GREEN BAY: Packers don't take any receivers in surprise draft move
The Green Bay Packers acquired Aaron Rodgers’ potential successor but didn’t give their star quarterback any new wide receivers.
In a draft heralded for its receiving depth, the Packers opted against taking a single player at a position that was widely considered a major need.
The Packers traded up four spots in the first round to take Utah State quarterback Jordan Love with the 26th overall pick. By the time they drafted again late in the second round, 13 receivers already had been taken.
“We felt (the receiver class) was really strong at the top,” general manager Brian Gutekunst said. “I don’t know as we went through the middle and the end, that we felt it was as strong as maybe others did.
“I thought the top was one of the stronger drafts at the wide receiver class that I can remember, but the runs went pretty early, and once we got to a certain spot, with the group that we had coming back, it wasn’t like we weren’t looking to add to that competition. We just felt there weren’t a lot of great candidates that were locks to make our team next year.’’
Davante Adams is the only Packer who caught as many as 50 passes or accumulated as many as 500 yards receiving last season. The Packers’ biggest offseason addition to their receiving corps is Devin Funchess, who played just one game for Indianapolis last season before going on injured reserve with a broken collarbone.
“I do think we have talent and depth at that position,” coach Matt LaFleur said.
The lack of receivers was perhaps the biggest surprise of a draft in which the Packers focused on solving potential long-term issues. How much a team that finished a game short of the Super Bowl last season improved its 2020 fortunes is up for debate.
The Packers used their first-round pick on Love, who will likely spend his first couple of seasons backing up Rodgers. They drafted Boston College running back A.J. Dillon in the second round when they already have Aaron Jones, who rushed for 16 touchdowns and 1,084 yards last year.
Green Bay added Cincinnati tight end Josiah Deguara in the third round and Minnesota linebacker Kamal Martin in the fifth round. The Packers selected three offensive linemen in the sixth round by taking Michigan guard/tackle Jon Runyan Jr., Oregon center Jake Hanson and Indiana guard Simon Stepaniak. They chose TCU safety Vernon Scott and Miami defensive end Jonathan Garvin in the seventh round.
The success of this draft likely will depend on whether Love eventually develops into the kind of player who can continue Green Bay's three-decade run of quality quarterback play.
His arrival already has produced plenty of speculation regarding how much longer Rodgers will stay in Green Bay, no matter how much the Packers attempt to downplay that.
“We have one of the best quarterbacks to ever lace them up,” Gutekunst said. “We’re shooting for championships as long as (Rodgers is) here, and we expect him to be here for quite a while.”
EMPHASIZING THE RUN?
Green Bay’s draft strategy suggests the Packers may adopt a run-oriented approach, though Gutekunst cautioned against reading too much into that.
“I don’t really think any of the personnel acquisitions that we made over the last three days were an attempt to kind of transition to that,” Gutekunst said. “They were the right players at the right time.”
The Packers will have solid depth at running back with Dillon joining Jones and Jamaal Williams, who both could become free agents next year. Deguara also can help the running game with his ability to play fullback and H-back.
Runyan is the son of former NFL offensive tackle Jon Runyan, who played from 1996-2009 before serving two terms as a Republican congressman from New Jersey. The elder Runyan now is the NFL’s vice president of policy and rules administration.
Runyan said he’d take a lesson he received from his dad to heart while trying to “kind of be that nasty guy on the field that gets in everybody’s heads.”
“I remember one time in eighth grade, my dad caught me patting some defensive player on the back after he made a good hit, and (my dad) gave me a stern talking-to after that game and told me never to do that again,” Runyan said. “That kind of changed my whole perspective on how to play the game.”
RECOVERING FROM INJURY
Stepaniak tore his anterior cruciate ligament during a practice before the Gator Bowl but said he is progressing well and hopes to be ready for the start of training camp.
Martin, who played eight games for Minnesota last season due to a knee injury, said he’s “way ahead of where I’m supposed to be” in his recovery and that the situation shouldn’t cause any issues.
WAITING ON DEFENSE
This marked the first time since 1985 that the Packers waited until the fifth round before taking a defensive player. The Packers selected Arizona State linebacker Brian Noble in the fifth round at No. 125 overall that year.
-- By Steve Megargee, AP
MINNESOTA: Vikings prioritize defensive line on final day of draft
MINNEAPOLIS — With a 6-foot-5, 260-pound frame, coming out of an SEC school in the middle rounds of the draft, the Minnesota Vikings had an ideal model in mind for South Carolina defensive end D.J. Wonnum.
That's Danielle Hunter, who became last year the youngest player in NFL history to reach 50 career sacks.
Wonnum, who was Minnesota's first pick on Saturday in the fourth round, will require plenty of development to even come close to the trajectory Hunter has been on since he was taken in the third round out of LSU in 2015. The Vikings have long believed in and benefited from their ability to maximize production out of defensive players, though, so Wonnum made plenty of sense at the 117th overall selection. The departure in free agency of starter Everson Griffen and backup Stephen Weatherly made that position important to fill through the draft.
“Definitely, the measurables are close. I think Danielle might have been a little bit faster as far as straight-ahead 40, but this guy is a self-made … leader,” college scouting director Jamaal Stephenson said. “We had a chance to talk to his head coach down there, and they just raved about the kid.”
Wonnum's conversation at the NFL scouting combine with defensive line coach Andre Patterson, who's now the co-defensive coordinator, included references to Hunter.
“He told me I had the tools. I’ve just got to bring it out of me,” Wonnum said.
Thirteen picks after Wonnum, the Vikings added another promising prospect for their front four with Baylor defensive tackle James Lynch. He accumulated 22 career sacks in three seasons, including 13 1/2 sacks in 2019, both program records. The Vikings still have Shamar Stephen and some other draft picks from recent years in the mix at the position known in schematic jargon as the 3-technique, but Lynch ought to push for playing time immediately.
“I feel like playing inside is my natural position, and I bring a mismatch to offensive guards and whoever I’m going against,” Lynch said. “I can do different things to confuse them and try to get to the quarterback as fast as I can.”
Michigan State defensive end Kenny Willekes rounded out the reinforcement of the front line. Oregon linebacker Troy Dye was the last of Minnesota's trio of fourth-round picks. In the fifth round, the Vikings took Temple cornerback Harrison Hand and Miami wide receiver K.J. Osborn. In the sixth, they selected Oregon State tackle Blake Brandel and Michigan safety Josh Metellus. Their seventh-round choices were Willekes, Iowa quarterback Nate Stanley, Mississippi State safety Brian Cole and Washburn guard Kyle Hinton.
After making two picks in the first round on Thursday, one in the second round and one in the third round on Friday, the Vikings started on Saturday with a whopping 13 selections. They wound up with 11 players, stashing two picks away for 2021 in trades with Chicago (fourth round) and Baltimore (fifth round). They now have three fourth-rounders next year.
With 15 players, the Vikings made more picks than any team since the draft was trimmed to seven rounds in 1994. Cleveland made 14 selections in 2016. General manager Rick Spielman, who has long valued quantity in the draft, was glowing afterward — particularly given the extra challenge of conducting the entire operation via video conferencing due to the coronavirus-imposed sequestering at home for all staff.
“We did not have any glitches at all throughout the whole process,” Spielman said.
The Vikings largely addressed their most pressing needs, starting with three cornerbacks and two safeties. They chose three offensive linemen, though Hinton, from a Division II program, was the only guard, the spot of greatest concern. Dru Samia, a fourth-round pick last year, will figure heavily into the interior competition with Pat Elflein, Dakota Dozier and perhaps Hinton.
The Vikings made Stanley, a three-year starter who went 27-12 and finished second in program history with 68 career touchdown passes, their first quarterback drafted since Teddy Bridgewater in the first round in 2014. The last time the Vikings used a pick after the first day of the draft on a quarterback was John David Booty in the fifth round in 2008. Stanley, who will compete with Jake Browning for the No. 3 spot behind Kirk Cousins and Sean Mannion, threw only 23 career interceptions in an offensive scheme at Iowa with some similarities to the Vikings.
Osborn will factor in to the mix at a suddenly inexperienced wide receiver group beyond Adam Thielen that was enhanced on Thursday by LSU's Justin Jefferson with the 22nd overall pick. Osborn also has significant special teams ability, including returning both kickoffs and punts, and his off-the-field interests are among the most unique of this class.
He's been pursuing his master's degree in criminal justice, with a post-football goal of working for the FBI or the Secret Service.
“I'm not really sure if I should be announcing that,” he said, jokingly, then adding: “I want to be the guy going in there helping save lives and protect the president and protect the country.”
-- By Dave Campbell, AP
CHICAGO: Bears draft big TE, speedy WR, add to defense in draft
The Chicago Bears drafted a big tight end and a speedy receiver. They didn't ignore their defense, either.
How big a jolt they gave themselves won't be known for awhile. But general manager Ryan Pace insisted they are in a better spot after a disappointing season.
“That was the goal, right? To strengthen our team and we'll come out of this whole offseason process better,” he said. “We definitely feel like we've improved our team.”
The Bears were busy on Saturday, adding a pair of fifth-round picks to go with the one they already had.
The Bears traded a 2021 fourth-rounder to Minnesota to take Tulsa defensive end Trevis Gipson in the fifth round at No. 155 overall, hoping he can develop into a threat on the edge. They grabbed Georgia Southern cornerback Kindle Vildor eight picks later.
They acquired a third selection in the round when they traded up with Philadelphia to draft speedy Tulane receiver Darnell Mooney at No. 173. They spent their final two picks on offensive linemen, taking Colorado's Arlington Hambright at 226 and Tennessee State's Lachavious Simmons at 227.
The Bears have been busy coming off an 8-8 season. The Monsters of the Midway went in with Super Bowl hopes after winning the NFC North at 12-4, only to miss the playoffs for the eighth time in nine years.
They acquired former Super Bowl MVP Nick Foles from Jacksonville to compete with quarterback Mitchell Trubisky after the former No. 2 overall pick struggled in his third season. They also signed five-time Pro Bowl tight end Jimmy Graham and former All-Pro pass rusher Robert Quinn.
Chicago was a first-round spectator in the draft for the second year in a row after sending the picks to Oakland for Khalil Mack prior to the 2018 season. Once it was their turn to pick, the Bears wasted no time taking a tight end, drafting Notre Dame's Cole Kmet at No. 43 before selecting Utah cornerback Jaylon Johnson at No. 50.
“He's the total package,” coach Matt Nagy said of Kmet. “We were joking he's like RoboCop. He can block. He can catch. He can do a lot of good things.”
WHO THEY GOT
A late bloomer at Tulsa with an explosive first step, the 6-foot-3, 261-pound Gipson will line up as an outside linebacker with the Bears.
He gained 60 pounds in college and went from four sacks as a junior to eight as a senior. He's looking forward to playing with Mack.
“He's one of my favorite players,” said Gipson, whose father played basketball at Texas. “He's one of the guys I try to model my game after.”
A gifted athlete who can lock onto a receiver, Vildor had two interceptions and six pass breakups as a senior despite being slowed in October by an ankle injury he said is now fine.
Mooney ran a 4.38 40-yard dash at the combine and showed a knack in college for turning short throws into huge gains. But at 5-10, there are concerns about his size. He also had issues with drops. And his yardage dropped from 993 as a junior to 713 even though he had the same number of receptions (48) both seasons.
The 6-5, 300-pound Hambright was honorable mention All-Pac-12 at left tackle as a graduate transfer playing under former Bears defensive coordinator Mel Tucker at Colorado. He previously played at Garden City Community College and Oklahoma State, and could wind up at guard in Chicago. Simmons, 6-5 and 290 pounds, was a tackle and guard in college and started all 12 games last season for a team that averaged 400 yards.
HOW THEY DID
The Bears addressed the tight end problem by signing Graham and drafting Kmet.
The question is how much Graham has left after getting released by Green Bay and whether Kmet — a Bears fan growing up in the Chicago suburbs — can deliver for his hometown team.
Chicago's tight ends combined for 395 yards and none had more than 91 all last year.
The Bears not trading into the third or fourth round was a little surprising. But there were no stunning moves by Chicago in this draft.
The Bears might still look for help on the offensive line and a quarterback to go behind Trubisky and Foles. Pace again said they have not made a decision on Trubisky's fifth-year option. But he did say the Bears signed linebacker Ledarius Mack — Khalil's brother — as an undrafted free agent out of Buffalo.
-- By Andrew Seligman, AP
DETROIT: Lions addressed needs and drafted RB too talented to pass up
The Detroit Lions addressed pressing needs on offense and defense, took a running back too talented to pass up and bolstered one of their strongest position groups.
Lions general manager Bob Quinn said he hopes his fifth NFL draft with the franchise proves to be his best.
“We have playmakers on both sides of the ball and on special teams," Quinn said. “The draft is an inexact science. I wish I batted 1.000 — our record would be a lot better.”
The Lions are 27-36-1 in four years under Quinn. who is under pressure to win. So is coach Matt Patricia going into his third season.
Detroit began the three-day draft by taking Ohio State cornerback Jeff Okudah third overall, a pick the defensively challenged team was expected to make Thursday night. The team ranked last against the pass last season and traded Pro Bowl cornerback Darius Slay.
The Lions made a slightly surprising selection early in the second round, taking D'Andre Swift. The Georgia running back and All-Southeastern Conference player may be worth the No. 35 pick overall, but with Kerryon Johnson on the roster it was not a choice the team was projected to make Friday night.
After ranking No. 31 on defense last season, Detroit signed three veterans to join linebackers Jarrad Davis and Christian Jones. It also added third-round pick Julian Okwara of Notre Dame to the group and made him teammates with his brother Romeo, who plays defensive end in the Motor City.
Quinn and Patricia showed their commitment to the running game by taking offensive guards with consecutive picks in the middle of the seven-round draft, and the Lions also drafted two running backs.
“We want to improve the running game for sure," Quinn said. “That would help our team on multiple levels."
Detroit took Ohio State guard Jonah Jackson, an All-Big Ten player, in the third round with a pick acquired from Philadelphia as part of the Slay trade.
“Of the Senior Bowl guys, he’s the one guy we fell in love with," said Quinn, whose coaching staff led one of the teams at the showcase for NFL prospects.
The Lions selected Kentucky guard Logan Stenberg after trading down in the fourth round as part of a deal with the Las Vegas Raiders on Saturday.
The rookie guards will be part of a competition to start in place of Graham Glasgow, who left to sign as a free agent with Denver.
“I’ll tell you what my best asset is: I’m a nasty player,” said Stenberg, an All-SEC lineman.
Perhaps looking ahead to 2021, the Lions took speedy Wisconsin receiver Quintez Cephus in the fifth round. Veteran receivers Kenny Golladay, Marvin Jones and Danny Amendola are entering the last season of their contracts. Cephus was selected with the second pick Detroit received from the Eagles for Slay.
CATCHING A FLYER
The Lions took New Mexico State running back Jason Huntley in the fifth, likely envisioning him as an option as a kickoff returner and elsewhere on special teams. He ran the 40-yard dash in 4.3 seconds at his pro day.
Utah defensive tackle John Penisini, a sixth-round pick, will have an opportunity to earn a spot on the team behind newly signed veterans Danny Shelton and Nick Williams.
Penisini acknowledged he was stunned to be selected midway through the sixth round.
Detroit closed its draft with a third player from Ohio State, defensive tackle Jashon Cornell, in the seventh round.
Coming off a three-win season and with a mandate of sorts from ownership to contend for the playoffs, Quinn and Patricia will have more job security if Okudah proves to be worth being the third cornerback taken No. 3 overall since 1967.
Okudah joins Bruce Pickens (1991) and Shawn Springs (1997) as the highest-drafted players at the position in the common draft era.
If other rookies contribute to help Detroit win in the highly competitive NFC North, it will also help the Lions’ embattled leaders.
Ultimately, though, Matthew Stafford's health will be pivotal after it became clear how important he is to the team. The veteran quarterback missed the last eight games of 2019 with a back injury, leading to the Lions losing nine straight in their worst season in a decade.
-- By Larry Lage, AP