Is Damarious Randall a Bust?

Damarious Randall’s season is quickly spiraling downward.

In the not-too-distant past, Randall was a prohibitive favorite to start at one cornerback spot, getting every opportunity to do so and even making cameos at the “Star” slot position made famous by Charles Woodson.

Instead, Randall has gradually found himself on the outside looking in, slowly fading out of the Packers’ defensive picture as safeties and more recent draft picks have climbed the depth chart.

Since his two interception effort against the Seahawks last November, Randall has gone seven straight regular season games without a pick, the longest stretch of his career.

Since that Seattle game, Randall has also managed to record just four passes defensed, including just one so far this season.

Eleven years ago this week, Ahmad Carroll played his last game as a member of the Green Bay Packers. He gave up two touchdowns in a 31-9 loss to the Philadelphia Eagles and was released shortly thereafter. He was just four games into his third season.

Damarious Randall also happens to be four games into his third season. While it’s unlikely the Packers will cut him any time soon, it’s time to start asking if Randall might just be another first round defensive bust.

What is a bust?

For our purposes, the term “bust” will apply to a draft pick who provided little or no value to the team for the duration of their stay in Green Bay.

A lot of things can go into a player’s success or failure, but I think three main factors play the biggest roles. A player can become a bust because he’s

  1. A bad player

  2. A bad fit for his team

  3. Limited due to injuries

Based on these three categories, I think the Packers have selected five indisputable busts in the first round since 1997.

Antuan Edwards (drafted 25th overall, 1997)

Edwards was beset by all three factors. Though he didn’t do much when he got on the field (just seven interceptions in five seasons), he wasn’t on the field all that often, missing most of the 1999 season due to injury. The Packers also couldn’t find a great place for him, lining him up all over the field to no avail. Edwards went on to play for the Dolphins, Rams, and Falcons with little success.

Jamal Reynolds (drafted 10th overall in 2001)

Too small to be a 4-3 end and too injured to prove himself even in limited opportunities, Reynolds was the unfortunate result of the Packers’ brilliant trade of Matt Hasselbeck. Reynolds managed just 18 games with the Packers, recording three sacks in his short time in Green Bay.

Ahmad Carroll (drafted 25th overall in 2004)

Carroll had all the physical tools to be a successful defensive back (and did eventually become one, albeit in Canada), but he was too raw to be useful to the Packers. So prone to holding and pass interference penalties that the coaching staff made him practice wearing boxing gloves, Carroll was done in Green Bay after just 34 games.

Justin Harrell (drafted 16th overall in 2007)

Harrell is definitively an injury-related bust. In four NFL seasons, Harrell missed 35 games due to season ending injuries or surgeries, including two back surgeries and a torn ACL. Not ideal.

Derek Sherrod (drafted 32nd overall in 2011)

After losing out on his rookie training camp due to the 2011 lockout, Sherrod was behind the eight ball from the start. Things got even worse when he shattered his lower right leg during the Packers’ only loss of the 2011 regular season, then missed most of the next two seasons after his leg didn’t heal correctly after surgery. When he finally made it to the field at full strength, the player who the Packers had drafted in the first round was gone, if he’d ever been there in the first place.

Note: Datone Jones could arguably merit a place on this list, but he was close to fully available for all four of his seasons in Green Bay and as recently as last season was one of their most consistent pass rushers. He also never really seemed to have a real role on defense, so his lack of statistical production may have something to do with fit. I don’t think he’s a bust, but if you think so I wouldn’t fight you on it.

How does Randall stack up?

When it comes to these three main bust-related factors, Randall’s evaluation is still a work in progress, but there are troubling signs.

From the very start, scouts dinged Randall for his size (borderline for a corner and too small for a safety) and issues with technique, particularly at the line of scrimmage. He was also described as overly aggressive and prone to simple mistakes, trends we’ve seen continue well into Randall’s third season. There’s a strong case to be made that he may simply not have been worthy of a first round selection.

Conversely, given what we know about the Packers and how they use their cornerbacks, it’s also possible that Randall was a poor fit from the start and was doomed even if he played as well as a player with his size and skill set could play.

The Packers like to play press man coverage on the outside, a style of play that lends itself well to bigger, physical cornerbacks. Al Harris played at a high level into his mid-30s thanks in large part to his physical attributes, and it’s very likely that Ladarius Gunter achieved the level of success that he did because of his physical makeup. Even Sam Shields was a bigger, more well-muscled prospect compared to Randall.

I think there’s a case to be made that Randall, while he hasn’t performed well, is in danger of slipping into the “bust” category in part because he’s being asked to do things he just isn’t equipped to do.

Finally, although it’s a secondary concern, injuries have played a role in Randall’s performance in Green Bay. His groin injury last year had him playing an extremely limited style, and while it hasn’t carried over to this season (as far as we know), it does factor into the equation.

So is Damarious Randall a bust?

Based on what we’ve seen from Randall so far and what we’ve seen from other Packers draft busts, it’s hard to boil down Randall’s evaluation into one simple yes or no on the bust question.

However, if he’s not categorically a bust right now, he’s getting close.

If the ultimate definition of a bust comes down to what a team receives for their draft investment, Randall is all but there. At times, his resistance to opposing receivers has been token at best, and he’s not producing enough turnovers (or really producing them at all) to make up for it.

At this point, it would be hard to imagine the Packers choosing to pick up Randall’s fifth year option, taking the full “wait and see” approach before committing to any extra time. Unlike Ahmad Carroll, it’s hard to see the Packers releasing him mid-season, but he’s given them very little reason to seek a long term commitment.

Randall isn’t a bust right now, but he may yet become one. It’s possible that day may arrive sooner rather than later.