GREEN BAY — Brian Gutekunst went into Day 2 of the 2021 NFL Draft knowing he had holes to fill on his offensive line and in a wide receiver room filled with players who aren’t under contract beyond this season.
With two picks — and one trade — on Friday night, the Green Bay Packers general manager took care of both needs, selecting Ohio State offensive lineman Josh Myers in the second round (No. 62) and trading up to pick Clemson wide receiver Amari Rodgers in the third round (No. 85).
Combined with Thursday night’s first-round selection of Georgia cornerback Eric Stokes, Gutekunst has filled three of the biggest areas of concern on his roster entering the draft.
“I don’t think it was going to be one of those things that we do at all costs. You know how we operate. We’re going to let the board talk to us,” said Gutekunst, who still has six Day 3 picks to work with — one in the fourth round (No. 142), two in the fifth (Nos. 173 and 178), two in the sixth (Nos. 214 and 220) and one in the seventh (No. 256). “I really do feel that the three players that we took over the last two days, the stars aligned for us with some of the things that were important to acquire in this draft.
“To take a corner, an inside offensive lineman and a receiver who can do some things we haven’t had here in the past, we feel really good about the first two days and we’re really looking forward to (Saturday).”
The Packers’ need on the offensive line is an immediate one, with first-team all-pro center Corey Linsley having departed for the Los Angeles Chargers in free agency and veteran guard Lane Taylor having signed with the Houston Texans.
Oddly enough, the Packers could replace Linsley, who wore No. 71 at Ohio State, with another center who also wore No. 71 for the Buckeyes — although the 6-foot-5, 310-pound Myers could play at either guard spot as well if the Packers want to play third-year lineman Elgton Jenkins or someone else at center.
Myers did start 21 games in his final two seasons in Columbus at center, earning first-team all-Big Ten honors in 2020. A team captain, Myers’ versatility was especially appealing to the Packers, director of college scouting Matt Malaspina said. The Packers opted for Myers over two other highly regarded centers who were still on the board in Oklahoma’s Creed Humphrey and UW-Whitewater’s Quinn Meinerz, and Malaspina said Myers will have a chance to start as a rookie.
“He’s a great kid. He’s smart, he’s tough, he’s strong. Typical Ohio State guy,” Malaspina said. “It’s really important for Josh to be another great offensive lineman out of Ohio State — which he is. He played center but he’s an athletic kid, he’s big, he’s really strong. (Versatility) is not an issue at all.”
Myers said he recently spoke to Linsley and has bumped into him on campus several times in the past.
“I talked to Corey relatively recently within the last couple weeks, just checking in, trying to pick his brain, learn as much as I could from him,” Myers said. “(So) I do know Corey. I’ve watched him playing over the years on film. I’ve seen him in passing several times at Ohio State and have talked to him on several different occasions. I do know Corey and about his career in Green Bay, as well.”
That’s not all Myers knew about Green Bay before he was picked, because of a painful toe injury he suffered late in the season — and played through in the Buckeyes’ national semifinal victory over Clemson and in their College Football Playoff championship loss to Alabama. The injury was bad enough that it required surgery, and he came to Green Bay to be examined by renowned foot and ankle specialist Dr. Robert Anderson, who joined the Packers’ medical staff in 2017.
“It was extremely painful to play through it,” Myers admitted. “I just felt like I owed it to myself, my teammates and our coaches, everyone at Ohio State, to kind of gut it up and play through it, give ourselves a shot at the national championship."
As for the visit to Green Bay to see Anderson, Myers said, “I absolutely knew there was a chance (I’d be back). It was super exciting for me and my family to go up there and even to see Lambeau Field and to be around Green Bay. We talked about how incredible it would be if I ever got the chance to play there. And here we are.”
Myers’ draft classmate, Rodgers, had similar hopes. Well acquainted with the Packers, Rodgers’ favorite wide receiver in the NFL is his new teammate, Davante Adams. And Rodgers’ mentor growing up was ex-Packers wide receiver Randall Cobb, who was coached at Kentucky by Rodgers’ father, Tee Martin.
Martin is now the Baltimore Ravens’ receivers coach but was Kentucky’s receivers coach in 2010, Cobb’s final season in Lexington before the Packers picked him in the second round of the 2011 NFL Draft.
“He’s like a big brother to me,” Rodgers said of Cobb. “My whole middle school career, my whole high school career, he’s always been in my corner giving me tips on the game and stuff like that. Just being that my dad was able to coach him in college and I’ve been able to stick around and be able to have him as a mentor, that’s really why I’m so familiar with his game.”
“Of course I want to catch passes from the reigning MVP and a future Hall of Famer,” Amari Rodgers said. “Of course, that’s pretty cool that we have the same last name. He’s an amazing quarterback. I’ve been watching him my whole life. It’s actually amazing and surreal that I get the opportunity to play with a quarterback like him.”
Gutekunst said his decision at No. 62 actually came down to whether to draft Myers or draft Rodgers, and as soon as he decided on Myers, Gutekunst said he turned to his personnel lieutenants and told them he wanted to trade back up to get Rodgers. Some of his scouts had left the room to get a bite to eat and had to be called back in to start working the phones.
“After the pick, we targeted an area in the third round we thought we could get (Rodgers) at the price I wanted to pay. We had four or five trades we thought were going to happen that didn’t,” Gutekunst explained. “It was important that we acquired the players. You never want to overpay too much, but we were really excited to get Amari.
“He fills so many holes for us … I just think he’s built for us, built for up here in Green Bay. We were really glad to add him to the roster.”
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Jason Wilde covers the Packers for ESPN Wisconsin. Listen to him with former Packers and Badgers offensive lineman Mark Tauscher weekdays from 9 a.m. until noon on “Wilde & Tausch” on 100.5 FM ESPN Madison.
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