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2021 NFL Mock Draft: Green Bay Packers bolster their secondary

With the 29th overall pick in the 2021 Bleeding Green Nation community mock draft, Green Bay Packers GM Philly_Philly selects ...

Jacksonville State v Florida State Photo by Don Juan Moore/Getty Images

Asante Samuel Jr., CB, Florida State

With the 29th pick in the 2021 NFL draft, the Green Bay Packers finally get Aaron Rodgers some help. *Borat voice* “Not.” After all, this is Green Bay we’re talking about, and the Packers hate first-round receivers like Eagles fans hate Howie Roseman like the Eagles hate first-round linebackers. Don’t believe me? The Packers last drafted a wide receiver in the first round back in 2002. Before that, it was 1988. Not quite as bad as the 42-year drought representing the last time the Eagles took a linebacker in the 1st, but the point remains that this franchise has historically shied away from first-round receivers.

Put another way, the Packers fundamentally believe in using the first round to build out their defense. In fact, Green Bay has only used their first pick on an offensive player five times this century, with two of those selections being quarterbacks and another two being offensive tackles.

If I were drafting for the Packers and the and board fell the way that it did in this exercise, I would trade back into the top of the second round to take Asante Samuel Jr. Unable to do so here, I’d still take Samuel Jr. at 29. He’s one of my favorite players in this draft and assuredly belongs in this late 1st/early 2nd range. Disagree? What do you know anyway Allow me to convince you…

The Player: Like Father, Not Like Son?

A common misconception I have seen emanating from lazy mock drafts is that Asante Samuel Jr. will provide the same value to teams that his father once did. I know it’s easy to draw the comparison – they play the same position and have the same name – but a deeper analysis reveals that Samuel Jr. is truly his own player, for better and for worse.

Whereas the former Eagles standout thrived in zone coverage where his elite ball-hawking skills could be on full display (51 career interceptions), Samuel Jr. is more of a sticky man corner with encouraging but not elite ball skills. I’m not going to pretend like I’ve studied the all-22 film, but the combination of scouting reports and highlight film tells me that Asante Samuel Jr. excels at mirroring routes but has a long way to go towards consistently making game-changing plays on the ball like his father. Still, it’s worthwhile to note that at Florida State Samuel Jr. was regularly tasked with covering the opponent’s best receiver with no help.

The stats support the father-son difference in play-style (For reference, the elder Samuel had 8 college interceptions in as many years):

[sports-reference.com]

At the same time, one area where Samuel Jr. arguably already has an edge over his father is in run support. Unlike the player who often drew the ire of Eagles fans for his tackling effort (or lack thereof), Samuel Jr. rarely whiffs on tackles and is a fierce competitor in the run game. His size is definitely not a plus trait (more on that below), but I believe he has the toughness and fundamentals to more than perform in this area.

From an athleticism perspective, the spider graphs tell an interesting story (via Mockdraftable):

Samuel Jr. (pictured 2nd) is a better athlete than his father was with slightly inferior length (the actual measurements are closer than the impression given by the percentiles). Overall, Asante Samuel Jr. possesses above-average athleticism for the position with below-average size and length. Some may look at his measurements and label him a nickel-only corner. However, his natural route mirroring ability, football IQ, and resume attests to the fact that he is fully capable of holding his own on the outside. Even still, he does have experience on the inside making his versatility a plus. Moreover, it’s important to bear in mind that in the modern NFL, nickel corners are essentially starters.

The Fit: Greater Than You May Think

Some may point to the fact that the Packers brought back Kevin King as evidence for why they will not or should not draft a corner in the first round. A closer look, however, reveals that Green Bay is surprisingly not that much better off than the Eagles when it comes to this position group.

Don’t get me wrong – Jaire Alexander is only 24 and already has the right to call himself the best corner in the game. On the other side though, they’re putting their faith in a guy who missed 5 games this past season due to injury and got absolutely torched by the Bucs receivers in the NFC Championship Game. According to PFF (if you’re into that), King allowed the 14th highest passer rating in the NFL this past season. Long story short, Kevin King wasn’t very good last season, and he’s only returning on a one-year deal.

Don’t get me started on who the Packers currently have starting at nickel – Chandon Sullivan! Remember him? I can’t say that I’ve followed the Packers closely enough to provide any level of informed analysis on Sullivan outside of his uneventful stint with the Eagles, but I do think it is safe to say that Green Bay could stand to upgrade at the nickel position.

I believe Asante Samuel Jr. would make an excellent fit on the Packers as he has demonstrated the versatility to effectively begin his career on the inside while having the ability to eventually start on the outside should Kevin King continue to struggle and/or Green Bay elects to let him walk after this upcoming season. For a Superbowl contending team without many holes, Samuel Jr. could be just the type of player needed to solidify the secondary and provide the Packers’ defense with enough firepower to go toe-to-toe with any offense in the NFL.

The Value: Better Than You May Think

I have no doubt that some of my fellow posters (if you’ve made it this far) would consider drafting Asante Samuel Jr. at 29 a reach. Outside of the consensus top-3 talents (Horn, Surtain, & Farley), corner ratings have been a little bit all over the place. In this exercise, Greg Newsome II went 16th to the Cardinals and there are 3-4 other cornerbacks who could be viable considerations as well.

That being said, Samuel Jr.’s draft stock is on the rise following his excellent pro day testing. I truly believe he has a strong chance of being drafted somewhere at the tail-end of the first round, and he almost certainly will be gone before the midway point in the 2nd. Interestingly, the Packers have already met with Samuel Jr. twice, and there’s no chance they would be targeting him with their current second-round pick. Also, #NFLBloodlines!

Another argument in favor of drafting Samuel Jr. in the first round over, say, a wide receiver is the incredible depth at receiver in this draft compared to the sizeable drop-off in corner talent after the top few guys. Admittedly, I find myself making the same argument when it comes to the Eagles in mental preparation for not being able to draft or even potentially passing on Devonta Smith or Jaylen Waddle.

Still, there is validity to this line of thinking as it makes sense to nab a starter at a premium position like corner where you can and still find a bona fide stud at receiver on Day 2 who can contribute from Day 1. You may miss out on a Rashod Bateman or Kadarius Toney, but there are plenty of other difference-making guys who can be had in the second round and beyond. I do not believe that the same depth of talent exists at the cornerback position in this draft.

All in all, I think the Packers drafting Asante Samuel Jr. with the 29th pick in the first round makes sense from a talent, value, and need perspective. What do you think?

Appreciate all of you who took the time to read my analysis and even those who jumped straight to the comments as is tradition here. Go Birds.

Poll

Do you approve of this pick?

This poll is closed

  • 61%
    Yes
    (99 votes)
  • 38%
    No
    (62 votes)
161 votes total Vote Now

2021 BGN Mock Draft Order

1) Jaguars (Phoenix X Minimus): QB Trevor Lawrence
2) Jets (eagles.north.of.the.border): QB Zach Wilson
3) 49ers (I Need a Username): QB Trey Lance
4) Falcons (chewy wellington): OT Penei Sewell
5) Bengals (Dr_Horrible): WR Ja’Marr Chase
6) Dolphins (20Safety_Hazard): TE Kyle Pitts
7) Lions (drc242): WR DeVonta Smith
8) Panthers (wildcatlh): QB Justin Fields
9) Broncos (ItownBallers22): CB Patrick Surtain II
10) Cowboys (Kephas): OT Rashawn Slater
11) Giants (Billmington): WR Jaylen Waddle
12) Eagles (ablesser88): CB Jaycee Horn
13) Chargers (Georgia_eagle): LB Micah Parsons
14) Vikings (Philliesandthebees): OT Alijah Vera-Tucker
15) Patriots (SakPrescott): QB Mac Jones
16) Cardinals (Carson Wentzs ACL): CB Greg Newsome II
17) Raiders (dshelton5): LB Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah
18) Dolphins (J. Wil): DE Kwity Paye
19) Football Team (Negadelphia Norm): LB Nick Bolton
20) Bears (Happy24): CB Caleb Farley
21) Colts (Fly Like An Eagle): OT Christian Darrisaw
22) Titans (Friendly Neighborhood Philly Fan): LB Zaven Collins
23) Jets (Asap Stocky): OT Teven Jenkins
24) Steelers (Gregnado): OT Samuel Cosmi
25) Jaguars (“Snax”): DE Jaelen Phillips
26) Browns (gerouxman1956): LB Jamin Davis
27) Ravens (Brendanekstrom): DE Azeez Ojulari
28) Saints (grantspectations): S Trevon Moehrig
29) Packers (Philly_Philly): CB Asante Samuel Jr.
30) Bills (doublefry):
31) Chiefs (Leo Bedio):
32) Buccaneers (phuckdallas):


Now it’s time for you to vote for who YOU think should be selected in the 2021 BGN Community Consensus Mock Draft.

Poll

Who should the Green Bay Packers draft at No. 29?

This poll is closed

  • 19%
    CB Asante Samuel Jr.
    (34 votes)
  • 6%
    CB Eric Stokes
    (11 votes)
  • 9%
    WR Elijah Moore
    (16 votes)
  • 18%
    WR Kadarius Toney
    (31 votes)
  • 11%
    WR Rondale Moore
    (20 votes)
  • 15%
    WR Terrace Marshall
    (27 votes)
  • 2%
    C Landon Dickerson
    (4 votes)
  • 7%
    OT Jalen Mayfield
    (12 votes)
  • 4%
    LB Nick Bolton
    (7 votes)
  • 5%
    DT Levi Onwuzurike
    (9 votes)
171 votes total Vote Now

1) Jaguars: QB Trevor Lawrence
2) Jets: QB Zach Wilson:
3) 49ers: QB Justin Fields
4) Falcons: OT Penei Sewell
5) Bengals: WR Ja’Marr Chase
6) Dolphins: TE Kyle Pitts
7) Lions: WR DeVonta Smith
8) Panthers: OT Rashawn Slater
9) Broncos: QB Trey Lance
10) Cowboys: CB Patrick Surtain II
11) Giants: LB Micah Parsons
12) Eagles: WR Jaylen Waddle
13) Chargers: CB Jaycee Horn
14) Vikings: OT Alijah Vera-Tucker
15) Patriots: QB Mac Jones
16) Cardinals: CB Caleb Farley
17) Raiders: LB Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah
18) Dolphins: RB Najee Harris
19) Football Team: OT Christian Darrisaw
20) Bears: OT Teven Jenkins
21) Colts: DE Kwity Paye
22) Titans: CB Greg Newsome II
23) Jets: OT Samuel Cosmi
24) Steelers: RB Travis Etienne
25) Jaguars: DT Christian Barmore
26) Browns: LB Jamin Davis
27) Ravens: WR Rashod Bateman
28) Saints: S Trevon Moehrig
29) Packers: