Packers trade up, take Utah State QB Jordan Love

The Green Bay Packers grabbed Aaron Rodgers’ potential replacement with its first-round pick on Thursday in the 2020 NFL Draft.

General manager Brian Gutekunst traded up four spots with the Miami Dolphins to No. 26 to take Utah State quarterback Jordan Love. The Packers gave up their first-round pick (No. 30 overall) and a fourth-round pick to make the move.

Love was the fourth quarterback off the board. The 6-foot-4, 224-pound, California native had a stellar sophomore season for the Aggies, throwing for 3,567 yards, 32 touchdowns and just six interceptions. But under first-year coach Gary Anderson, and with a new offensive coordinator and nine new starters on offense, he regressed in 2019, throwing for 3,402 yards with 20 touchdowns and 17 interceptions.

“I’m a playmaker. I’m always ready to make plays. Whatever is needed,” Love said when asked what he brings to the table. “I’ve got a really good arm, I’d say. A lot of confidence in that and a lot of confidence in my ability to make plays as a quarterback. I’m going to come in here and work, continue to get better and improve my game.”

The pick comes 15 years to the day that Green Bay selected Rodgers in the first round while still having a future Hall of Fame quarterback in Brett Favre. But Favre was talking about retiring every year, while Rodgers has said he’d like to play out the four years remaining on his current deal and potentially more after that.

“We did draft him in the first round, so we like a lot about him. We certainly think he has a very good upside to become a starter in the National Football League,” Gutekunst said of Love. “(But) we got the best quarterback in the National Football League, and we plan to have him for a while competing for championships. I can understand the fanbase and people thinking why would you do this at this time, but I just think the value of our board, and the way it set up, it was the best thing for the Green Bay Packers.”

Earlier on Thursday, Rodgers was on the Pat McAfee Show and said no matter who the Packers picked — offense or defense — he’d welcome him with open arms. He added it would be pretty cool if Green Bay added a skill position player in the first round for the first time since Rodgers was taken in 2005. Gutekunst did just that but it turned out to be another quarterback and not the wide receiver many were expecting or hoping the team would take.

“It’s just how the board fell,” Gutekunst said of not taking a wide receiver or another more immediate position of need. “Obviously, if there was a game-changer type player at another position, we would have seriously considered that. We didn’t feel like there was, so we took Jordan, and we’re really happy to do it.”

Gutekunst said they did consider trading back but didn’t get the right kind of offers to do it. Instead, they gave up a mid-round pick to take a player they hope will be the future of the franchise — whenever that might be.

“Playing quarterback in the National Football League is probably the hardest position in all of sports,” Gutekunst said. “I just think whenever you have the ability to take a player, whether it’s in the first round, second round, third round, that you think has a chance to play, I think you have to consider it.”

Rodgers has been dinged up in recent seasons. He missed 11 games in 2017 due to a broken collarbone, played almost the entire 2018 season with a broken leg suffered in Week 1 and then was on the injury report much of 2019 with a variety of ailments that he managed to play through.

Gutekunst said he has not talked to Rodgers prior to taking Love, but felt he’ll handle it well.

“Aaron’s been through a lot in his career and certainly he’s been through a situation like this,” Gutekunst said. “I think he’s a pro’s pro. He’s playing for legacy things here, not only in Green Bay but in the NFL, historic type stuff. I know (he’ll be) very, very motivated and, again, I don’t foresee this being an issue.”