Green Bay Packers

A Swiss Army Knife Safety Who Would Modernize the Packers' Defense

Photo Credit: John Reed (USA TODAY Sports)

The Green Bay Packers’ secondary could use a boost, and this draft seems designed to fit their needs. Defensive backs and wide receivers run deep in this draft, and Auburn’s Jamien Sherwood could be a perfect fit to adapt the Packers’ defense to the modern NFL.

Green Bay recently met with Sherwood and expressed interest. He is currently projected to be drafted on Day 2 or 3 and would be a huge steal for any team that takes him.

Sherwood was a four-star safety coming out of Jensen Beach high school in Florida. He committed to Auburn as a junior in 2017 and saw minimal action in his first two seasons with the Tigers but still produced, registering 65 tackles, seven passes defended, and one interception in his first two seasons as a rotational player.

But Sherwood really drew interest from NFL teams last year after earning a starting role and making the most of his opportunity. He matched his career high in tackles, recording 65 in 2020 alone, with three passes defended. His biggest impact came from his run-stopping ability, exemplified by the 8.5 tackles for loss in his three-year career. He was regarded as being one of the biggest hitters in the SEC.

He is a Swiss Army Knife on defense. On paper, Sherwood is a strong safety but has the size (6’2”, 220 lbs) and skill to play linebacker. On running downs, Sherwood would charge down from his strong safety spot to stop the run. In his three years at Auburn, Sherwood had 8.5 tackles for loss. He can be everywhere on the field and very rarely lets runs on the outside zone get past the line of scrimmage.

His game fits the modern NFL. To counter super tight ends, who are essentially hybrid wide receivers, teams have begun to draft flexible defensive talent. Last year the NFL saw players like Isaiah Simmons and Jeremy Chinn become rising stars because they would line up anywhere. Simmons was touted as one of the most flexible defensive players that we have ever seen in the draft. He primarily lined up as a linebacker for the Arizona Cardinals, but he created a blueprint for defensive players who don’t necessarily have a position.

Sherwood is one of those players. Even though he is only 6’2”, he has a large enough size and wingspan to play linebacker and the athleticism to play safety. If he’s utilized correctly, Sherwood could stop next-generation tight ends like Travis Kelce, Rob Gronkowski, and potentially the best player in the draft, Kyle Pitts.

Perhaps the best comparison for the role that Sherwood could play in the NFL is what Deone Bucannon did when he played for Arizona. Bucannon was drafted as a safety but found his home at linebacker because of his size, and he benefited greatly from being a linebacker with the mind of a safety. Sherwood has a similar build to Bucannon and could play that hybrid role for the Packers defense.

So why isn’t he considered a first-round pick? His lack of speed could hold him back at the next level. Sherwood ran a 4.76 40-yard dash at Auburn’s pro day, and the average NFL strong safety runs about a 4.55. If Sherwood wants to make an impact at the next level, he needs to tighten up this aspect of his game. But his play recognition and football IQ make up for what his slower foot speed.

If the Packers draft Sherwood, he could learn from veterans Adrian Amos and Darnell Savage, assuming he lines up as a safety in rookie camp. Amos and Savage are a great duo who could help Sherwood adapt to the NFL. There aren’t many better situations for a young safety.

Sherwood also has experience playing on special teams, an area of weakness for the Packers last year. By working his way onto that unit, he could get playing time while developing as a defensive player.

Because of his upside as a versatile defender, Sherwood is the kind of player teams are looking for now right now. And he could be the key to modernizing the Packers’ defense.

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