Secondary first: Packers take Iowa cornerback Josh Jackson
GREEN BAY, Wis. (AP) — The Green Bay Packers prioritized the secondary first in the NFL draft.
Josh Jackson is joining a revamped cornerback group after the Packers took the Iowa junior with the 45th overall pick in the second round on Friday night. Jackson led the nation with eight interceptions last season.
Green Bay also went cornerback in the first round on Thursday after choosing Louisville’s Jaire Alexander with the 18th overall pick. Mike Pettine is getting a restocked secondary in his first year as defensive coordinator.
“We all know the situation as far as getting depth at that position and we definitely did that today,” scout Alonzo Dotson said.
At 6-foot-1, 192 pounds, the Packers like Jackson’s physical ability. He turned into a ball hawk in his only year as starter in college.
Green Bay also dealt back into the third round to select linebacker Oren Burks from Vanderbilt with the 88th overall pick. The Packers sent the first pick in the fourth round — the 101st overall — and a fifth-round selection to the Carolina Panthers to take Burks.
Burks is listed as an outside linebacker on the NFL’s prospect list, though he played inside linebacker as a senior last season with the Commodores. Pro personnel director John Wojciechowski said that Burks will play inside, where he hopes that his ability in pass coverage will help.
A defensive captain, the 6-foot-3 Burks also played a hybrid linebacker-safety position as a junior, and free safety as a sophomore.
“The athleticism, I’ll keep going back and that ... and the toughness, the ability to go down” to the line of scrimmage, Wojciechowski said of Burks.
Green Bay could also use an edge rusher to help Clay Matthews and Nick Perry. They also lost a versatile defender in free agency when safety Morgan Burnett left for the Pittsburgh Steelers.
They hope that they’ve added three capable defenders against the pass in the draft. General manager Brian Gutekunst said there will be opportunities to add pass rushers on the third day of the draft, when the Packers will have eight selections.
“This is not about filling holes. This is about taking some really good football players, which is what we did today,” he said.
Jackson made an impression in Wisconsin after returning two interceptions for touchdowns in Iowa’s loss to the Badgers at Camp Randall Stadium in November. On the season, Jackson had 18 pass breakups, a forced fumble and a blocked field goal.
“A whole bunch of film study, a whole bunch of hard work and just preparing yourself for your opponent,” Jackson said about his prolific production.
Jackson was timed at 4.56 seconds in the 40-yard dash at the scouting combine.
“It goes back to his awareness and IQ for the game,” Dotson said. “The speed never really worried us because he’s just so smart and he’s always in the right position to play the ball.”
Wide receiver and offensive line are also position of needs.
But the opportunity to select Jackson, who some analysts considered a first-round talent, was too good to pass up for general manager Brian Gutekunst. Jackson will join his good friend Alexander in Green Bay.
Pass defense was a problem on a team that finished 7-9 last year. The Packers didn’t make the playoffs for the first time since 2008.
Jackson said he was hoping to get drafted by the Packers “because I just feel like they need some corners,” This was the team I was kind of hoping I went to. I’m just glad they picked me.”
The Packers allowed 30 passing touchdowns last season, tied for 29th in the league. They were 23rd in passing yards allowed with 236.8. The cornerback position was ravaged by injuries.
Damarious Randall was dealt to the Cleveland Browns in a trade that sent quarterback DeShone Kizer to Green Bay. The Packers brought veteran Tramon Williams back as a free agent for his second stint with the team, while Davon House was re-signed to add another veteran presence in the secondary.
Kevin King, last year’s second-round pick out of Washington, is the top returning cornerback after showing flashes of promise, but his season ended in December because of injury.
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