Ted Thompson surprised us yet again. Just when we all thought we had a hunch what Thompson was up to, he pulls the trigger on the best cover safety in the draft, Damarious Randall.
He led Arizona State with three picks last year, including a 59-yard touchdown return vs. Notre Dame.
The reason everyone is so surprised is because safety wasn’t a priority — cornerback was. But Randall might be better than drafting a straight-up corner because he has the ball-hawking skills of a safety combined with the coverage skills of a cornerback.
What cannot be discounted is that Randall tallied 9½ tackles for loss out of the free safety position. That’s pretty impressive considering the Pac-12 is known for its precision passing and high-octane offenses.
What they’re saying:
“Double digit tackles in four games, three picks, six tackles and an interception return against Notre Dame. All this kid does is make plays.” — Mel Kiper Jr. via ESPN.
“Dom Capers likes to use six defensive backs at a time. He can cover in the slot, we know that and he’ll help on special teams. I thought he was a suspect tackler though.” — Jon Gruden via ESPN.
“It’s become a pass-first league and he’s by far the best cover safety in college football. He’s gone from a third- or fourth-round Senior Bowl oddity to, I think, a first-round draft pick. I had to get over that a little bit because he’s not as good a tackler or as physical as, say, London Collins of Alabama. But I think he fits the NFL more.” Mike Mayock via ProFootballTalk.com
“I think he’s a football player. He’s got really good ball skills and he has a knack for catching the ball. He played centerfield in baseball in junior college, which I think is a marvelous trait as a defensive back.” Ted Thompson via Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.
Other options on the board::
Malcolm Brown, the Texas defensive tackle ranked as the 21st overall prospect by CBS Sports, headlined the group that was still around. That was followed by Arizona State wide receiver Jaelen Strong and Nebraska outside linebacker Randy Gregory. The guy that many thought the Packers would take if Thompson didn’t trade the pick away was Eric Rowe, who was the sixth-ranked cornerback out of Utah.
Why they went with Randall:
Thompson ultimately chose versatility. He likes that Randall can cover in space but is also big enough to attack the line scrimmage — something that will be needed when when Adrian Peterson gets back to 100 percent.
It almost reminds me of how Thompson attacks drafting the offensive line. He tries to find out how many different positions his linemen can play and then makes a decision based on their versatility. And Randall fits perfectly in a division that still has Calvin Johnson and Alshon Jeffery to deal with.
Another reason why I like this kid is because he’s going to stay hungry. Randall played at two different community colleges before ultimately landing at Arizona State. Not too many NFL players start out at a community college before hearing their name called in the first round on draft day — other than Aaron Rodgers and the ever-present chip on his shoulder.
Cory Jennerjohn is from Wisconsin and has been in sports media for over 10 years. To contact Cory e-mail him at jeobs -at- yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter: Cory Jennerjohn