GREEN BAY, Wis. (AP) — Damarious Randall played safety at Arizona State. He’ll probably be playing at least some cornerback in Green Bay.
If the Packers had a baseball team, Randall might have been an intriguing prospect, too.
But his ball-hawking skills and versatility were quite enough for Green Bay to take Randall in the first round of the NFL draft on Thursday night at No. 30 overall.
The Packers have a glaring need in the secondary following departures in free agency at cornerback. Tramon Williams left for Cleveland and Davon House left for Jacksonville.
Randall played safety with the Sun Devils.
“We think he’s a very versatile player. We’ll probably line him as a corner,” general manager Ted Thompson said. “Defensive backs are all over the place” in defensive coordinator Dom Capers’ system.
Randall led the Sun Devils last season with 106 tackles in 13 games. He has six interceptions and four forced fumbles in his two seasons in Tempe, coming to Arizona State after playing at Mesa (Arizona) Community College.
Randall grew up playing football and baseball. He initially focused on baseball after high school before a shoulder injury forced him to turn to football full time.
Worked out well at Arizona State — though those baseball skills still come in handy.
“Well, I mean, kind of playing center field and just kind of judging the ball,” Randall said. “I think my ball skills are one of my better traits that I have.”
Inside linebacker is also a need after the Packers cut ties in the offseason with veterans A.J. Hawk and Brad Jones. That position will likely be targeted when the draft resumes on Friday.
But for now, a question in the secondary may have been addressed.
Veteran Sam Shields starts at one corner. Casey Hayward may be looked on to start for Williams at the other corner.
The Packers also have jack-of-all-trades Micah Hyde in the secondary. The safety position is set with Morgan Burnett and last year’s first-round pick, Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, along with top backup Sean Richardson.
McCarthy might be hoping that Randall has the kind of productive season that Clinton-Dix had in his rookie year. But he may need to play corner to get on the field with Green Bay. Randall’s Arizona State biography listed him as playing a “boundary safety” position.
The success of Hyde could be a template for Randall. Hyde came into the NFL in 2013 as a cornerback. Hyde added safety to his resume last year.
Randall was the quarterback of the Arizona State defense. He said he would have played cornerback but coach Todd Graham needed him at safety.
That versatility could pay off at the next level too. Thompson loves versatile players.
“Good ball skills, heady,” Thompson said. “The more you go back and look, he’s just a good football player.”
Thompson drafts for value over need. While cornerback was clearly a hole coming into the draft, the cautious general manger has been careful not to tip off his thinking.
The last time that the Packers had the 30th pick in the first round, in 2008, the team traded it to the New York Jets for the 36th overall pick, a second-rounder. Green Bay ended up taking receiver Jordy Nelson.
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