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Packers like versatility in DB Randall

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GREEN BAY, Wis. — General manager Ted Thompson didn’t waste any time in this year’s draft to replenish the diminished coverage on the back end of the Green Bay Packers’ defense.

Toward the end of the first round Thursday night, Thompson already had his guy pegged.

“There wasn’t much conversation (in the draft room at Lambeau Field) when it got to be our pick,” Thompson said after the Packers addressed one of their biggest needs by choosing Arizona State defensive back Damarious Randall at No. 30.

Randall excelled as a free safety with the Sun Devils the last two seasons. However, Thompson made it clear that the selection of the resourceful Randall was made in response to a huge void left at cornerback with the losses of veteran starter Tramon Williams and young backup Davon House in free agency.

“We think he’s a very versatile player,” Thompson said of Randall. “We’ll probably line him up as a corner.”

Randall is comfortable moving around in the secondary, having done so in his brief stint with Arizona State. He came up through the junior-college ranks as he initially pursued playing baseball before he sustained a career-turning shoulder injury.

“Just kind of playing center field and just kind of judging the ball, I think my ball skills is one of my better traits,” Randall said.

He returned two interceptions for touchdowns at Arizona State. Combine his swift 4.45 speed in the 40-yard dash and tenacity in man coverage, and the Packers may give Randall a long look in the coming months at possibly taking over for Williams opposite Pro Bowl player Sam Shields on the outside.

The other starting candidates are young holdovers Casey Hayward and Micah Hyde, both of whom are better suited to playing the slot under defensive coordinator Dom Capers.

“In Dom’s system, the defensive backs are all over the place, so it’s hard to keep up with who’s playing what,” Thompson said.

Just don’t expect Randall to remain at safety, where the Packers are set with starting incumbents Morgan Burnett and Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, who was their first-round draft choice last year. After all, the majority of teams that took an interest in Randall as projected first- or second-round material viewed him as a cornerback with undersized dimensions at 5 feet, 11 inches and 195 pounds.

“Honestly, I can play both,” Randall said. “Corner is fun, to be out there up on an island, and then safety kind of being back there controlling the back end is also fun.”

No matter where he plays, Randall likes mixing it up. He earned All-Pac-12 first-team honors last season with team highs of 106 tackles and three interceptions. Randall also broke up nine passes and forced two fumbles.

“For some time now, we’ve had him pretty high up on our (draft) board,” Thompson said. “The more you go back and look, he’s just a good football player.

“He’s got really good ball skills. He’s got kind of a knack for catching the ball. He’s capable of punt returns. He played center field in baseball in junior college, which I think is a marvelous trait to have as a defensive back. I think he’s one of those kind of guys if you’re choosing up a team in Little League that he probably got picked first all of the time.”


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