Packers don't take any receivers in surprise draft move
In a draft heralded for its receiving depth, the Packers opted against taking a single player at a position that was widely considered a major need.
The Packers traded up four spots in the first round to take Utah State quarterback Jordan Love with the 26th overall pick. By the time they drafted again late in the second round, 13 receivers already had been taken.
“We felt (the receiver class) was really strong at the top,” general manager Brian Gutekunst said. “I don’t know as we went through the middle and the end, that we felt it was as strong as maybe others did.
“I thought the top was one of the stronger drafts at the wide receiver class that I can remember, but the runs went pretty early, and once we got to a certain spot, with the group that we had coming back, it wasn’t like we weren’t looking to add to that competition. We just felt there weren’t a lot of great candidates that were locks to make our team next year.’’
Davante Adams is the only Packer who caught as many as 50 passes or accumulated as many as 500 yards receiving last season. The Packers’ biggest offseason addition to their receiving corps is Devin Funchess, who played just one game for Indianapolis last season before going on injured reserve with a broken collarbone.
“I do think we have talent and depth at that position,” coach Matt LaFleur said.
The lack of receivers was perhaps the biggest surprise of a draft in which the Packers focused on solving potential long-term issues. How much a team that finished a game short of the Super Bowl last season improved its 2020 fortunes is up for debate.
The Packers used their first-round pick on Love, who will likely spend his first couple of seasons backing up Rodgers. They drafted Boston College running back A.J. Dillon in the second round when they already have Aaron Jones, who rushed for 16 touchdowns and 1,084 yards last year.
Green Bay added Cincinnati tight end Josiah Deguara in the third round and Minnesota linebacker Kamal Martin in the fifth round. The Packers selected three offensive linemen in the sixth round by taking Michigan guard/tackle Jon Runyan Jr., Oregon center Jake Hanson and Indiana guard Simon Stepaniak. They chose TCU safety Vernon Scott and Miami defensive end Jonathan Garvin in the seventh round.
The success of this draft likely will depend on whether Love eventually develops into the kind of player who can continue Green Bay's three-decade run of quality quarterback play.
His arrival already has produced plenty of speculation regarding how much longer Rodgers will stay in Green Bay, no matter how much the Packers attempt to downplay that.
“We have one of the best quarterbacks to ever lace them up,” Gutekunst said. “We’re shooting for championships as long as (Rodgers is) here, and we expect him to be here for quite a while.”
EMPHASIZING THE RUN?
Green Bay’s draft strategy suggests the Packers may adopt a run-oriented approach, though Gutekunst cautioned against reading too much into that.
“I don’t really think any of the personnel acquisitions that we made over the last three days were an attempt to kind of transition to that,” Gutekunst said. “They were the right players at the right time.”
The Packers will have solid depth at running back with Dillon joining Jones and Jamaal Williams, who both could become free agents next year. Deguara also can help the running game with his ability to play fullback and H-back.
Runyan is the son of former NFL offensive tackle Jon Runyan, who played from 1996-2009 before serving two terms as a Republican congressman from New Jersey. The elder Runyan now is the NFL’s vice president of policy and rules administration.
Runyan said he’d take a lesson he received from his dad to heart while trying to “kind of be that nasty guy on the field that gets in everybody’s heads.”
“I remember one time in eighth grade, my dad caught me patting some defensive player on the back after he made a good hit, and (my dad) gave me a stern talking-to after that game and told me never to do that again,” Runyan said. “That kind of changed my whole perspective on how to play the game.”
RECOVERING FROM INJURY
Stepaniak tore his anterior cruciate ligament during a practice before the Gator Bowl but said he is progressing well and hopes to be ready for the start of training camp.
Martin, who played eight games for Minnesota last season due to a knee injury, said he’s “way ahead of where I’m supposed to be” in his recovery and that the situation shouldn’t cause any issues.
WAITING ON DEFENSE
This marked the first time since 1985 that the Packers waited until the fifth round before taking a defensive player. The Packers selected Arizona State linebacker Brian Noble in the fifth round at No. 125 overall that year.