INDIANAPOLIS -- Two years after the Green Bay Packers used their top-two draft picks on cornerbacks Damarious Randall and Quinten Rollins, they’re back at the NFL scouting combine with an apparent need at the same position.
The team might be willing to chalk up its problems at that position to injuries that plagued both players in their second seasons. After promising rookie years, Randall (the 30th overall pick in 2015) and Rollins (No. 62 overall), didn’t progress the way the Packers needed last season after they lost veteran cornerback Sam Shields to a concussion in the season opener. The Packers ranked 31st in the NFL passing yards allowed.
With Shields now on the street after the Packers released him last month, they might be at the mercy of how much defensive coordinator Dom Capers and cornerbacks coach Joe Whitt can get out of Randall and Rollins.
“I think we have to take into account that both of those players were playing injured for much of the season,” Packers general manager Ted Thompson said. “We were asking a lot of all the rest of the players that we were putting in there, and Joe Whitt did a great job getting his guys ready. But we were asking a lot of them. We’ll try again this year.”
Randall missed six games because of a groin injury that eventually required surgery. His agent, Dave Butz, said at the combine that Randall had a re-check with Dr. William Meyers, who operated on Randall in October. Even when Randall returned following surgery, he was in and out of the lineup because of inconsistent play.
“You have to remember he was playing hurt last year,” Butz said. “People get mad if you miss games, but then don’t take into account you’re playing hurt.”
Rollins missed three games (also because of a groin injury) during part of the same midseason stretch when Randall was out, then sustained a neck injury and a concussion in the regular-season finale that kept him out for the first two playoff games.
By season’s end, another second-year pro, undrafted free agent LaDarius Gunter, was assigned to cover the opponent’s best receivers. He fared well at times, but it eventually caught up to the Packers in the NFC Championship Game loss at Atlanta.
While there are plenty of holes on defense, and the Packers look at every player that comes through the combine, their evaluations of the cornerback workouts this weekend at the combine could significantly shape their draft strategy.
“This is an extremely deep cornerback class, with each of the [top] 10 prospects above carrying at least a second-round grade,” ESPN NFL draft analyst Todd McShay wrote in his report on the top prospects by position.