The Green Bay Packers have drawn a lot of criticism for their inability and apparent reluctance to sign a receiver to help quarterback Aaron Rodgers in the 2020 NFL Draft. The team passed their top three picks on offense, but none failed. Seemed like it could improve Rodgers’ supporting cast. Running back AJ Dillon was talented, but he was close to being the third RB behind Aaron Jones and Jamaal Williams. Tight end Josiah Deguara was widely seen as a carry in the third round and ended up being unproductive as a rookie.
But the most shocking decision at the time was one that Packers general manager Brian Gutekunst made when he traded to select quarterback Jordan Love in the first round of the draft. The Packers were on the hunt for a young QB – Aaron Rodgers turned 37 in the 2020 season – but few thought they would pass a first-round pick on one after Rodgers helped the team compete in an NFC Championship game during the 2020 playoffs.
After a year in which the Packers again failed a game before heading to the Super Bowl, the pick has come under even more scrutiny, especially with the team’s relationship with Aaron Rodgers who apparently unraveling.
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However, according to the latest rumors, the Packers made an effort to land an impact receiver early in the 2020 draft.
What they say: According to Ian Rapoport of NFL Network, Gutekunst and the Packers tried to move up to get two different first-round receivers in the NFL 20 Draft: Justin Jefferson of LSU and Brandon Aiyuk of Arizona State.
The draft is the ultimate hypothesis. In 2020, #Packers General manager Brian Gutekunst has targeted a WR. He tried to trade for LSU WR Justin Jefferson, only to see MIN take him. He looked at the # 49ers swap for ASU WR Brandon Aiyuk – another target. Then GB moved up to select… Jordan Love.
– Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) May 3, 2021
Why this is important: Jefferson and Aiyuk both had very good rookie years for their respective teams. Aiyuk totaled 825 scrum yards and seven total touchdowns for the 49ers in just 12 games while Jefferson was even better. The Vikings star-studded LSU product set a rookie receiving record with 1,400 receiving yards and had 88 passes and seven touchdowns for Minnesota. Without quarterback Justin Herbert’s elite performance, Jefferson likely would have won the offensive rookie of the year honors.
Meanwhile, the Packers have struggled to find production at the receiving station outside of Davante Adams. Other than Adams, who made 115 catches (tied for second in the NFL), no receiver has been able to make more than 33 catches during the season. In fact, Adams was almost single-handedly capable of outperforming the rest of the Packers receiving room during the 2020 regular season.
|Player||Targets||Catches||Reception of yards||TD|
|Rest of WR packers||141||88||1390||11|
Needless to say, with a player like Jefferson or Aiyuk in the fold, the Packers’ receiving situation would be much better. The team just couldn’t make enough progress to get either one, according to rumors.
Even still: In trading for Love, the Packers passed on other quality receivers that they could have considered with the 30th pick they traded. Notably, Tee Higgins, who left the table with the 33rd overall pick, had 67 catches for 908 yards and six touchdowns as a rookie with the Bengals. Chase Claypool, who was the Steelers’ 49th overall, had 62 catches for 873 yards and nine touchdowns.
Both of these players could have improved the Packers’ receiving body and would have met a more immediate need than Love. And it’s worth noting that Higgins and Claypool produced despite being stubborn with middle quarterback play for most of the season (Claypool) or poor play after Joe Burrow’s ripped ACL (Higgins). Given the ability to play with Rodgers for an MVP season, they could have made them legitimate 1,000-yard and 10 TD threats.
What does that mean: It doesn’t matter whether the Packers intend to enlist the help of receiver Rodgers or not. In the end, they couldn’t add anything to their reception hall and it ended up costing them dearly. They were very stuck in neutral during Season 20 and their Super Bowl window is closing quickly.
And if Rodgers forces himself out of Green Bay amid his contract deadlock and unhappiness with the team’s inability to add quality guns around him, then he will shut down.