Starters (B+): Few teams have a better pair of safeties than the Packers. Ha Ha Clinton-Dix went to his first Pro Bowl and was named an All-Pro in 2016. Meanwhile, Morgan Burnett quietly had the better season. The veteran from Georgia Tech lined up all over on defense and did a solid job vs. both the run and the pass. Clinton-Dix tackled well and had 5 picks, but didn’t always react quickly enough to provide help on deep balls. That’s been a problem since he entered the league, and it’s why he has only 16 passes defensed in 48 games.
Depth (D+): Micah Hyde’s defection to Buffalo leaves a pair of second-year players as the top backups at the position going into the draft. Both Kentrell Brice and Marwin Evans made the 53-man roster as undrafted free agents last summer. Brice wound up playing 333 snaps in 2017, including 76 in the postseason. The former Louisiana Tech standout held his own. The coaches love his athleticism and toughness. Evans is every bit as talented, but he didn’t adjust to the pro game quite as quickly. Jerome Whitehead spent most of last season on the practice squad. He’ll be more than just a camp body this summer.
Player to watch: I’m not as high on Brice as most people, but I can certainly see the appeal. On a defense that lacks physicality, he’s not afraid to lower the boom on receivers. Whether he has the instincts to be a starter – perhaps as soon as 2018 – remains to be seen. His play this summer will likely determine how aggressively general manager Ted Thompson pursues a long-term extension with the 28-year-old Burnett, who’ll be eligible for unrestricted free agency after the season.
*Level of need: It would be a good idea to add another safety – either via the draft or free agency. While Evans and especially Brice showed potential as rookies, it would be a gamble to enter the season without another option behind Clinton-Dix and Burnett. An interesting down the road possibility is corner Damarious Randall, who played the position some in college.