Several Members of 2020 Class Now Set for Big Roles in 2021

We saw very little of the Green Bay Packers' 2020 draft class last season, but that will change as we look ahead to 2021.

To put it lightly, the Green Bay Packers took their fair share of criticisms for their 2020 draft class. The national media and draft analysts had a field day, ripping the Packers for their selections and the approach that they took. 
 
After losing in the NFC Championship Game to San Francisco, just about everyone expected that Green Bay would load up with some immediate help at positions like receiver and interior defensive lineman to make another Super Bowl run in 2021--which as we all know, they still did even without immediate contributions from their draft class. But instead, Green Bay took a more long-term approach, and as a result, we didn't see much of this 2020 draft class last season.
 
Jordan Love was the third quarterback on the roster and was inactive for every game. While AJ Dillon would appear in 11 games, outside of his 21 attempts against Tennessee, behind Aaron Jones and Jamaal Williams, he was on the field for just 42 total snaps the entire year.
 
Now, Josiah Deguara is someone who would have played a significant role, and we saw that in a very limited sample size against Minnesota Week 1, but unfortunately, he missed most of the year with an ACL injury. 
 
Fifth-round pick Kamal Martin saw the most action out of any of the drafted rookies, appearing in 12 games and playing 208 total defensive snaps--but even in the grand scheme of a football season, that was less than 25 percent of the total defensive snaps. Jon Runyan is someone else to be excited about, but again, he was limited, as were Jonathan Garvin and Vernon Scott. The two other sixth-round offensive linemen selections, Jake Hanson and Simon Stepaniak, both spent most of the season either injured or on the practice squad.
 
However, looking ahead to 2021, this season should be a complete 180 in terms of playing time for the 2020 draft class. One reason that Green Bay was able to make it back to the NFC Championship Game despite hardly any impact from their 2020 draft class was that several members from the 2019 class were much more impactful. Once again, the Packers will need a similar jump from last year's rookie class as they are banking on internal development. 
 
Although we don't know how the Aaron Rodgers' situation will unfold, at this time, I still expect him to be under center for Green Bay come Week 1, so Love will remain excluded from this conversation. However, there is the obvious, that if the doomsday scenario occurs and Rodgers is gone, then this is Love's team. 
 
Second-round pick AJ Dillon is now RB2 in Green Bay, and for some context, that equated to nearly 500 snaps last season for Jamaal Williams. Deguara was the lone rookie set to play a major role prior to his injury and will once again as the team's do-it-all H-back. 
 
Martin, as long as he can stay healthy, will be ILB2 next to Krys Barnes--a 2020 UDFA who saw the most playing out of the rookies. Meanwhile, Runyan will be competing for a starting guard spot while Garvin could be Green Bay's fourth edge rusher and Scott the team's third safety--both spots are wide open and up for grabs. 
 
While many look to the incoming rookie class to help bolster and improve the roster, we should all be looking at the previous draft class instead. One of the biggest jumps a player will make in his NFL career comes between Years 1 and 2, and with that, a much greater impact, as I mentioned above. 
 
Of course, in a perfect world, we would all love to have seen several members of the 2020 class playing big roles right away, but the draft is about selecting who a player will become, not who they are on draft night. Well, now that time has come. After being what I can only imagine was one of, if not the least productive rookie class in the league last season, the door is open for the 2020 class to make their marks and hopefully help push Green Bay over that NFC Championship hump. 

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Born and raised in Green Bay, WI and I still call it home. After my family, watching the Packers, sharing my opinions on the team through my writing and interacting with other fans is my greatest passion. You can find me on Twitter at @Paul_Bretl. 
 

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10 points

Comments (48)

Fan-Friendly This filter will hide comments which have ratio of 5 to 1 down-vote to up-vote.
Coldworld's picture

May 24, 2021 at 11:04 am

A draft for next year made last year perhaps?

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stockholder's picture

May 24, 2021 at 11:12 am

QB Again

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Coldworld's picture

May 24, 2021 at 05:59 pm

Was a certain element of tongue in cheek in my comment ...

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Johnblood27's picture

May 24, 2021 at 10:59 pm

seems there was a bit of head in rear in the response...

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greengold's picture

May 24, 2021 at 11:24 pm

Are you talking about Aaron Rodgers to Kenny Mayne??? Yeah, JohnnyBlood, I have to agree. He actually needs another cleanse...

(Makes horse noise)...

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splitpea1's picture

May 24, 2021 at 11:46 am

"While many look to the incoming rookie class to help bolster and improve the roster, we should all be looking at the previous draft class instead."

Is there anything wrong with looking at both? With the incoming class, we have players who could become potential starters quickly and others who are bound to see significant action as the season progresses.

Just for fun, imagine if we had drafted Stokes last year and he proved he could handle perimeter duties reasonably well by the time the playoffs had arrived--and he started the NFCCG....That's why we should be excited about the rookies as well.

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jeremyjjbrown's picture

May 24, 2021 at 12:06 pm

I thought Dillon and Degaura where wasted draft picks?

Rodgers isn't showing up to OTAs, that makes the Love pick look smart too. I was against the Love pick. But now that I know what Rodgers is like, it was brilliant.

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HawkPacker's picture

May 24, 2021 at 01:59 pm

I respectfully disagree regarding Dillon and Deguara. They are both good picks especially Deguara who will be a very important part of the offense once he is healthy.

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jeremyjjbrown's picture

May 24, 2021 at 04:57 pm

No I agree with you. That was sarcasm. I was super excited about both of those picks.

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PeteK's picture

May 24, 2021 at 05:24 pm

You mean especially the Dillon tank.LOl

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dobber's picture

May 24, 2021 at 04:44 pm

When was the last time Rodgers actually participated in OTAs?

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jeremyjjbrown's picture

May 24, 2021 at 04:58 pm

He's giving up a 500K bonus to skip. That's pretty unpresidented.

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Oppy's picture

May 24, 2021 at 08:20 pm

This is the first year Rodgers hasn't participated in OTAs in his 16 seasons.

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greengold's picture

May 24, 2021 at 08:34 pm

... makes horse sound...

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CoachDino's picture

May 24, 2021 at 05:33 pm

See that and it turned out you were wrong. Both proved they belonged in the League. JD would of played starter type snaps and AJ balled when given the opportunity, COVID and injuries didn't help his cause either. Same with Martin. It's why its always a wait and see game with draft picks. Just think of all the picks last year that people thought were good that turned out bad.

Gute is putting together the pcs that MLF needs to run that scheme.
HB - check
Power Back - check
Explosive IOL - check
5 Tool QB - Check

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greengold's picture

May 24, 2021 at 05:48 pm

Gadget/Slot WR - check

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CoachDino's picture

May 25, 2021 at 12:47 am

Touche...

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Thegreatreynoldo's picture

May 25, 2021 at 04:40 am

The old chicken and the egg question vis-a-vis AR not showing up for OTAs.

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PatrickGB's picture

May 24, 2021 at 01:03 pm

I questioned the Degaura pick last year. And I questioned the Sternburger pick before. I still do. For me it was more about how high they were picked. Like the article implies, it takes time to know if they were worth it.

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Alberta_Packer's picture

May 24, 2021 at 02:54 pm

The Class of 2020 - classic case of delayed gratification, and, the makings of an excellent draft. Should Love alone become an elite QB - the draft would have been a great success. Still you have starters (and potential starters) in Dillon, Deguara, Martin, Barnes (UDFA) and Runyan. Also depth with Stepaniak and Scott. Plus 6-7 "live" UDFAs. In short, the Packers seemed to have hit on the majority of their draft choices.

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greengold's picture

May 24, 2021 at 02:53 pm

Alberta, I've been watching as much of the Jordan Love workout videos as I've been able to find. Just found another where he's working out with ESB. Man, he looks SHARP. These are all recent too, within the last month or so.

Could easily see Love, AJ Dillon and Josiah Deguara having a MAJOR impact on the Packers success this year. Would love to see that happen.

Mostly, I'm excited to see the Packers win the Super Bowl this year so that stockholder will be forced to go out and buy a Jordan Love jersey to hang next to the Starr, Favre and Rodgers jerseys he has framed...!

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Alberta_Packer's picture

May 24, 2021 at 04:13 pm

OK, you're saying that the Packers can win the SB with Love this year? Interesting. I think that we (as many others), think that he has all the physical tools required of an elite QB - the great unknown is his mental capabilities relative to the NFL game. Although his college career suggests that he can play games at a high level - which is encouraging.

What gives me pause to consider your faith in Love is the MLF offensive scheme - which I believe is very quarterback friendly. It is my belief that Rodgers MVP season had as much to do with the MLF - Hackett offence as it did with Rodgers play. And if you recall, in MLFs first year with Rodgers, there was some reluctance and push-back from Rodgers - which I attribute to him experiencing withdrawal from the Mike McCarthy system.

However with Love you may have someone who is a blank canvas - completely malleable to coaching - with no bad habits (holding-on the ball too long) - with superior physical talent(s) and a healthy bit of self-confidence. Given the scheme and the players around him - he wouldn't have to be great - just competent. Nor would I discount the Bortles signing as insignificant. Re-united with Hackett and playing within the MLF scheme - he may be a fine complement to Love.

I've never hesitated to place a wager on a long-shot that I like . So I would certainly place a fairly large wager on Love (and Packers) - to win the SB.

As for stockholder - I wonder how popular he was in High School?

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Coldworld's picture

May 24, 2021 at 06:04 pm

I don’t know how popular he was in high school, but he may prove the existence of spontaneous human combustion if Greengold is correct.

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greengold's picture

May 24, 2021 at 06:54 pm

THAT’s funny, because my wife & I watched a program about newly found film footage of the Hindenburg going up in flames on Nova last night. That whole freaking thing was gone in less than 60 seconds. Easily. Hydrogen. Oxygen. Static electric charge. POOF!

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Since'61's picture

May 24, 2021 at 10:26 pm

"Oh the humanity!" Thanks, Since '61

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greengold's picture

May 24, 2021 at 10:43 pm

It was just something I saw that caught fire quickly, like stockholder will when Jordan Love and the Packers win the Super Bowl this year, and he spontaneously combusts.

AR on his Kenny Mayne PR tour prior to this week’s trade.

(Makes horse sound)...

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jurp's picture

May 24, 2021 at 06:14 pm

People forget that Trent Dilfer won a Super Bowl, and that Manning's last ring was due to a great defense.

If our defenses is Top 10 or better (esp. if it's Top 5), then I have no doubt that Love could win a Super Bowl with this team.

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LambeauPlain's picture

May 24, 2021 at 02:13 pm

Sunday after draft grades are meaningless. So are most evaluations after year one. Year 2, even 3 after are the best evaluations because you have facts, not opinions that are too often treated as facts.

Gutey has 4 full drafts completed and most all of those players are still on the roster. Only 4 players from 2018 day 3 choices are gone.

I am seeing that BG is rather good at personnel evaluations.

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Bure9620's picture

May 24, 2021 at 10:22 pm

True, but 2 on the roster likely won't be and were whiffs in Jackson and Burks....still he has higher hit rate than most in those drafts

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Stroh's picture

May 24, 2021 at 02:38 pm

I don't know why the writer says Martin is already Barnes backup at ILB. Neither has done enough to date to be annoited the starter. I would say both will be competing in equal terms to become the starter.

Dillon will get quite a bit more work than Williams did as the #2 RB. IMO he'll be sharing RB1 with Jones. Probably about a 60/40 split at worst and could be 50/50.

Runyan should have a foot in the door as a starting OG, assuming he improves even moderately. He's not going to be given the job, but has the inside track

Deguara will have a significant role as the HBack. Love will be QB2 regardless of Rodgers return.

That makes it potentially a stellar draft class!

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greengold's picture

May 24, 2021 at 02:59 pm

If you pop Jordan Love into the starting QB role, imagine the impact additional reps could have for AJ Dillon. Should we learn Rodgers is traded, and Jordan Love is tapped as QB1, lookout. I think this could be very, very special.

Stroh, I know you don't want to entertain the thought, and I get that, but the scenario is highly likely. We all might be surprised at how well this could turn out for the Packers.

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Samson's picture

May 24, 2021 at 04:20 pm

June 2nd is the key date where another era may very well start in GB..... I'd love to see the Pack obtain as much capital as possible for another disgruntled diva QB. Most players of AR's statue get away without the exchange of value to the team... I've always supported both BF & AR, but... the individual players always come & go... the GB Packer team is all that really counts. ---- I'm excited about the upcoming Love era... 2021 sounds about right.

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PewAuKeeFan's picture

May 24, 2021 at 10:53 pm

greengold, I like your thinking. Here's to you being right!

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fthisJack's picture

May 26, 2021 at 08:29 am

Martin and Barnes could both play inside.

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PeteK's picture

May 24, 2021 at 05:32 pm

Stroh, 80 tkls 6.5 for loss in 13 games Barnes is the starter.

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Stroh's picture

May 25, 2021 at 08:57 pm

I disagree. I don't think he's done enough to be considered the #1 without question. Competition for the job is required.

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HarryHodag's picture

May 24, 2021 at 02:48 pm

Judging draft classes before three years is pointless. Some players(Gary is an example) don't get the feel of the pro game for three years. Others are early flashes in the pan, only to fade.

Here's the rule of thumb in the NFL: across the league the success rate is 50 percent or less. Success is defined as becoming a regular contributor. To hit 50 percent some teams are better, some teams are lower. If you look back on Packers draft history, even the best personnel people had tough times. Ron Wolf had a couple of clinkers, and Ted Thompson had whole drafts that were bad.

Successful football is a mix of good management, proper personnel selection including free agents and finding high-talent players, and a coaching staff that knows how to win professional games. Many fans don't understand the level of play in the pros is so superior that you can't judge them on your high school or even college experience.

Many national sports media dopes put the Packers draft last year as a D+. Really? Injury and COVID put a deep wrinkle into things, so how can you say those players sucked when there wasn't a pre-season to judge them?

The 2018 draft produced one superstar...Alexander, some good serviceable players...MVS and ESB, JK Scott and Hunter Bradley and the rest were not so hot. But 2019 looks very good at this point...and the Packers are 28-8 the past two years.

That is why I coined the phrase "Kiperized" concerning what has evolved regarding the draft. The fans are too quick to grab onto the thoughts of the draft 'gurus' and think drafting a 21 year old kid will transform them into Superman. Some are that good, Alexander is an example, but most take a few years to come into their own. Some are busts. It's true whether it's Green Bay, Tampa Bay or New England. Remember the 50 percent rule, grab a few affordable free agents, find a good coaching staff and victories are more likely than defeats.

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greengold's picture

May 24, 2021 at 03:23 pm

Harry Hodag, that is fantastic.

The Packers have been really good on that 50-50 stuff, and they themselves are not immune to errors. No GM is immune to the draft error. So much goes into finding those right players. Once the drafting part is over, the development of talent who performs at very high levels is rarely a straight line. The Packers are a great team when it comes to drafting success.

Some of those development plans for a drafted player could be 1-2 years just to get them up to weight, strength & technique.

Fresh off of watching Equanimeous St. Brown making a catch on an out in a spring workout video with Jordan Love, I'm reminded that sometimes it takes a full 4 years for a player to truly develop.

Donald Driver didn't develop and produce until year 4.
Robert Brooks didn't become a 1000 yd WR until year 4.
Randall Cobb didn't become a 1000 yd WR until year 4.
Jordy Nelson didn't become a 1000 yd WR until year 4.
Davante Adams didn't become a 1000 yd WR until year 5.
James Jones never became a 1000 yd WR...

You make really good points. This isn't fantasy football. The NFL Draft doesn't happen on an online mock machine.

Great points in bringing up the coaching staff too. For years, I felt the Mike McCarthy staff underperformed greatly in the development portion of the "draft & develop" philosophy. Especially the last half of his tenure.

I'm actually pretty excited to see MLF's staff, and how they've done thus far with player development, Year 3 in his tenure.

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CoachDino's picture

May 24, 2021 at 05:28 pm

Funny as Last years class did have potential to play much more than most thought including myself.
AJ Dillon could of, as stated, but the lack of injuries to others and his COVID sent him back
JD would of had a large role as the HB, with him and Jace out that role was eliminated until the end when the other TE started to take some snaps in that role.
Martin was starting then had injuries.
Runyan was a back up who saw the field.
For a team in the NFCCG thats alot possible snaps for a draft class. Shows how little we really know. In the end they had the 3rd least. Other than TB who drafted higher the other 3 teams in the Conference finals were also on the bottom of the list.

I dread the days the packers are counting on draft picks to start. Meyers this year is a prime example, Who feels good about a Rookie starting at Center? Could turn out just fine like CL or even D Bakh but its not ideal. The teams that have the most impact from draft picks are "usually" the worst teams as they get to pick the best players and they compete on the worst rosters.

All this said Gute does seem to find guys that can start ASAP even on good rosters.
JA
Savage
Jenkins

When it comes to year 1 impact many just likes to make it an issue to fit a narrative when in fact rookie draft picks seldom have a large impact on the best teams. For every one that does there are lists that don't.

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Thegreatreynoldo's picture

May 25, 2021 at 06:14 am

Yes, very true. The draft isn't really a crap shoot or just throwing darts at a board. And coaching is important as is scheme fit.

If contributor is the standard, I'd guess 85% of first rounders are successes, 65% of 2nd rounders, 50% of 3rds, and 40% of fourths, at least for the duration of their rookie deals. 20 of the 32 first rounders from 2014 are still in the NFL, per PFR.

Of the 12 who aren't, a couple were due to injury (Shazier, Justin Gilbert for underwhelming and PEDs, a few more opted out of 2020 and show up on PFR as having careers that ended in 2019 like CJ Mosley) and a couple are problematic like Clinton Dix, who was a 16 game starter for five seasons and has played in 96 games - surely he is a contributor? OT Greg Robinson started 70 games but was arrested with 156 pounds of weed and is facing 20 years in the slammer. Some more are out of football per PFR but might yet find teams in 2020.

Gute has some real hits in his drafts - guys who are or look like plus players. 3rd through 7th rounds so far have been a little spotty, but time may change that perception.

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Bure9620's picture

May 24, 2021 at 08:10 pm

I believe Dillon absolutely breaks out this year and is utilized a lot. Aaron Jones will obviously be the main back but I really feel they want to utilize Jones as a receiver even more this year, in motion, pre-snap motion out wide, to the slot and out of the backfield. You will see Dillon on the field with Jones quite a bit. We have not yet seen Lefleur's vision yet. He truly wants to be a run first offense....we will be. Base 12 personnel team in year 3.

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greengold's picture

May 24, 2021 at 08:30 pm

Love it, Bure. AJ Dillon has to be licking his chops, as is Aaron Jones. Talk about Thunder & Lightening!

I have been DYING for the Packers to pound the rock, since Holmgren left. I kid you not, if we give Aaron Jones and AJ Dillon a minimum of 20 carries each per game, you can just hand us the Lombardi Trophy.

There is one player who would never allow that to happen... (makes horse sound)...

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CoachDino's picture

May 25, 2021 at 12:46 am

Easy big fella, Im with ya. Everything they have done the last few drafts points to it.
Power back
HB/TE (12 Formation)
Blocking WR
Now the focus on explosive off the line IOL instead of focus on pass protect.
Drafting A QB even. A big or small one of the reasons has to do with MLF wanting to move to the run and AR wanting to pass as you mentioned.

But my guy, Still need to be able to throw the rock come playoffs. just look at Tenn, Balt and the Rams of last year. Even SF wants an upgrade.

Gonna take Love a few years (most likely) and the time to clear cap space to add a few Defensive players. Can you imagine 35M (40M-5M (love) to spend on FAs in a year or two?

That said, Doesn't mean it can't happen... Its why they play the games...

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greengold's picture

May 25, 2021 at 09:11 am

It’s really funny, Dino, being one of the few who has supreme confidence in Jordan Love’s ability to pass the football. My confidence in him as a passer couldn’t be higher.

I’ve tempered all of that in our discussions, saying he can be a “game manager” which is true, and still win a Super Bowl with this team.

Jordan Love is an uncanny talent. Love can make every throw, from virtually any platform. He’s bright, confident, with a true cannon for an arm. He had what many scouts considered the strongest arm of his draft class, which includes Burrow & Tua, whom he was also ranked #3 behind, in that 2020 draft.

Some can’t allow themselves to get past things they’ve read. His 2019 was loaded with adversity. Scouts who point to that alone, and ignore his 2018, where he was quite possibly the #1 QB in all of college football, are going to write some bad, horrifically inaccurate stuff. People will consume that.

COVID killed his preseason showcasing in 2020, leaving most fans completely unaware of what we have.

Understandable. Those in the know have compared Jordan Love to both Patrick Mahomes and Aaron Rodgers, a mesh of those two. He’s huge - can look Tom Brady in the eye, huge. He can run, very effectively. He knows how to sit in the pocket. His accuracy, in a system he knows with quality players around him, uncanny.

I’ll stand here, fully supporting #10 all day. Proudly. LaFleur knows. When I say Super Bowl, I mean it, and do so with the understanding he will be challenged, he will grow through the process, which every great QB goes through in trial & error, learning along the way. Mahomes sat for 1 full season behind Alex Smith. What did he do the following year? Win the MVP.

What I’m relaying about Jordan Love is all based on fact. I think all of you friends here are going to be very happy, once you get a chance to see what he can do, regularly. LaFleur showing him the way is a kind of convergence of optimal QB/HC situations. This. Has. Legs.

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CoachDino's picture

May 26, 2021 at 03:03 pm

Not sure you'll see this but hey I Love the optimism. I too am a believer for all the reasons you so eloquently layed out.

haters want to grasp onto to the 2019 film. It does support their case as he did make poor decisions. Myself I look at it this way.
2018 Tape shows what he can be with a full grasp of the offense and a solid supporting staff.
2019 Tape shows what he will be w/o those 2 things.
1) Find me a QB that would have suck under those conditions (in College)
2) He showed what a battler he is, he took chances, made many of those poor decisions only because he wanted to win and he had little other choice. he could of just thrown it away down 31. But he didn't play for stats but for his teammates.

I get much of this from Chris Simms evaluations (I can't stand Florio and lose some respect for Chris there) he pointed this out to me and was the first guy I really heard focus on QBs that don't have dominating offenses in College like the Alabama and Ohio State Qbs. It's a different game for those guys when they hit the pros and aren't so utterly dominating in talent less a few games a year. Great Point.

I will not be disappointed in AR retires and Love plays. It will be more enjoyable, at least for a year or two, even if they don't match their NFCCG or better results.

My point with Ar is only that if you are about winning in 2021 he is the answer. Now if they win with Love in 2021 it would be Toooo Sweeet.....and the best case scenario.

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Stroh's picture

May 25, 2021 at 10:12 pm

Dude... they pounder the rock when Ahman Green was setting the franchise rushing recod! That was post Holmgren! Didn't you knoe Ahman is the teams All Time leading rusher? Also holds record for most rushing yards in a season. 1883 IN 2003!

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CoachDino's picture

May 26, 2021 at 02:52 pm

Ahman Green IMO is a better rusher, from Memory, than A Jones. Thats taking nothing away from A Jones, ahman was a stud. Wouldn't you say they were still a pass first team? maybe not as it was that SF style O wasn't it. Like the Roger Craig days with Montana and Young. This is all from memory so I might be wrong. point is AC was a beast. Helped me forget about Eddie lee Ivory...lol..

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Wrongbayfeldlman's picture

May 25, 2021 at 10:51 am

Also don’t overlook BG’s free agent activity.
He is not afraid to go after FAs. Ted, not so much.
I think he is more willing to move up or down in the draft also.
TT was too ridgid, not willing enough to leave his comfort zone to address needs.
I like BG, if indeed it is him making these decisions.
Given the choice of Rodgers or Gute? I think the Packers would be better served by keeping Gute.
Rodgers Is acting like an elitist, spoiled diva who cares about no one but himself. His gratuitous comments about loving GB, and the fans, and the players, and the coaches,and Jordan Love. He is such a great guy because he just loves everybody.
I’m tired of Rodgers, he is not bigger than his team.

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