Last year, Green Bay Packers fans—and star quarterback Aaron Rodgers —clamored for the team to take a wide receiver in the first round, in a draft loaded with talent at the position. Instead, the team made its most shocking draft pick in a long, long time.
The Packers jumped up a few spots to take Utah State quarterback Jordan Love, a developmental prospect with a high upside, but one that not everyone had with a first-round grade. The team's aggressive move up to take him sent a clear signal though: the front office sees Love as an heir apparent for the legendary Rodgers, and with quarterback contracts being what they are, they'd like to make that move sooner than later.
Rodgers admitted that he wasn't thrilled with the pick, but welcomed Love to Green Bay. Then, after something of a muted individual season in 2019, he exploded for one of the best years of his career in 2020, winning the NFL MVP Award and leading the team to its second straight NFC Championship. The Love situation hadn't totally gone away, but most figured the team and franchise quarterback would figure out a long term deal to keep Rodgers in Green Bay and everyone happy.
Instead, the relationship has imploded. Starting Thursday, a wave of stories hit about Rodgers' desire for a trade, rumors about the San Francisco 49ers and Denver Broncos, and this morning, about how it may come down to either Rodgers or general manager Brian Gutekunstleaving town. Thrown in the middle was a pick that Gutekunst certainly hopes pleases Aaron Rodgers. For the first time since the 2018 draft, the Packers took a wide receiver, drafting talented Clemson starAmari Rodgers.
At No. 85, Rodgers is the highest pick the Green Bay Packers have used on a wide receiver since 2014, when the team took Davante Adams—now a candidate for the NFL's best wide receiver—in the second round.
After the second night of the draft, the embattled GM had a pretty interesting statement, that can certainly be read as a message to his quarterback.
"I hope everybody on our team and within our building is excited about adding Amari," Gutekunst said, per ESPN. "I think it was something we wanted to add -- we've wanted to add for a few years -- that guy that can play inside and do some returning. So yeah, I hope everybody's pleased with it."
As it turns out, wide receiver didn't really turn out to be the need that most thought in 2020. Adams continues to surge, and had a massive season. Allen Lazard had a breakout campaign, and Marquez Valdes-Scantling, while inconsistent, proved how dangerous he can be taking the top off of defenses. We haven't seen big target Devin Funchess play for the team yet either, after opting out in 2020.
Still, Love didn't break the two-deep last season. Running back A.J. Dillon, the team's second round pick, had some impressive performances late in 2020, but is still behind bellcow Aaron Jones, who re-upped this offseason. He was the only Packers rookie who had any major production last year. Love aside, it was a deeply disappointing showing for Green Bay last year, and it served to alienate perhaps the greatest player in franchise history.
Time will tell if the Amari Rodgers selection will help convince Aaron Rodgers to work things out with Green Bay, or if the damage has already been done.