While general manager Brian Gutekunst re-signed free agent Kevin King and tendered restricted free agent Chandon Sullivan, the Green Bay Packers enter this draft with a pronounced need at cornerback.
King has played only 52 percent of the defensive snaps in his four seasons. After a strong 2019 season, King regressed in 2020. But at least he played. Josh Jackson, a second-round pick in 2018, and Ka’dar Hollman, a sixth-round pick in 2019, weren’t even on the gameday roster in the playoffs. Taking a longer-range view, King will be a free agent again next offseason, as will Jackson and Sullivan. Those factors make getting a cornerback or two a priority in this draft.
Virginia Tech’s Caleb Farley is our No. 3-ranked cornerback.
Get to Know Caleb Farley
At Maiden (N.C.) High School, Farley was a touchdown machine. As a senior quarterback, he accounted for 58 touchdowns – third-most in school history. He set the state record in back-to-back games with eight touchdowns. In four seasons, he piled up a staggering 124 touchdowns.
However, his world was turned upside-down over a span of less than a half-year.
Farley went to Virginia Tech and was in position to earn playing time at receiver as a true freshman until he suffered a season-ending knee injury in early August 2017.
About five months later, in January 2018, his mother died after a lengthy battle with cancer.
"To me, it was never a big deal," Farley told ESPN.cm. "In the household, it was always something that was going to get solved. I was a kid, but I thought I knew she was going to get healed and there'd be a fairy-tale ending. And I'm glad it was like that because there was always happiness in the household.”
With his recruit dealing with a major injury and the loss of his mom, coach Justin Fuente worried about Farley. There was no reason, though.
“There've been two times in his life that I've gone to him to try to make him feel better about a bad situation -- his mother's death and his injury," Fuente said in the ESPN story. "And both those conversations, he's made me feel better. If the shoe was on the other foot, I don't think anyone would walk away saying, 'Man, coach made me feel better.' It's a remarkable gift.”
Healthy again in 2018, the Hokies moved Farley to cornerback. In his collegiate debut, the 2018 opener at Florida State, Farley intercepted two passes. The rest of that first season, however, was filled with learning experiences.
"I was scared,” Farley told Roanoke.com. “I was timid. I didn't want plays to come to my side. I didn't want to mess up and hurt the team. I didn't have any confidence in myself on the defensive side of the ball. I didn't know what I was doing.”
“I've always been the man, always been the best player on my team," Farley added. “It was humbling.”
Farley found consistency and stardom in 2019. Even while playing through a back injury sustained while lifting weights, he led the ACC with 16 passes defensed, including four interceptions. According to Pro Football Focus, he allowed a passer rating of just 26.8 overall and just five completions out of 27 targets on passes thrown 10-plus yards downfield.
“You have to have ability, and he can run like a deer,” longtime defensive coordinator Bud Foster said late in 2019. "That’s a big-time asset, but by the same token, he’s running backwards most of the time, or initially, while guys are moving forward, so there’s a lot of technique and fundamentals involved. That’s where I think he has really worked hard to improve in those areas. I’ve worked with a lot of guys who can run, but are not very good DBs, you know? He’s a guy that’s putting it all together.”
Farley missed the final two games of the 2019 season due to his back and had surgery. Then, he opted out of the 2020 season due to concerns over Virginia Tech’s COVID protocols. He was the first high-profile player to make the decision.
Farley had a second back surgery recently, a minor, outpatient procedure that will keep him out until training camp. Despite a relative lack of experience, a 2020 season on the sideline and a recent surgery, Farley was so confident in his draft stock that he accepted the invitation to attend the draft in Cleveland.
“If a team wants the best corner in the draft,” he said at Tech’s pro day, “they will come and find me.”
Measureables, Stats and Scouting Report
Measureables: 6-foot-1 7/8, 197 pounds, 33 3/8-inch arms. DNP workouts (back surgery).
Stats and accolades: In two seasons, Farley started 23 games and finished with six interceptions and 25 passes defensed. A 2020 opt-out, Farley had four picks and 16 passes defensed in 2019. According to Sports Info Solutions, he allowed a ridiculous 25 percent catch rate and broke up more passes than completions allowed (12) during that banner campaign. He played a mix of man, zone and press, and lined up in the slot 22 percent of the time. Tackling is a black mark with a missed-tackle rate of 25 percent in his two seasons.
NFL Draft Bible says: There might not be a more physically gifted cornerback in the draft than Farley. With outstanding size and length for the position, Farley has the body type to match up favorably against bigger boundary wide receivers with high effectiveness. Playing mostly off-man coverage, Farley has some uncommon transitional quickness for a player his size. His click and close out of his back-pedal is some of the easiest movements found regardless of his size. Farley is able to close quickly on all underneath routes, routinely affecting the catch point. As a former wide receiver early in his career, Farley is a springy athlete who is able to elevate and win at the highest point in the air. In zone coverage, far too often he is out of position, failing to stay disciplined in deep zone coverage. This can lead to some big plays for the offense.
About This Series
Packer Central is introducing you to the top prospects, both on and off the field, in this year’s NFL Draft.