Scouts Inc.'s Matt Williamson looks at NFC North players on the verge of a breakout in 2011.
ShieldsThe Super Bowl champions had many young players step up in a big way and there is a substantial list of players to choose from for this feature. And now this entire roster is pretty much made up of household names. So I probably will not be able to unveil “The Next Great Thing” for the Green Bay Packers. But Sam Shields’ story is pretty remarkable and with the age of Charles Woodson, his role should only increase. But as many of you know, Shields is already a heck of a cornerback.
At 5-feet-11 and 184 pounds, Shields isn’t the biggest corner around, but he should continue to add bulk to his frame as he ages and gains strength in the process. He is only 23 years old. And he does have long arms and can play bigger than his size would suggest in addition to his great leaping ability. He also isn’t afraid to throw his body around in coverage or as a run-support player. There is a lot of talent here that is just starting to be tapped.
Although he has noticeable ability, Shields was considered a raw player coming out of college. Many looked at him as an undrafted free agent and thought Shields’ ceiling was that of a slot corner who would take a while to develop. But Shields already has proven that he can hold up on the outside. That allows Green Bay to be very aggressive with Woodson when it goes to its three-cornerback alignments, which the Packers feature often -- even against base offensive personnel.
Green Bay has the best secondary in the NFL and Shields is a big reason why.
Scouts Inc. watches games, breaks down film and studies football from all angles for ESPN.com.