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Packers Draft Mailbag: Deone Bucannon's Size Trumps Jimmie Ward's Coverage Skills

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Packers Draft Mailbag: Deone Bucannon's Size Trumps Jimmie Ward's Coverage Skills

In the run-up to the NFL Draft, we are publishing a weekly “Mailbag” feature here at Cheesehead TV.

If there’s any question you’d like answered, tag your queries with the hashtag #PackersDraft on Twitter.

That's a great question, especially in light of Ward's rising stock following the Senior Bowl, where he was voted the Most Outstanding Defensive Back during the week of practice by NFL scouts. If you ask me, Ward has the best coverage skills of any safety in this year's draft class, displaying a natural fluidity and an innate ability to beat receivers to the ball. That being said, there are obvious concerns about his lack of size, measuring at just over 5-10 and weighing 191 lbs. at the Senior Bowl. Sure, Earl Thomas gets the job done as an undersized safety in the NFL, but are we ready to put Ward in the same category as Thomas? I'm not.

You have to give the edge to Bucannon, who has near ideal size at almost 6-1 and 216 lbs., but he's also a well-rounded safety. Not only is Bucannon a hard hitter, he also has a nose for the football, making 15 interceptions and forcing seven fumbles over his college career. There are concerns Bucannon can't turn and run with receivers, but as long as he's utilized as a deep safety and allowed to keep the action in front of him, he'll pay dividends.

Luke hit the nail on the head, questioning whether Perry will be able to stay healthy. It certainly appeared as if he was starting to put it all together last season before foot and ankle injuries derailed his season. I'm willing to bet Perry victim has been a victim of bad luck rather than an injury-prone player. He's had broken bones, not pulled muscles.

With bigger needs on the team such as safety, inside linebacker and tight end, I think the Packers can at least pass on adding an outside linebacker in the first round or two, and instead add depth to the position in the mid-rounds. I admit to sometimes wondering, however, if Auburn's Dee Ford is available at No. 21, can the Packers afford to pass on such a talent? The problem you face with taking a player like Ford in the first round is if he, Perry and Matthews are all healthy, then at least one of them will always be wasted on the sidelines in the Packers' current defensive system.

There's no doubt a player like Telvin Smith was productive as a second-level linebacker while at Florida State and continued that trend while at the Senior Bowl. But when he weighed in at just 218 lbs., it's impossible to ignore. Some think he's more of a safety than a linebacker.

One rule of thumb is you don't overdraft players that don't fit an ideal size range. If you draft Smith in the second round anticipating that he becomes a contributor, and he turns out being too small for the NFL, you've just wasted a second round draft pick. But if Smith lasts until the fifth or sixth round, he might be a risk worth taking as a project type of player, hoping he could either bulk up or make the conversion to safety. More than likely Smith is going to have more value to a team running a 4-3 defense where he can be a weak-side linebacker.

Interesting question. Do you think Ted Thompson consulted Clay Matthews before investing a first round draft pick into Nick Perry in 2012? Or did they ask Tim Masthay about Randall Cobb, who was occasionally Masthay's placekick holder at Kentucky?

While I'm sure conversations take place between the front office, scouts and current players, I doubt it factors heavily into their decision-making. Most players tend to be biased, especially when it comes to themselves and their friends. I don't think Thompson typically wants to talk to his players, potentially giving the impression that he might draft a former teammate and then perhaps creating an awkward situation if it doesn't come to fruition. If the opportunity arises, I might be able to ask Thompson at the Combine.

There's only one C.J. Mosley, so unless the Packers are lucky enough to get him in the first round, any inside linebacker they might draft is going to have to come in Round 2 or later. Some of the best players at the position apart from Mosley are Wisconsin's Chris Borland, UConn's Yawin Smallwood, Stanford's Shayne Skov and Florida State's Christian Jones. None are perfect and all have their own set of weaknesses, but each also have strengths that make them intriguing as well.

One under-the-radar name is Michigan State's Max Bullough, the player who was suspended from the Rose Bowl for unspecified reasons. He showed up at the East-West Shrine Game at 265 lbs. but surprisingly moved well despite being overweight. I know in talking to Paul Guillemette of our "Pro Football Draft Preview" guide, he feels as if Bullough was the best player at the Shrine Game and could be of interest to the Packers as early as the third round.

Brian Carriveau is the author of the book "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.

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Fan friendly comments only: off Comments (19) This filter will hide comments which have ratio of 5 to 1 down-vote to up-vote.

RC Packer Fan's picture

Keep rolling this out Brian. I love these.

Ward vs. Bucannon is fair but not necessarily fair because they are 2 different players. Ward is more of a FS where Bucannon is more of a SS. I like both players but right now I like Bucannon more. The more I see of him the more I like. He is very physical and has pretty good range as a safety.

The closer we get to the draft the more I like the idea of drafting Ford in the 1st. His explosiveness would add something opposite of Mathews that has been lacking. And if all 3 are healthy that is where you could shift Mathews inside have Perry and Ford outside and have a very good pass rush (on passing downs). One thing I have learned is you can never have to many good pass rushers.

ILB's most know I love Borland. I really do. A guy that I'm calling a dark horse or a sleeper pick in round 1 is Ryan Shazier. Right now he is listed at 6'2 230. Its on the small side but his ability to drop in coverage and his speed would certainly be attractive to the Packers.

Bert's picture

Interesting on whether to draft an OLB in the first round. Given the medical history of CMIII and Perry it's not illogical to think that a 3rd high quality OLB wouldn't be a benefit. If a guy like Ford was there #21 and TT felt he was BPA I wouldn't have a problem with it. I'm not sold yet on Perry anyhow. May be OK but it's not evident that he'll ever be anything special.

4thand1's picture

I like Perry. I would really like to see what he can do over a full season. When healthy he did makes plays, he has to stay healthy. Things have a way of evening out so hopefully the injury bug won't hit hard this year.

lmills's picture

I agree. I like Perry too. I agree with Brian that he has had some bad luck with broken bones so far. I'm excited to see him this year.

RC Packer Fan's picture

Yeah, I agree with you. I would love to see Perry play a full season healthy.
We definitely saw flashes of his talent especially playing ROLB. He has ability to get to the QB, but he has to stay healthy.

I have no problem if they would draft an OLB in the first. Because that would hopefully give the Packers 3 good pass rushers then. It would allow Mathews to be moved around as well as Perry and another OLB.

Satori's picture

Great stuff Brian, thanks a million

My guess on the question about Thompson talking to his current players about a prospect is that they try to fill in some of the blanks on the intangibles side.

Players are typically crappy scouts, but they would know if the guy is a hard worker, gets along with team mates and are coach-able.
I also think they do it in a somewhat cloaked manner: "Tell me about the hardest workers on your USC team" as opposed to "what do you think of Nick Perry ?"

Thompson talked a little about the struggle to get unbiased info and how hard they worked to just randomly "run into a guy" in the hallway. An unguarded moment is worth 10x the scripted interview answers in evaluating these guys.

Hank Scorpio's picture

The Capers defense makes use of a Safety that can function near the LoS. In fact, it thrives when there is a playmaker that can function near the LoS. Think about the havoc Charles Woodson wrecked from his slot CB position. Or Troy Polamalu in Pittsburgh.

I don't think that describes Morgan Burnett, who is more of a Center Fielder type of Safety. So if the Packers are looking for a Safety in the draft, I think the bigger, heavier hitter is the kind they want to focus on drafting. Even if that means sacrificing a bit of foot speed.

Having said that, a core competence in coverage is a requirement for Safeties in today's NFL. There are too many speedy TEs and RBs for a defense to thrive with a Safety that needs to be hidden in coverage.

Hank Scorpio's picture

On the question of having too many good OLBs if they draft one and both Matthews and Perry stay healthy....there are still two inside spots that are just not good enough for a 3-4 defense, where LB, not DL, is the focus for attacking opposing offenses.

With Winston Moss now in change of all the LBs, not just the inside guys, I think they could find a way to get their best 4 guys on the field at once, even if 3 of them are seen as outside LBs.

RC Packer Fan's picture

Yeah, I agree with that.

I think they can find a way to get the 4 best guys on the field at once, especially in passing downs. Can never have to many good pass rushers.

Mathews has proved he can move to ILB if needed, especially on passing downs. I like the idea of Mathews rushing from the middle at times anyways because it gives the offense something else to have to prepare for.

Patric's picture

This. I was going to disagree about "one will have to be on the sideline"

I think it keeps a nice healthy 2 man rotation, and if you want all 3. Matthews has proven he can shift inside for different plays, and even run stunts from the inside.

Bert's picture

I think the key to improving the defense is getting better players on the field than we have right now. There's room for improvement at just about any position except CM3 (when he's healthy). It's not like we only have to focus on safety and a better safety will be the cure-all. We need better players across the board so TT has lots of options in the draft.

The TKstinator's picture

I am with you, my brother.

Packer Fan's picture

GO PACK GO!!!

al's picture

CANT WAIT lol

sum ding wong's picture

I just can't envision wanting a 5'10 defensive back when all the receivers today are going 6'1 and up. Even the Steelers came out and said they are interested in added some bigger taller receivers to their lineup. Guys that can go up and get the ball.
I know the dbacks on Seattle are big. Browner is like 6'3 and two other guys are 6/1 and 6'2, with as you saw, cover and hitting skills. The 5'9 5'10 guys can't take that beating all season.

Eraserhead's picture

Raaacist!!!

Eraserhead's picture

I don't want Bucannon. Teammates will relate his name to whiskey and we are going to have an alcoholism epidemic on our hands.

HUMP's picture

does anyone watch senior bowl practices? ward is twice the player as buchanon and i would go as far as the best safety in the draft,although pryor is pretty solid.i agree with brian,in that you cant call ward earl thomas,but if ward was coming out of texas or alabama,i bet he would be rated as high as thomas coming out. buchannon is a stiff in coverage much like an ex packer Aaron Rouse.looks great off the hoof,but if you watch the senior bowl tapes,he will struggle mightily in coverage

treg's picture

If you watch season tapes Ward is an arm tackler and takes bad angles.

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