Packers draft rumors: Green Bay tried to trade up for Justin Jefferson in 2020 to get Aaron Rodgers receiver help
The Green Bay Packers drew much criticism for their inability and apparent unwillingness to draft a receiver to help quarterback Aaron Rodgers during the 2020 NFL Draft. The team spent their first three picks on offense, but none looked like they would make Rodgers’ supporting cast better. Running back A.J. Dillon was talented, but he was set to be the third-string RB behind Aaron Jones and Jamaal Williams. Tight end Josiah Deguara was largely seen as a reach in Round 3 and ended up being unproductive as a rookie.
But the most head-scratching decision at the time was the one that Packers GM Brian Gutekunst made when he traded up to select quarterback Jordan Love in the first round of the draft. The Packers were in the market for a young QB — Aaron Rodgers turned 37 during the ’20 season — but few thought that they would spend a first-round pick on one after Rodgers helped get the team to an NFC Championship Game during the 2020 postseason.
After a year in which the Packers once again fell one game short of making it to the Super Bowl, the pick has come under even more scrutiny, especially with the team’s relationship with Aaron Rodgers apparently fraying.
However, according to the latest rumors, the Packers did make an effort to land an impact receiver early in the ’20 draft.
What they’re saying: According to NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport, Gutekunst and the Packers tried to move up to get a couple of different first-round receivers during the ’20 NFL Draft: LSU’s Justin Jefferson and Arizona State’s Brandon Aiyuk.
Why this matters: Jefferson and Aiyuk both had very strong rookie years for their respective teams. Aiyuk totaled 825 scrimmage yards and seven total touchdowns for the 49ers in just 12 games while Jefferson was even better. The LSU-product-turned-Vikings-star set a rookie receiving record with 1,400 receiving yards and grabbed 88 passes and seven TDs for Minnesota. If not for the elite performance of QB Justin Herbert, Jefferson probably would have taken home Offensive Rookie of the Year honors.
Meanwhile, the Packers struggled to find production at the receiver position outside of Davante Adams. Aside from Adams, who posted 115 catches (tied for the second-most in the NFL), no receiver was able to make more than 33 catches on the season. In fact, Adams was almost singlehandedly able to outproduce the entire rest of the Packers’ receiver room during the 2020 regular season.
Needless to say, with a player like Jefferson or Aiyuk in the fold, the Packers’ receiving situation would be much better. The team just wasn’t able to move up enough to get either of them, according to the rumors.
Even still: In trading up for Love, the Packers passed on some other quality receivers that they could have considered with the 30th pick that they traded up from. Notably, Tee Higgins, who went off the board with the 33rd overall pick, posted 67 catches for 908 yards and six TDs as a rookie with the Bengals. Chase Claypool, who was the 49th overall selection of the Steelers, had 62 catches for 873 yards and nine touchdowns.
Both of those players could have upgraded the Packers’ receiving corps and would have filled a more immediate need than Love. And it’s worth noting that both Higgins and Claypool produced despite being dogged with either middling quarterback play for most of the season (Claypool) or poor play after Joe Burrow’s torn ACL (Higgins). Given the opportunity to play with Rodgers during an MVP season could have made them both legitimate 1,000-yard, 10-TD threats.
What this means: Whether the Packers intended to get Rodgers receiver help or not doesn’t matter. Ultimately, they weren’t able to add anything to their receiver room and it ended up costing them. They were very much stuck in neutral during the ’20 season and their Super Bowl window is rapidly closing.
And if Rodgers does force his way out of Green Bay amid his contract stalemate and discontent with the team’s inability to add quality weapons around him, then it will slam shut.
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