GREEN BAY, Wis. – The Green Bay Packers enter the draft seeking help at corner. Potentially, their preference would be a bigger corner to provide a stylistic counterpoint to Pro Bowler Jaire Alexander.
The wild card of the first round of this week’s draft is Virginia Tech’s Caleb Farley.
A high school quarterback who started his collegiate career at receiver, Farley is a phenomenal talent. He’s almost 6-foot-2 and has arms long enough to play offensive tackle. In 2019, he allowed a 25 percent catch rate, according to Sports Info Solutions. According to Pro Football Focus, he allowed just five completions on 27 targets of passes thrown 10-plus yards downfield.
However, he missed the last couple games of the 2019 season with a back injury that required surgery. Next, he opted out of the 2020 season. Finally, he had a second, unrelated back surgery that forced him to miss Virginia Tech’s pro day. Farley said he’d be ready for training camp but, really, who knows?
Teams have varying opinions that go beyond Farley’s availability for August.
“We’ve heard a few things,” one team’s personnel director said. “Some people haven’t taken him off the board but they docked him where they wouldn’t take him until the second. Some people have him right where they would have him if he was fully healthy. There’s a few teams that have taken him off the board. We’re in that first group. We haven’t taken him off but we definitely docked him. His injury is pretty significant. He’ll play. You never know. You’re rolling the dice. You’re betting on probability. It’s less likely that he makes it fully healthy and still playing well through a second contract, so he’s getting docked a little for that.”
Some teams don’t care about a second contract, though. The only thing that matters is whether he can make it through the four-year rookie deal. A scout from another team said Farley’s spot on the board wasn’t impacted by the surgeries. A scout from a third team said “there’s no way” Farley would last until pick 20, let alone No. 29, where the Packers reside.
Backs can be fickle, as anyone with back problems can attest. But a back injury isn’t a death knell, either. Rob Gronkowski had back surgery and could have cashed in a $4 million insurance policy. Instead, he was drafted in the second round and is having a legendary career.
“His is different,” the personnel director said. “Gronk had one surgery before he came out and Farley’s had two. He’s got multi-level injuries. When you get multi-level back surgeries, it’s two different spots where you have pressure being redistributed. That’s what makes his a little more risky. One, it’s multi-level and, two, it’s two before he’s played an NFL game and one is recent. He should be OK but you never know. He’s only rehabbing right now.”