Photo courtesy of Utah State athletics
During this year’s NFL Draft, the Green Bay Packers traded up four spots from their 30th overall draft position to the 26th overall draft position. When the trade was announced before the pick was submitted, Packers fans all over the country were 100 percent sure that the move signaled a brand new wide receiver for All-Pro quarterback Aaron Rodgers was about to come off the board.
But let’s list the wide receivers that had already been selected prior to Green Bay’s first draft pick in the 2020 NFL Draft: Henry Ruggs III, CeeDee Lamb, Jerry Jeudy, Jalen Raegor, Brandon Aiyuk, and Justin Jefferson. Who was left on the board at the wide receiver position that had been mock drafted to Green Bay in the days and weeks leading up to the draft?
That’s it, one.
Denzel Mims out of Baylor University.
Was he worth a first round draft pick?
Maybe. Maybe not.
But we’ll tell you who was…Utah State quarterback Jordan Love — the player the Packers selected instead.
No Love Right Away
Green Bay’s starting quarterback for the foreseeable future is still Rodgers. Rodgers is undoubtedly going to Canton when he becomes eligible for the Pro Football Hall of Fame. He’s hardly the kind of quarterback a winning franchise replaces with a rookie from Utah State.
As a backup, Love will learn from a future Hall of Famer in a quarterback-friendly offense. It’s an offense that appears to be getting even friendlier to its quarterback after the selection of bruising running back A.J. Dillon, out of Boston College, and Josiah Deguara, who will be used as a fullback in Titletown.
Where Have We Seen This Before?
A first-round quarterback draft selection with a future Hall of Famer currently under center for Green Bay is a familiar move for this storied franchise. We’re looking at you, Mr. Rodgers. It’s a move that is 100 percent the right one.
The worst time to draft a franchise quarterback is when your ball club needs one right away. That’s a description that couldn’t outline the 2020 Green Bay Packers in the slightest.
It wasn’t long ago that Rodgers sat for three years behind a future Hall of Fame quarterback and former league MVP in Brett Favre. After the 2007 season — one where Green Bay was one win from the Super Bowl — Rodgers was ultimately given the reins.
Rodgers has a history, not a lengthy history, but a history nonetheless of missing significant time during an NFL football season. When Rodgers has missed significant time before, the Packers have been caught with their pants down. In 2017, they had to throw Brett Hundley out into the fire.
Hundley wasn’t terrible during his time as the Packers’ starting quarterback, but he also wasn’t great. In nine starts with Hundley under center in 2017, Green Bay went just 3-6. The former UCLA signal-caller threw nine touchdowns that season compared to 12 interceptions.
The prospect of Love having to steer the ship only in the unfortunate event of Rodgers suffering an injury, isn’t an ugly one. Love is exceptionally mobile, he has tremendous arm talent, and is more than effective throwing on the run. The increasingly popular rhetoric on Love leading up to the 2020 NFL Draft was that he’s prone to throwing interceptions. One might infer that his splendid 2018 season was a fluke based solely on his statistical decline in 2019.
Context is Key
In 2019 however, Love’s offensive unit only returned two starters from the previous season.
The offensive line was basically brand new. But guess what? He was only sacked 3 percent of pressure downs in 2019.
In layman’s terms, he was successfully running from his life. And oh yeah, he had a brand new offensive coordinator in Mike Sanford, Jr.
It also doesn’t help a quarterback’s stat line when his wide receivers drop more than 15 passes. Love was captaining an underwhelming, athletically undermanned offensive unit; often times, Love himself was Love’s only weapon.
Gotta Love a Good Insurance Policy
With 2021 featuring a 17-game NFL schedule, depth is key to the success of an NFL team. In a sport where contact is constant, at a position where the person being hit is the most discrepant on the field in comparison to the person doing the hitting, a backup plan in 2021 and beyond is just as important as “Plan A”.
Not only should the beloved “Cheeseheads” agree with drafting Love in the first round, they should love it. Yes, pun intended.
When it comes to the quarterback situation, the worst case scenario is that when Rodgers’ run is over, Green Bay won’t feel that Love is its quarterback of the future. The Packers can move him and draft another quarterback to lead the franchise. This is still likely multiple years away.
For now, Rodgers is still the franchise quarterback in Green Bay. Love might be the next franchise quarterback. He might not be.
But the Packers have a plan for both scenarios. That’s why the selection makes so much sense.