Could the Green Bay Packers Really Draft a Quarterback in Round 1?

Brad Gagnon@Brad_Gagnon NFL National ColumnistApril 20, 2019

Brian Gutekunst has reportedly been looking at first-round-caliber quarterbacks.
Brian Gutekunst has reportedly been looking at first-round-caliber quarterbacks.Associated Press

They wouldn't, would they? 

I mean, they did it in 2005. That's when the Green Bay Packers used a first-round draft pick on a quarterback, despite the fact that they had one coming off a 4,000-yard, 30-touchdown season. 

The quarterback they drafted was Aaron Rodgers, who became the heir apparent to shoo-in Hall of Famer Brett Favre, who was entering his age-35 season. 

Rodgers, who has become a shoo-in Hall of Famer himself, now happens to be 35 years old. 

But that doesn't mean the Packers are seriously considering a first-round quarterback in the 2019 NFL draft Thursday night in Nashville, Tennessee, does it?

Well...

The team does have two first-round picks (12th and 30th), and there's quarterback chatter worth monitoring. Per Charles Robinson of Yahoo Sports, they held a last-minute visit this week with Missouri passing prospect Drew Lock. And according to NFL Network's Ian Rapoport, the Packers also tried to bring in Duke product Daniel Jones, but the "timing didn't work out."

Could Drew Lock become the heir apparent in Green Bay?
Could Drew Lock become the heir apparent in Green Bay?Darron Cummings/Associated Press/Associated Press/Associated Press

Lock and Jones wouldn't necessarily be reaches in the top 12, but many would consider them steals in the No. 30 spot. 

The buzz was enough for NFL Network's Daniel Jeremiah to project Lock to the Packers in his April 16 mock draft, with the former scout noting that Green Bay has "been doing a lot of homework on quarterbacks this draft season."

For what it's worth, the regime running the Packers has changed entirely since 2005. 

Bob Harlan was the team's CEO then; now it's Mark Murphy (hired in 2007). 

Ted Thompson was the general manager at the time; now it's Brian Gutekunst (promoted from being the director of player personnel to his current role in 2018). 

Mike Sherman was the head coach in '05; now it's Matt LaFleur (hired three months ago). 

Could new Packers coach Matt LaFleur push to go in a new direction under center?
Could new Packers coach Matt LaFleur push to go in a new direction under center?Morry Gash/Associated Press

The organization, which met with more than 25 non-quarterback prospects in the lead-up to the draft, could just be doing its due diligence, but that doesn't mean it wouldn't dive in if it felt a prospect were a good value. That was almost certainly the case when Rodgers unexpectedly plummeted to No. 24 in 2005.

It's been longer than a decade since the Packers selected a quarterback in the top four rounds, so this might not be a bad time to add some high-potential talent behind Rodgers.

But Round 1? 

This is a team that has no choice but to be in win-now mode. Rodgers is the second-highest-paid player in NFL history, and the new-look front office uncharacteristically committed a combined $154 million to contracts for three high-profile defensive free agents earlier this offseason (linebackers Za'Darius Smith and Preston Smith and safety Adrian Amos). 

The championship window is closing as Rodgers moves closer to 40 than 30, and Green Bay hasn't won more than 10 games since 2014. The team needs fresh blood at tight end and in the offensive slot, and it needs more depth at safety, on the edge and in the interior offensive line.

The Packers are also in one of the toughest divisions in the stronger of the two conferences, and the NFC North rival Chicago Bears, Detroit Lions and Minnesota Vikings are all expected to contend for the playoffs in 2019. 

Green Bay might not have the luxury of being able to use a first-round pick on a player who, if all goes according to plan, won't see the field for another half-decade. 

The insurance at the position would be nice, but the Packers have placed all of their eggs in Rodgers' basket, and quarterbacks are playing longer than ever.

GREEN BAY, WISCONSIN - DECEMBER 30:  Aaron Rodgers #12 of the Green Bay Packers reacts in the first quarter against the Detroit Lions at Lambeau Field on December 30, 2018 in Green Bay, Wisconsin. (Photo by Dylan Buell/Getty Images)
Dylan Buell/Getty Images

Tom Brady was the NFL MVP at 40 and a Super Bowl champion at 41, while Drew Brees was the league's highest-rated passer at age 39. Philip Rivers is coming off arguably the best season of his career at age 37. 

So it might be too early to take a first-round quarterback considering that Rodgers just turned 35 in December. Hell, for a time, it appeared as though it was too early when Green Bay selected Rodgers.

The California native spent the first three seasons of his career marinating behind Favre, and it became messy when Favre retired and unretired in the 2008 offseason. After several dramatic months, the Packers stuck with Rodgers and traded Favre, but Favre went on to make Pro Bowls with the New York Jets and Vikings. 

Had Rodgers not immediately succeeded, the media and Green Bay fans would've crushed the Packers for rolling with Rodgers. 

Lock isn't Rodgers, and neither is Jones. The former might not be accurate enough—he had a 56.9 percent pass completion rate at Missouri—and possesses lackluster decision-making skills, while the latter has yet to prove he can work through progressions and deliver accurate deep-to-intermediate throws.

Their ceilings aren't as high as Rodgers' was in '05. 

The timing might also be poor considering the potential friction in Green Bay.

In a blockbuster report from Bleacher Report's Tyler Dunne earlier this month, some of Rodgers' former teammates and coaches and other personnel who worked in the Packers organization with both Rodgers and former head coach Mike McCarthy described the quarterback as sensitive, arrogant and self-entitled. They also raised questions about whether the veteran will be able to take coaching from the 39-year-old LaFleur. 

How might Rodgers feel if the new regime drafts his potential successor in Round 1? Would he view that player as a protege or an insurance policy, or would he view him as a threat? 

Using an early draft pick on a quarterback just might not be worth the hassle for a team that has bigger fish to fry. 

There are several projected middle-round quarterback prospects—Auburn's Jarrett Stidham, Northwestern's Clayton Thorson, North Carolina State's Ryan Finley and Boise State's Brett Rypien, to name four—who could come in and compete for backup reps without causing a Lock- or Jones-level stir. 

And don't forget that the 2020 quarterback class is looking mighty strong. 

So the Packers probably shouldn't take a quarterback in the first round. But that doesn't mean they won't. 

                                               

Brad Gagnon has covered the NFL for Bleacher Report since 2012.

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