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Packers trade up to take Maryland safety Darnell Savage with second of two first-rounders

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The Green Bay Packers selected Maryland safety Darnell Savage with the No. 21 overall pick in the 2019 NFL draft on Thursday night. 

GREEN BAY — Brian Gutekunst didn’t think the safety he liked best in the 2019 NFL Draft — Maryland’s Darnell Savage — was going to last until the 30th overall pick. So the Green Bay Packers' second-year general manager did something about it.

Gutekunst sent both of the Packers’ two fourth-round picks — Nos. 114 and 118 — to the Seattle Seahawks to move up nine spots from No. 30 to No. 21 to take Savage, his second defensive pick in the span of nine selections. The Packers took Michigan defensive end/edge rusher Rashan Gary with the 12th overall pick.

Before the draft, Gutekunst had said that his defensive free-agent additions in March — outside linebackers Za’Darius Smith and Preston Smith and safety Adrian Amos — wouldn’t preclude him from taking players at those positions in the draft. As it turned out, his first two picks were spent on those exact positions.

The 5-foot-10, 198-pound Savage, who turns 22 in July, was a three-year starter at Maryland and ran a blazing 4.36-second 40-yard dash at the NFL scouting combine.

He started his college career at cornerback but moved to safety after his freshman year, going on to start all 12 games each of his final three seasons for the Terrapins, registering eight interceptions and 22 pass break-ups.

Savage said at the combine in Indianapolis in February that he enjoyed watching Chicago Bears safety Eddie Jackson, who was paired with Amos last season in Chicago.

Speaking on a conference call with Wisconsin reporters after the pick, Savage said he also watched Amos when tuning in to Bears games.

"Hopefully we can build something special in Green Bay,” Savage said. Asked if he expects to start as a rookie, Savage said he does.

“A confident person would say that,” Savage said. “But at the end of the day, whatever role I'm assigned to, whatever I'm asked to do, I'm going to do it at the highest level."

Jason Wilde covers the Packers for ESPN Wisconsin. Listen to him with former Packers and Badgers offensive lineman Mark Tauscher weekdays from 9-11 on “Wilde & Tausch” on your local ESPN station.

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Even with an offensive-minded head coach and a two-time NFL MVP quarterback closer to the end of the line than the beginning, the Green Bay Packers went defense with the first of their two first-round picks Thursday night, taking Michigan defensive end/edge rusher Rashan Gary at No. 12 overall.

In an all-out effort to supply the Packers defense with sorely needed playmakers, Gutekunst made two bold moves in the first round, selecting Michigan edge rusher Rashan Gary with the 12th pick, then trading up from the 30th pick to the 21st and taking Maryland safety Darnell Savage.

The 6-foot-4, 251-pound Sternberger, who’ll turn 23 in June, was late to develop in college, starting his career at Kansas before leaving the Jayhawks and landing at a junior college, Northeastern Oklahoma A&M, before moving on to Texas A&M, where he caught 48 passes for 832 yards and 10 touchdowns. 

Ka’dar Hollman wanted so desperately to have a chance to play college football that he went on an email campaign in search of a scholarship – while working a variety of temporary jobs, from a bread factory to unloading Dunkin’ Donuts trucks to cutting meat for a deli.

The five defensive players added in this year’s draft  completed a 12-month restocking process, one that finally put enough talent in place to turn the defense into a unit that might actually be able to go out and win a game for the offense sometime, especially since the offense likely will experience growing pains under first-year coach Matt LaFleur.

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