All that glitters is not Green and Gold, and the Green Bay Packers proved it with a couple of key blunders during the 2021 NFL draft.
So, are we Monday Morning Quarterbacks? Or are we Monday Morning Quarterbacks for the Packers?
Packers NFL draft Mistake No. 1: Not trading 2020 MVP and QB Aaron Rodgers
Somehow, at 37 years old, Aaron Rodgers not only put together one of the best quarterback seasons of his career in 2020—but in NFL history. His 4,299 yards (seventh), 48 passing touchdowns (first, career-best), five total interceptions (T-first) and 84.4 QBR (first, career-best) pushed the Packers to another NFC North championship and into Super Bowl contention, and his completion percentage (70.7), sacks taken (20) and fumbles lost (one) were all career-best marks.
Father Time has not yet called in his debts to the former University of California star and junior-college phenom, and if Rodgers is anything like recent 40-year-old quarterbacks like Tom Brady, Drew Brees and Peyton Manning, he’s still got plenty of time left to throw for another 12,000-plus yards, 120-plus touchdowns and maybe hoist another MVP—or, egad!, Lombardi—trophy.
His stock couldn’t be higher. Sell! Alas, the Packers didn’t.
When news first broke of Rodgers’ apparent rift with the Packers front office (just before the 2021 NFL Draft), and how things were irreparable, the prudent move for Green Bay brass would’ve been to put out the “HELP WANTED” ads and start shopping their star.
Sure, an NFL MVP has never been traded in the following season, but unspoken rules were made to be broken. The San Francisco 49ers and the Los Angeles Rams reportedly did their due diligence on a potential acquisition, but they were quickly rebuffed and tossed carelessly aside for even having such notions. And maybe everything there works out for the best, with Jimmy Garoppolo and Trey Lance setting up shop in the Bay, and the Matthew Stafford/Jared Goff flip-flop generating sparks for both the Rams and the Detroit Lions.
Imagine a Packers staff with a handful of draft picks (or veteran stars) from either the Rams or the 49ers (or, literally, almost any other team in the league), and the permutations are limitless. Limitless. Is Rodgers, with probably less than five years remaining in his prime, worth a Herschel Walker-like haul of eight draft picks—like the Minnesota Vikings believed in 1989? Maybe not. But that’s not the worst price point.
Rodgers still has three years remaining on a four-year, $134 million deal and isn’t set to become an unrestricted free agent until 2024, when he’d presumably retire and probably become a semi-permanent host for “Jeopardy!” and happily live out his days beyond the frozen tundra of Wisconsin.
It’s the kind of trade that wouldn’t have just rattled the NFL to its core, but it would’ve shifted the 2021 Draft coverage away from the negativity of the situation and could’ve positioned the Packers for the next five-plus years … and maybe longer.
Mistake No. 2: Not drafting WR help early… again
Green Bay waited until the third round to select wide receiver help in Clemson’s Amari Rodgers, and the franchise hasn’t taken a wideout in the first round since selecting Florida State’s Javon Walker with the 20th overall pick in 2002.
And while taking Rodgers isn’t one of the worst ideas from this year’s selections, it seems odd that prolific pass catching hasn’t been the focus of this front office for nearly two decades, particularly with a perennial MVP candidate and a 2019 first-round quarterback selection in Jordan Love still on the roster.
Sure, Green Bay has absolutely nailed its later-round selections for wide receivers in the last three decades. Observe:
- Marquez Valdes-Scantling, fifth round, 2018
- Ty Montgomery, third round, 2015
- Davante Adams, second round, 2014
- Randall Cobb, second round, 2011
- Jordy Nelson, second round, 2008
- James Jones, third round, 2007
- Greg Jennings, second round, 2006
- Donald Driver, seventh round, 1999
- Antonio Freeman, third round, 1995
- Robert Brooks, third round, 1992
But the Packers had the 29th overall pick in the 2021 NFL Draft and could’ve taken any number of top-tier wideouts at the spot, or moved up slightly for the right guy. Minnesota’s Rashod Bateman went 27th overall to the Baltimore Ravens, while Florida’s Kadarius Toney went 20th to the New York Giants.
Better yet, Green Bay could’ve navigated down a bit outside of the first round—perhaps flipping its first for a second and a third-rounder this year—and taken both Georgia’s defensive back Eric Stokes (which they did at No. 29 in the opening round), while snagging a best-remaining wideout like Ole Miss’ Elijah Moore, Purdue’s Rondale Moore or LSU’s Terrace Marshall Jr.
Adams continues to be an electric wide receiver and one of the best in the game after snagging 115 receptions for 1,374 yards and 18 touchdowns in 2020, while tight end Robert Tonyan was delightful with 11 touchdown catches and 586 receiving yards. But this offense could certainly use another 1,000-yard receiver with consistent game-breaking capability, no matter who’s at quarterback for next season and beyond.