The Green Bay Packers have been linked extensively to Josh Jackson, Jaire Alexander and Mike Hughes as potential cornerback additions on draft night, but Arden Key is a name to watch in the second round.
The signing of Tramon Williams only confirms the Packers‘ desperation for defensive backs. Williams is 35 and while he played surprisingly well for the Cardinals last year, he is not the long-term answer for a team needing fresh prospects at cornerback.
The Packers are on the clock at number 14 in this year’s draft, which is probably a bit too far back for Denzel Ward, who’s widely considered the best cornerback in this year’s class. Four quarterbacks will be selected in the top 10, but secondary-needy teams like the Buccaneers and Raiders will be ready to pounce on Ward and Alabama stalwart Minkah Fitzpatrick.
Green Bay will likely still be in a position to draft Iowa stud Josh Jackson, who snagged eight interceptions a year ago for the Hawkeyes. This of course still leaves the Packers in need of pass rushing help on the defensive line, which they can address in the second round.
Green Bay’s next pick is at number 45. Arden Key should firmly be in their crosshairs at that spot in the draft. The Packers have done their best to plug their other holes through free agency by signing Jimmy Graham, Muhammad Wilkerson and Williams. The team has also visited with receiver Jordan Matthews and has one planned with cornerback Delvin Breaux.
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Key was a pretty strong all-around player for LSU. Apart from easily being the team’s best edge presence, he showed a slippery, fluid motion off of blocks on passing downs. The main concern surrounding the 21-year-old is his discipline. Key left the team for four entire months and received a shoulder procedure during that time. Scouts have also questioned his ability to defend the run at a high enough level.
The Packers shouldn’t overlook those weaknesses, but they should understand that what he would bring to the defense is significantly more intriguing. Wilkerson and Key would make a pretty strong tandem of additions to begin giving Mike Pettine a strong group of pass rushers.
A third down defensive package consisting of Key, Wilkerson, Mike Daniels, Nick Perry and Clay Matthews would be tough for any offensive line to deal with. With some reinforcements in the secondary on the way, Key is a strong candidate to further help the Packer defense improve.
Most mock drafts have Key going at the top of the second round, likely suggesting that the Packers might have to make a trade to move into a position to take Key. This could be a slippery slope given his run game concerns, but it is a real possibility that Key could slip all the way to 45.
An underwhelming combine and off-field worries will give many general managers cold feet, but snatching him up in the second round would be tremendous value for the Packers, who judging by last year’s defensive effort, could use all the defensive reinforcements they can get.