Surprise, surprise: Packers draft QB Jordan Love in first round

It was reminiscent of 2005, when the Packers drafted Aaron Rodgers with the No. 24 overall pick even though 35-year-old Brett Favre still was going strong.

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Utah State v LSU

Utah State quarterback Jordan Love (10) threw for 3,402 yards, 20 touchdowns and 17 interceptions last season. The Packers took him with the 26th overall pick in the NFL Draft on Thursday night.

Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images

Did the Packers do it again? We’ll see about that.

Needing a target for Aaron Rodgers, the Packers instead took his heir apparent in the NFL Draft on Thursday night. Green Bay moved up four spots to No. 26 overall in a trade with the Dolphins and took Utah State quarterback Jordan Love.

It was reminiscent of 2005, when the Packers drafted Rodgers with the No. 24 overall pick even though 35-year-old Brett Favre still was going strong. Rodgers spent three seasons as Favre’s backup before replacing Favre in 2008. The rest is history.

Rodgers is still lethal — he threw for 4,002 yards and 26 touchdowns to just four interceptions in 2019. But he hasn’t been quite as prolific or efficient as he was in the prime of his Hall of Fame career. In the last five seasons, Rodgers has a 97.5 passer rating, including 95.4 last season— ranking 15th, fourth, eighth, 13th and 12th in the NFL. In the previous five (2010-14), his passer rating was a robust 110.3 — ranking third, first, first, fifth and second in the NFL.

The Packers figured to draft an offensive player. They let tight end Jimmy Graham go in free agency. And their receiving corps needs an upgrade, with Davante Adams (83 receptions, 997 yards, five touchdowns) the only receiver with more than 500 yards. So drafting Love was a bit of a surprise. But as a team that has had two quarterbacks over the last 28 seasons — both Hall of Famers — the Packers get the benefit of the doubt, for now.

While the Packers were looking to the future, the Bears’ other NFC North rivals, the Lions and Vikings, picked players in the first round they expect to contribute immediately.

The Lions, who ranked last in the NFL in pass defense last season (284.4 yards per game) even with Darius Slay, drafted Ohio State cornerback Jeff Okudah with the No. 3 overall pick. They previously had signed former Falcons Pro Bowl cornerback Desmond Trufant in free agency in anticipation of trading Slay.

Okudah, a 6-1, 205-pound true junior with a huge wingspan (78 5/8), was the top-rated cornerback in the draft after his lone season as a starter in 2019. With outstanding athletic ability — he ran a 4.48 40 and had a 41-inch vertical at the scouting combine — Okudah is considered an NFL-ready cornerback with his ability to play press coverage and excel in zone and man-to-man defenses. He was not called for pass interference or holding last season.

No doubt the Lions need the help, especially after trading Slay to the Eagles for a third-round pick (No. 85) and a fifth-round pick (No. 166). They are 9-22-1 in Matt Patricia’s two seasons, including 3-12-1 last season. Patricia’s defense has been torched by every quarterback in the NFC North.

In the wake of the Diggs trade, the Vikings used the No. 22 overall pick to fill that void by taking LSU wide receiver Justin Jefferson. The 6-1, 202-pound Jefferson blossomed along with quarterback Joe Burrow in LSU’s offense. Jefferson had 111 receptions for 1,540 yards and 18 touchdowns for the national champion Tigers last season.

With their own first-round pick, the Vikings traded down from No. 25 to No. 31 in a trade with the 49ers and took TCU cornerback Jeff Gladney. The Vikings have two cornerback openings after cutting veteran Xavier Rhodes and losing Trae Waynes in free agency.

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