

Maybe as a guy who got beat a few more times than he should have, but in my opinion, that's where the comparisons end. They don't seem to have a similar playing style to me or anywhere near the same size.

NashvillePacker's picture

I meant both players are fast enough to stay with anybody but take too many risks trying to snag interceptions. Shields cut down on that last year and maybe Amerson could too with good coaching. I'd rather have a more physical presence like Cyprien or Reid. It feels like there are some really good day two safety options too.

Stroh's picture

Agree Amerson isn't like Shield too much. Amerson played Safety in HS so its not that foreign to him. Also the fact he played zone and off man translates better to safety for the Packers, than at CB. His size, length and ball skills would be welcome at Safety. I wouldn't take him in the 1st, but w/ our 2nd round pick if other Safeties are off the board I could see taking him. Might be a good fit in man coverage against TE and bigger receivers, which the Packers Safeties are ask to do at times.

MarkinMadison's picture

The depth at the safety position has really turned me off to the idea of going S in the first round. A month or so ago I was hoping the Pack might even move up to get Vaccarro if he came into range, but now I think not. There are too many quality guys in this class, and the Pack has other needs as well. I would probably go DL in the first, and address the S and RB positions in the 2nd or 3rd (flip them depending on players available).

Also the more I think about the Pack's situation at OLB, the more I think something will be done there by round 5 at the latest. Three OLBs is not much to man two positions. CM3 always seems to have hamstring issues. Perry is coming off an injury and is still a bit of a question mark. So unless Brad Jones was really signed as insurance for both the OLB and ILB positions there is a real need for depth here.

Stroh's picture

Mark... I'm not sure we go DL in the 1st. I really don't think any of the DL w/ possible 1st round grades are good fits in a 34 D. All are 6'3, none of the 6'4+ guys w/ length and athleticism that you want for a 34 DE. Some could be NT, but Pickett and Raji are the NT and I don't see that changing. We need a true 34 DE. Of the guys w/ 1st round grades or close I would say Kawann Short is the best fit. He's got the long arms and disrupts passing lanes besides being a good enough pass rusher at DT. Other than him I don't like the rest w/ possible 1st round grades as 34 DE. They all seem best as a 43 DT, much better than 34 DE.

I do think we'll draft an OLB in the mid rounds. Probably 3-5 for depth and insurance. I think Jones is strictly an ILB, seems to fit him much better than OLB. Unless a couple injuries hit the OLB Jones should stay at ILB.

DraftHobbyist's picture

I think these "Amerson can't tackle" and "Amerson isn't physical" arguments are a little overblown. Amerson benched 225 lbs 15 times. That's pretty decent for a DB. He has the strength to be physical and tackle. I'd much rather have Amerson over Reid or Elam. Reid can't cover and Elam gets stupid penalties, he's small, and he will be the next Bob Sanders as well because he'll fly around being reckless making big hits that will be getting himself hurt.

Stroh: Datone Jones is 6'4", athletic, was taught by a pro coaching staff (Jim Mora at UCLA), and UCLA played a 3-4. Jones is a perfect fit for what the Packers need.

Stroh's picture

DraftHobbyist... I get what your saying about Jones height fits a 34 DE and that he played 34 DE at UCLA. My problem w/ him is that he is too light at 283 and would have to gain 15+ lbs to be a good 34 DE in the NFL (sure he could gain the weight but might mean he doesn't help this year). On top of that, for his height at 6'4, he has short arms (less than 33 in) so he will have trouble controlling and separating from NFL OT and doesn't disrupt passing lanes. On the other hand Kawann Short is 6'3, but has 35 in arm length, which allows him to control and separate from OT and is adept at disrupting passing lanes and blocking passes (think Johnny Jolly). Also in pass rush situations, IMO Short would be a better interior pass rusher than Jones and more stout vs. the run.

That's my opinion, don't know if its shared in general or not. But how I see the Jones/Short comparison.

ArodMoney's picture

Not extremely physical from what I saw and wouldn't be 'box' safety by any means. That being said Burnett is fine in that role. Another ball hawk in the secondary with speed would be a welcome addition.

Stroh's picture

Hard too look like a physical player when your in zone and off man coverage. I don't see him as a very physical player, but at the same time he doesn't seem to shy from the physical aspects either. IMO he fits better for the Packers at safety, than at CB, due to his lack of experience in press coverage.

ButkisJones's picture

Seems to me burning a 1st or 2nd rder on a safety is a waste. Looking at safeties drafted early in the last few years there are no guarantees that they won't just be an average player. It's not like it is a rare body type that you can't find walking the street. You could also move a large DB over to play it, or a smallish LB too. Plus we seem to do just fine with late round safety prospects and UDFAs.

I'd rather see them take some big men early, as lets face it, were not going to get a starting caliber D lineman or O lineman off the street or at the end of the draft, and we're certainly not going to pay for a veteran FA that will matter, they are rare human beings. We might get a project UDFA or 3-7th rounder that will contribute in 3 years, but we have a need there now. I could see using the 2nd rounder on a RB, but wouldn't be too thrilled with a 1st rder considering the talent pool this year.

Stroh's picture

Only real 1st round OL we might have a shot at is Cooper and that's unlikely at best. A lot of them are 2nd round guys, but LT don't usually fall to the 2nd. Cooper could be moved to Center and I wouldn't mind him at all. I just don't think he falls.

On DL I think they're all 43 DL, not 34 DE that we need. Can't just draft a DL in the 1st that doesn't fit a 34 D. We already have Neal, Worthy, and Daniels as DL that don't fit that well. Why waste a 1st on another just like them. We need a true 34 DE w/ length and physicality. Only one I would say fits that is Kawann Short. Rest are much better 43 DL. I think they'll draft a late round guy at DL and the one I think might be best in Nick Williams, Samford. 6'5 310 w/ excellent athletic ability for his size. He's a late round guy that might develop into a very good 34 DE. Short in the 1st or 2nd or Nick Williams in 6th or 7th.

Norm's picture

Reid would be the answer to the read option, physically talented enough to shadow those quarterbacks.

Hands's picture

I know that the scout Dave DeThomas talked about him during his 30 minute review on Pro Football Central. He said he would steal everything including your heart. Also said he would be an Ed Reed FS.

2 share owner's picture

I love the kid at 55. Also the closer I get to the draft im hoping Levon Bell falls to us in 3rd. I know alot of scouts are down on him but I have'nt been as high on a possible mid rounder since James Jones. I think hes is going to be the best fit at Rb available with upside to be the best of the crop when the lights come on. Praying for one of the top DTs in 1st. Anyone think Lattimore would be available for the Packers in the 4th? I could handle that if we dont address rb before.

Stroh's picture

I wouldn't consider Bell till the 3rd, he's a reach in the 1st or 2nd. I personally wouldn't take him till the 4th. He's just not that good and isn't nearly as powerful a RB as his size suggests he should be. I would take Lacy in the top 2nd, Ball in the 3rd, Lattimore end 3/early 4 and Micheal all before I took Bell.

2 share owner's picture

Yes we have a differing opinion on Bell. I think you will be very surprised how early Bell goes. He's a long shot to be there for Gb in the third....imo. The buzz is building on the kid.

Stroh's picture

Maybe, but I just don't see him as anything special. Ordinary in all aspects, not as powerful as he should be given his size, not good vision either. Better receiver and blocker than Ball, but I like Balls vision and decisiveness running a lot more.

Lattimore is terrific and would be a 1st w/o the injuries, but he's a special RB if healthy. And I think Michael is potentially a special RB if he gets his head straight.

2 share owner's picture

I agree on Michael, could be a difference maker, I have Bell ranked only slightly higher on my wish list. The question is, could Lattimore fall to the Pack in the late fourth? Assuming that his rehab is ststus quo up until draft time.

Stroh's picture

I wouldn't mind seeing Lattimore late 3rd. Its a gamble, no way around it, but the payoff might be huge. From what I heard/read Andrews, Lattimore's surgeon says he's ahead of schedule.

mojo's picture

I think the real value in the 2nd to 3rd rounds is WR some really excellent depth there. Personally i dont see how we dont double dip for a WR in this draft with the loss of both Jennings and Driver. I would even be tempted to take Keenan Allen if he was there in the 1st!!! And Connor Vernon later on. A lot of good players overall i see in the 2nd to 3rd rounds...

Stroh's picture

I don't see the Packers drafting 2 WR. Driver hardly played last year, so you cant really count him as a loss. IMO he shouldn't have even been a Packer last year. I also like Boykin to replace Jones if he leaves. They're pretty similar players Boykin just needed to get stronger and refine his game. Given last year and this coming one, I can see him being a good 3rd or 4th WR. And if they draft one WR that's all he needs to be.

Mojo's picture

Hey - no mo mojo. Think of a new name, this one is in use. I do agree though with the depth at WR, but not with the Packs 26th pick. That's why the Pack should trade down and use the extra pick to get one later.

DraftHobbyist's picture

I've been touting Amerson for quite some time at S now. I don't see him as a potential 1st round target, but I think there would be good value as a 2nd round guy whether it's with our pick if he's there or whether we get him from trading out of the 1st round. I think Xavier Rhodes makes more sense as a 1st round target, and I would convert him to S as well (although I think Rhodes can play CB just like I think Amerson can play CB). Rhodes might not have put up the INT numbers, but I think he could given some time at the S position.

I think the Packers like the S's on our team, though. MD Jennings is the exception, but there's nothing wrong with Burnett, McMillian, and Sean Richardson IMO so we can afford to wait until the 2nd and hope he falls. I'd rather see a Tyler Eifert or Datone Jones pick in the 1st. Maybe a Jonathan Cooper if he falls. Kenny Vaccaro would be great if he fell, and Jonathan Cyprien is a 1st round talent that actually played the S position. But overall, I don't think this is crazy talk one bit. It's a potential wrench.

Stroh's picture

I don't have a big problem w/ Amerson, especially late 2nd. I think he's physical enough, but not overly so. IMO we need a lot more physicality in the secondary. That's why I like Reid a lot. I understand about his not being as good as Amerson in coverage aspects, but think he's good enough and is REALLY physical, which would help spread that attitude in the rest of the secondary.

Gotta like Amerson's ball skills, range and coverage ability tho.

hump's picture

well ....why not sign a...kerry rhodes. someone who has performed at a high level in the nfl. but thats way to sensible! lets just count on low ceiling undrafted f/a or a 4th round mediocre safety1 thompson says..... i draft best player available!!! NEVER FOR NEED!!! so either he is lying or the reality of it all is....he is counting on arod to do it all again and try to win with a half assed defense rather than admitting not all of his precious draft picks are nfl starters!!! sorry ted, but no rookie is gonna be close to nick collins out there in the draft!!

Stroh's picture

Go hump yourself! No one ever said Thompson doesn't draft for need, but he takes the BPA. And if he can he maneuvers himself into a position where the BPA also fits a need! That's something he did last year.

Taking Perry was a need but he was also the BPA. He moved up to get Worthy when he was still on the board in the mid 2nd. He moved up from the late 3rd to end of 2nd again to get Hayward. When Manning fell from a projected 3rd or 4th to the 5th, he moved up again to get him!

Why is this so hard for you to understand!

Rhodes? I live in Phx and watch the Cards every week after the Packers. He is the epitome of the overpaid mediocre FA. He's slow in coverage and way over-rated.

hump's picture

ok stroh, i'll admit rhodes might be a stretch,but ted has let a strong f/a class of safetys sign on for reasonable or below market value contracts,so why not take care of the problem for a resonable price,same way with d end, jenkins or spears under 3 mil yr and safety kenny phillips or mike huff 2mil a yr.no way that you can count on rookies to play nearly as good as any of the aforementioned players. OZZIE NEWSOME had no problems replacing his f/a with decent priced vets,so why cant thompson? one word "EGO" no one is gonna tell me that the GREEN BAY PACKERS would not have won one or possibly two more superbowls in the last two yrs if thompson had just admitted he didnt quite have enough defensive talent and filled the holes with a couple moderate priced veterans! We have the best offense and qb in the nfl,no reason to not help them out with a solid defense

how i quit gambling's picture

Hi, This is a nice post, thank you.

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