When the Green Bay Packers were on the clock with the 62nd overall pick in the 2021 NFL Draft, they had two names atop their board that they had to decide between. In the end, they landed both players on Friday night.
Center Josh Myers and wide receiver Amari Rodgers will forever be linked by their status as members of the Packers’ draft class of 2021, but beyond that, the team had a tough call to make with their first of two selections on Friday. According to Gutekunst, the team had their board narrowed down to those two players, but of course they needed to pick one over the other.
“It came down to Josh and Amari,” Gutekunst said late Friday night. “Those were the two guys we were going with at that spot in the draft.”
The team eventually settled on Myers, prioritizing the big body for the interior of the offensive line first. Going back to Ron Wolf’s days as general manager, the Packers have tended to build the lines first, going with the big uglies when players were similarly rated. That was Gutekunst’s approach, but as soon as the card went in with Myers’ name, he began making calls.
“Immediately after we got off the phone (with the pick) I got on the phone to see if we could get back up to get Amari. We were trying pretty significantly to get back up to get Amari. We paid a little bit of a price, but we felt it was worth it to get Amari.”
That price was a fourth-round pick, the number 135 overall selection, which eventually got the Packers a trade with the Tennessee Titans to move from 92 up to 85 overall to take the Clemson receiver. It must have been a harrowing hour or so for the Packers’ brass, as Gutekunst said that they had several possible trades fall apart at the last minute when a potential partner’s preferred player ended up being available at their pick: “After the pick, we kind of targeted an area of the 3rd round that we could get to within the price I would pay. We were having trouble, we had 4 or 5 trades that were about to happen that didn’t and then obviously we made the trade with Tennessee.”
Ultimately, although Gutekunst wanted to avoid giving up multiple picks in any one round in day three — the team had two selections each in the 4th, 5th, and 6th rounds to work with — the priority was finding a way to get Rodgers on the team. Discussing the thought process, he mentioned the Packers’ 2009 draft, when Ted Thompson insisted on his subordinates finding a way to move up for Clay Matthews after picking B.J. Raji early in round one.
“He said ‘I want the player,’” Gutekunst recalled. And when other executives said that they did not feel that the value of a trade was quite right? “You guys aren’t understanding — I want the player.”
That was the case a bit here with Rodgers, as Gutekunst acknowledged that the team paid a bit of a higher price than they would have liked to move up just seven spots. Indeed, by most trade value charts, the Titans got by far the better end of the deal. Rich Hill’s draft chart puts the Titans ahead by 9.5 points, roughly equivalent to the 160th overall pick. Instead of packaging 92 and 135, a more even exchange would have been 92 and 173, Green Bay’s first of two fifth-round picks.
But at that point, it was about the player more than the value. And the Packers still managed to maintain some flexibility on day three of the draft, keeping at least one pick in each of the final four rounds.
Again, for Gutekunst in that situation, it was about the player.
Overall, the Packers have addressed three significant needs with their first three selections. They added an athletic player to a cornerback room that needs some long-term help; an interior offensive lineman to help cover for the loss of an All-Pro center in free agency; and a dynamic yards-after-the-catch receiver with return ability who can be a Swiss-Army knife for a creative offensive mind like Matt LaFleur.
“I really do feel that the three players we took over the last two days, the stars aligned for us a little bit,” Gutekusnt said. “We feel good about the first two days and are really looking forward to tomorrow.”
Barring another trade up, the Packers will be back on the clock with the 142nd overall selection late in the fourth round.