Jordan Love Selection Wasn't the Problem with Packers' Bizarre Draft Class

Brent Sobleski@@brentsobleskiNFL AnalystMay 3, 2020

MOBILE, AL - JANUARY 25: Quarterback Jordan Love #5 from Utah State of the North Team warms up before the 2020 Resse's Senior Bowl at Ladd-Peebles Stadium on January 25, 2020 in Mobile, Alabama. The Noth Team defeated the South Team 34 to 17. (Photo by Don Juan Moore/Getty Images)
Don Juan Moore/Getty Images

The Green Bay Packers' decision to take quarterback Jordan Love with this year's first-round pick wasn't the issue with the organization's 2020 draft approach. Everything beyond that point was.

This year's wide receiver class reached historic levels. The previous sentence isn't hyperbolic in any way. As ESPN's Field Yates noted, 36 wide receivers heard their names called during draft weekend—which tied a 2003 record—with 13 coming off the board during the first two rounds, setting a new record.

The group's depth and overall quality were well-known prior to the event.

"Deepest I've ever seen," a 20-year scouting veteran told The Athletic's Bob McGinn. "I like so many of them, and for different reasons."

Yet, the Packers, whose biggest need throughout the entire offseason centered on the wide receiver position, didn't select one.

Before going any further, the idea of Love being a respectable choice with this year's first-round pick must be established.

Yes, Aaron Rodgers is 36 years old with three years left on his current contract. He might be older than Brett Favre was when the Packers chose the free-falling signal-caller, but the length in which quarterbacks play in the current era could mean four or five more quality seasons from the future Hall of Famer. Rodgers has every right to be a little miffed since the front office decided to acquire his heir apparent, and maybe the team "burned a bridge" with him, as Favre speculated.

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Ben Margot/Associated Press

All of this can be true without thinking the Packers made the wrong decision in drafting Love.

The quarterback position is handled differently from any other. If an organization sees an opportunity to invest in a potential franchise-caliber talent, especially with an aging and expensive option already on the roster, it's a smart move on multiple levels.

First, the team doesn't have to rush the process. The incoming quarterback can learn behind a quality starter and grow accustomed to the system. Second, the coaching staff can iron out any potential weaknesses found within his game. For example, NFL teams didn't like how Rodgers held the ball too high after playing under head coach Jeff Tedford at Cal. But those mechanical tweaks can be made over time without the pressure of starting every weekend.

Love certainly has question marks. His junior campaign at Utah State is littered with poor decision-making and forced throws. He got lazy with his footwork at times. Added practice and mental reps should help in these areas so the Packers can eventually capitalize on his natural throwing and playmaking abilities.

"As far as his skill set, he's a very natural thrower, can make all the throws, he's a very good athlete, he has the kind of size we look for," general manager Brian Gutekunst said, per Wes Hodkiewicz of the Packers' official site. "I just think there's some rawness to him, but I just think he's got everything in front of him. And we really like the guy."

Whether someone agrees with the choice of Love or not misses the point. He was generally considered a first-round prospect with tremendous potential. But the Packers made two massive mistakes during the draft.

The first deals with how the team acquired Love. The pick itself makes sense. Green Bay took a long-term approach to team-building instead of addressing an immediate need. There's nothing wrong with doing so.

The idea the team needed to trade up for Love is where major questions arise.

Who was going to trade ahead of the Packers for Love? What could they have done with the extra asset the team surrendered?

The New England Patriots had already passed on Love and traded out of the first round, while the New Orleans Saints also passed (and subsequently signed Jameis Winston). The Seattle Seahawks, Baltimore Ravens and Tennessee Titans sat between the 26th and 30th overall picks, and they're all set at quarterback. No franchise sitting near the top of the second round looked like a real threat to trade into the opening frame to nab Love before the Packers.

Yet, Gutekunst surrendered a fourth-round pick to move up four slots. The compensation may not sound like much, but it's not negligible either.

Morry Gash/Associated Press

Half of the wide receivers selected in this year's class came after the Packers' original fourth-round pick at 136th overall. Eight came off the board between No. 136 and the next time they were on the board with the 175th overall selection.

"People are bashing Green Bay for not surrounding (Aaron) Rodgers with decent help and how the franchise has basically screwed him by not giving him all the tools he needs to succeed," another team executive told The Athletic's Mike Sando. "It goes to coaching, it goes to drafting and it's hard to disagree with that."

The team could have added Antonio Gandy-Golden, Joe Reed, Tyler Johnson, Collin Johnson or Quintez Cephus if Gutekunst didn't get antsy. But he did.

Still, Green Bay could have addressed the position before that point.

Twenty-two different teams took at least one wide receiver. The Packers decided to go elsewhere despite not having a single wide receiver not named Davante Adams eclipse 35 receptions or 477 yards last season.

"I thought the top was one of the stronger drafts at the wide receiver class that I can remember, but the runs went pretty early, and once we got to a certain spot, with the group that we had coming back, it wasn't like we weren't looking to add to that competition," Gutekunst told reporters. "We just felt there weren't a lot of great candidates that were locks to make our team next year."

Allen Lazard, Marquez Valdes-Scantling, Equanimeous St. Brown, Devin Funchess, Jake Kumerow, Darrius Shepherd, Malik Taylor, Reggie Begelton and Darrell Stewart comprise the rest of Green Bay's wide receiver corps.

Gutekunst couldn't find better competition at the position during the deepest wide receiver class ever? C'mon, man.

SYRACUSE, NY - NOVEMBER 02:  AJ Dillon #2 of the Boston College Eagles drags Eric Coley #34 of the Syracuse Orange as Coley makes the tackle during the second quarter at the Carrier Dome on November 2, 2019 in Syracuse, New York.  (Photo by Brett Carlsen/
Brett Carlsen/Getty Images

Instead, Green Bay selected a running back and tight end with its second- and third-round draft picks. A.J. Dillon and Josiah Deguara should be quality additions, and, technically, both are offensive weapons, though only one will have much of an impact in the passing game. 

Meanwhile, the Packers passed on Lynn Bowden Jr., Bryan Edwards, Devin Duvernay and Gabriel Davis in order to select who they did. Bowden's versatility, Edwards' physicality and Duvernay and Davis' ability to stretch the field certainly could have helped the team.

Basically, Green Bay missed a golden opportunity to greatly improve the passing game during Rodgers' final years and eventual transition to Love as the team's franchise quarterback. With wide receivers aplenty available to every organization, one of the league's neediest franchises did nothing.

"You make a conscious decision when you get into these player acquisition markets, do you want to support your quarterback or do you want to limit the other team from scoring and run the ball?" an exec told Sando. "Seattle wants to run the ball like it's 1920 and the forward pass is not yet legal. Still, they've drafted [Paul] Richardson, [Tyler] Lockett, [D.K] Metcalf, that big tight end from Washington [Will Dissly]. I don't understand."

Where's the love for all of the wide receivers? This specific question is the truly bizarre part of the Packers' 2020 draft approach, and it's where the organization ultimately failed.

     

Brent Sobleski covers the NFL for Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter @brentsobleski.