Darnell Savage was not going to be available for the Green Bay Packers if they had stayed put at 30. That’s what general manager Brian Gutekunst and his personnel department believe, at least, and that is why they moved up nine picks in round one of the draft to select the Maryland safety with the 21st overall selection of the 2019 NFL Draft.
Gutekunst pulled off a shrewd deal with Seattle Seahawks GM John Schneider, a former coworker from their days working under Ted Thompson. Green Bay only had to give up their two fourth-round draft picks, numbers 114 and 118 overall, to go up from 30 to 21. Interestingly, that 118th pick came to Green Bay last fall in exchange for the team’s last first-round safety — Ha Ha Clinton-Dix.
Speaking after the draft’s first round on Thursday night, Gutekunst explained why they made the move for Savage. “We thought he was an absolute difference maker,” Gutekunst said, adding later that he was one of the top targets on the team’s board after selecting Rashan Gary with the 12th pick. Meanwhile, he seemingly did not see many other players at safety that he liked: “we didn’t feel like it was a really deep group there,” he said, putting into focus just how strongly the team valued Savage. Considering that the Packers made Savage the first defensive back selected in the draft, it’s clear that he was safety number one on their board.
As for the trade up, Gutekunst said it was necessary to get his man. “We didn’t think we could sit at 30 and have him fall to us,” he said. Evidently a number of teams in the 20s seemingly expressed interest in Savage, or at least convinced the Packers that they were considering taking him. Immediately after the Packers made the pick, the Baltimore Ravens traded out of pick number 22, suggesting that they may have been interested in him. Additionally, the Indianapolis Colts traded back from 26, and they may have been another possible landing spot.
The traits that made Savage such a highly-prized commodity in Green Bay are numerous. From his elite speed — “he’s able to close the gap from center field or the hash” — to his big-play and turnover ability — “he’s been an impact player at Maryland for a number of years” — the potential for this young man is bright.
Just don’t rely on the mock drafts when considering whether the trade was necessary.