NFL Combine Football

The Green Bay Packers drafted Maryland safety Darnell Savage with the No. 21 overall pick in the NFL draft on Thursday in Nashville, Tenn. 

GREEN BAY — When Darnell Savage watched NFL safeties play on Sundays after playing his own University of Maryland games on Saturdays, there was one who drew his attention more than others: Chicago Bears first-team all-pro Eddie Jackson.

Now, after being taken by the Green Bay Packers with the 21 st overall pick in Thursday night’s first round of the 2019 NFL Draft, he’ll get to play with Jackson’s running-mate in Chicago, Adrian Amos, who joined the Packers in free agency last month.

“I enjoyed watching those two guys play in tandem,” Savage said in a conference call with Wisconsin reporters after the pick. “Hopefully we can build something special in Green Bay.”

Asked what he saw in Amos when he watched the Bears, Savage had a full scouting report at the ready.

“He’s definitely a guy (who’s) extremely smart. An extremely smart football player, always in the right place at the right time,” Savage said. “You can tell he takes it extremely serious and you can learn a lot from a guy like that, just being around him every day — not even just football but being around a guy that’s serious about what he does. It can teach you a lot.”

Let’s make a deal

For the second straight draft, Packers general manager Brian Gutekunst made a trade to move up in the first round with the Seattle Seahawks and GM John Schneider, the ex-Packers personnel executive who worked with Gutekunst in Green Bay earlier in their pre-GM careers.

During his first draft as GM last April, Gutekunst was set to pick at No. 14 but traded back with the New Orleans Saints and acquired the Saints’ first-round pick this year, which turned out to be No. 30 overall. Shortly after making that deal, which moved the Packers to No. 27 overall, Gutekunst and his staff started working the phones to move back up and made a deal with Schneider’s Seahawks to move up to No. 18, where they took Louisville cornerback Jaire Alexander.

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On Thursday night, Gutekunst and Schneider connected again. Convinced that Savage wouldn’t last until that 30th pick, Gutekunst sent both of the Packers’ two fourth-round picks — Nos. 114 and 118 — to the Seahawks to move up nine spots to No. 21 to take Savage.

“We thought he was an absolute difference-maker,” Gutekunst said of Savage. “We didn’t think he’d be there at 30.”

Gutekunst said that despite his connection to Schneider, this year’s trade was more about convenience than about their friendship.

“Probably a little coincidence — where they were picking, where we were picking,” Gutekunst said. “I’ve known John since 1997, so those conversations are easy, but it really doesn’t matter to me. The relationship helps, but it’s about the players. It doesn’t matter who’s on the other end of the phone.”

Getting their man

Meanwhile, Gutekunst said the Packers fielded calls for the No. 12 overall pick but weren’t blown away by any of the trade offers and stood pat, taking Michigan edge rusher Rashan Gary, whom Gutekunst said he’d liked since February.

“You listen to everything. So we listened to a few things,” Gutekunst said. “I think our board was very strong. If we wanted to move back, we could and (still) get that kind of value at 12. But the offers we got weren’t enticing enough to move back, so we stuck. And we’re really happy we did.”

Extra points

Gary passed on an invitation to go to Nashville, Tenn., for the draft and instead had his draft party in an Ann Arbor, Mich., bowling alley called Revel & Roll. … The Packers have two picks on Day 2, one in the second round (No. 44) and one in the third (No. 75). … On Day 3, the Packers will have only four picks after dealing away both fourth-rounders: One pick in the fifth round (No. 150), two in the sixth (Nos. 185 and 194) and one in the seventh (No. 226).


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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 9-11 on “Wilde & Tausch” on your local ESPN station.