Packers trade up, draft safety Darnell Savage at No. 21 overall
GREEN BAY, Wis. — Packers general manager Brian Gutekunst said his veteran additions on defense during free agency gave him more flexibility with his draft picks, but it didn’t necessarily mean he would shy away from a defensive player in the first round if someone he liked was there.
In the end, he liked two.
After Green Bay selected rush specialist Rashan Gary at 12th overall, the Packers traded up from No. 30 overall to select safety Darnell Savage out of Maryland with the 21st pick.
Green Bay gave up its 30th overall pick and two fourth-round selections (No. 114 overall, No. 118) to move up in the first round and take Seattle’s place at No. 21.
Savage could fill a keen need at safety. He ran a 4.36-second 40-yard dash at the scouting combine and had been moving up draft boards since. He had seven interceptions over the last two years for the Terrapins. Last season, he was a second-team All-Big Ten pick after picking off four passes, breaking up two more and finishing with 52 tackles.
Speaking at the combine in February, Savage was asked if there were any NFL players he patterned his game after. His response? Chicago Bears safety Eddie Jackson, Amos’ running-mate last season in Chicago.
“I kind of feel like he does a lot and I do a lot,” Savage said of Jackson. “We both bring speed, aggressiveness, instincts, make plays on the ball. I really enjoy watching him. I really study his game.”
During free agency, Gutekunst signed four potential starters in outside linebackers Za’Darius Smith and Preston Smith, safety Adrian Amos and offensive lineman Billy Turner. The defense began to show some promise last season under new coordinator Mike Pettine but still ranked 22nd in points and 18th in yards allowed.
Gary and Savage should help a team that also watched longtime rush specialist Clay Matthews leave in free agency.