Dream draft target to pair with Xavier McKinney emerges for Packers

Xavier McKinney
Xavier McKinney / Mike Stobe/GettyImages

The Green Bay Packers' work at safety is far from done. Despite signing Xavier McKinney to a big-money deal in free agency, there is still a vacant starting position following the departure of Darnell Savage and Jonathan Owens.

Second-year Anthony Johnson Jr. offers depth, but it's unclear whether he is ready for a full-time role in Green Bay's defense.

The Packers must add another safety this offseason, and it's unlikely to come in free agency.

"I think we'd always prefer to have a younger guy that's gonna have his best football ahead of him," said Packers general manager Brian Gutekunst.

Draft it is, then.

Several top safety prospects, including Tyler Nubin and Kamren Kinchens, are likely off the Packers' board due to poor testing this offseason. This leaves a relatively small list of ideal targets on Day 2, but one name has emerged as the perfect complement for McKinney.

Jaden Hicks makes too much sense for Packers on Day 2 of 2024 NFL Draft

There was no doubting Jaden Hicks' talent and potential. It all came down to testing.

The Washington State safety didn't run at the NFL Combine, although he performed well in the other drills, including a 37.5-inch vertical jump and 16 bench press reps. Hicks answered any remaining questions at his Pro Day. According to ESPN's Matt Miller, he ran in the 4.47-4.49 range.

The additional data gives Hicks an unofficial Relative Athletic Score of 9.29 out of 10. That works.

There's so much to love about Hicks' game and how he could fit Jeff Hafley's defense. McKinney will likely play a lot of snaps as the deep safety, whereas Hicks is ideal in the box.

But he can also do so much more than that. Hicks also played deep and in the slot during his time at Washington State. Over the past two seasons, he made 155 tackles, eight tackles for loss, 3.5 sacks, 10 pass defenses, and three interceptions, and he recovered a fumble for a touchdown.

"Hicks is just one of the best safeties in this draft. He has played more than 1,500 snaps over the last two years and did not record a categorical grade (overall, run defense, pass rush, coverage) below 70.0," writes Trevor Sikkema of Pro Football Focus.

The Packers need to improve in the middle of the field, and Hicks could make an immediate impact. He has the speed to shut down defenders for minimal gains and would upgrade the run defense from Day 1. Hafley could find exciting ways to use him, including as a blitzer.

"Hicks is versatile and a big-time hitter when coming downhill," writes ESPN's Matt Miller.

The Packers will likely need to wait until Day 2 to find another safety, but Hicks should be near the top of their board in the second or third round. He can start from Day 1 as the perfect complement to McKinney, and his versatility would allow Hafley to get creative and move his safeties around.

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