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NFL Draft

General Manager Speak: Assessing Packers’ 2020 NFL Draft

  • The Draft Network
  • May 27, 2020
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The first-ever virtual NFL draft was a huge success. Teams seemed to enjoy the at-home experience and smoothness of everything associated with it.

The biggest bombshell of the first round of the 2020 NFL Draft came when the Packers selected Utah State quarterback Jordan Love. With Aaron Rodgers in house and still playing at a near-elite level, the pick came with plenty of scrutiny as well as many other selections made by general manager Brian Gutekunst.

The Packers’ complete 2020 draft class:

In this new series, I will analyze quotes that stuck out the most from executives’ pre- and post-draft press conferences. Below are quotes from Gutekunst.

Question: What was the thought process behind selecting Love, especially when quarterback isn't really a right now need?

Gutekunst: “We haven’t been able to do that the last few years, it just hasn’t fallen for us the right way. And it’s not like we haven't wanted to, it’s just the value of the player and where we thought they were and where we could take them at the time, it just didn't happen. I think it's always kind of been in my DNA that anywhere in the draft, if you have an opportunity to take a quarterback you really think can play, you need to consider it.

“That's really what this move is. I know people may look at it differently from outside, but it was kind of one of those things where he was a guy we really think can play somewhere down the road. And he happened to be available to us. And it was really pretty much that simple. I think it's a little different than the [Brett] Favre/Aaron thing because there were some different dynamics going on there at the time. But I think we’ve got an elite quarterback that's going to lead our team for, hopefully, a long time. And now I feel really good about a couple of the guys that we got behind him if anything should ever happen.”

Analysis: While Rodgers is still playing at a top-10 quarterback level, there didn't seem to be a need for an heir apparent at this moment. But it happened seemingly a couple of years too soon. What Gutekunst mentioned here is his experiences through the ranks of the Ron Wolf tree; Wolf was Green Bay’s general manager from 1991-2000. During that time, Gutekunst saw the Packers select a quarterback nearly every season.

Quarterbacks are unpredictable and college success doesn’t always translate to the NFL. If Green Bay is able to cash in, its roster-building strategy is immediately easier for the foreseeable future. One of the most fierce weapons any team can have is a reliable young signal-caller on a cheap contract; it’s a similar model to the Seahawks’ 2012 blueprint after they selected Russell Wilson. This is a bit different in Love's case because he's not expected to become a contributor until later on, which may be two, three or even four seasons from now. Love isn’t ready to be an instant contributor because of his rawness with decision-making associated with his game.

My 2019 pre-draft take from Love’s player profile:
"Opinions about Love will remain mixed, but there’s no doubting his arm talent and other traits that are already present. Of any prospect in this draft, no career other than Love’s will be more dependent on the landing spot. His production fell off of a cliff following the 2018 season.
"He will need at least a year to sit behind a well-established veteran before he’s ready to take on a role as a full-time starter. His decision making and footwork need refinement and that time as an understudy will help him. If shown the right amounts of patience also while nurturing him along the way, a team could turn him into a high-end starting quarterback that turns into the face of a franchise."

Question: Dillon was another pick that left some scratching their head. Why were you so comfortable selecting him there?

Gutekunst: “I think [coach Matt LaFleur] talked to you guys repeatedly about how much he’d like to run the ball and have the pass work off of that. I think as we went through, we wanted to have some versatile pieces. Obviously A.J.’s a big, bruising back with very, very good speed.

“[Tight end Josiah Deguara], just the versatility, whether it’s a lead blocker, his ability to create mismatches in the passing game. Matt really wants to tie everything to the run game and off the run game, and these guys will help us do that.”

Analysis: Dillon was one of the more highly debated running back prospects across the 2020 draft class. As a record-setting ball carrier at Boston College, he had some deficiencies in the passing game and questions about his three-down value at the next level. 

Another layer to this discussion is Aaron Jones and Jamaal Williams, who form one of the more formidable NFL running back duos. Both will hit unrestricted free agency after the 2020 season. There have been multiple examples of backs who received hefty contracts but rarely see the duration of it because of how replaceable their production is. Sustainability is another factor that remains challenging for running backs, which is another reason why this selection was once again an example of the Packers planning for the future.

For more “General Manager Speak,” see Cincinnati, Miami, Detroit, Arizona, New York Giants, Cleveland, Los Angeles Chargers, Carolina, Oakland, San Francisco, Minnesota and Atlanta’s executives discuss their 2020 draft class.

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