Packers' first round (21): Darnell Savage Jr., safety, Maryland
With their second first-round selection in the 2019 NFL draft, No. 21 overall, the Green Bay Packers selected Darnell Savage Jr., safety, Maryland.
The Packers traded up from the No. 30 overall selection, swapping with the Seattle. It is the second year in a row the Packers traded with the Seahawks. Seattle received the No. 30 pick and two fourth-round selections (Nos. 114 and 118).
There has been a need at safety all offseason for the Packers, and even though they signed Adrian Amos from Chicago, the room was short. So with Savage still on the board, Brian Gutekunst decided not to wait and made a strong move to get his man by trading up nine spots.
It's likely Mike Pettine will pencil in Savage immediately as a starter next to Amos. Savage fits with Amos in that he is expected to be able to move on the ball quickly and cover.
40 yard dash: 4.36 seconds
8 career interceptions
- 153 career interception return yards.
- 2 career interception returns for touchdowns.
- 2018 Second Team All-Big Ten (coaches & media).
- 2018 Second Team All-Big Ten (Phil Steele).
- 2017 Honorable Mention All-Big Ten.
One would think with the investment Gutekunst made in getting him, Savage Jr. slides right into the starting role alongside Amos. He fits the need of having a deep safety that can cover and create turnovers on the back end. The Packers needed a starter on Day 1 of the draft and they got one.
General manager's take
Brian Gutekunst met the media late Thursday night to discuss moving up and taking Savage Jr. Here are some highlights from his press conference:
"We thought he was an absolute difference maker. We didn’t think it was a really dep group there. Again, we do our homework. We kind of understand where he might go and We didn’t think we could sit at 30 and have him fall to us.”
"He’s obviously a premier athlete. He’s been an impact player for Maryland for a number of years. Certainly his football character was something that really attracted to us. But he’s able to close the gap from centerfield to the hash. Really aggressive, physical player, able to take the ball away. And he really fit what we’re trying to do there in the back end."
"He’s able to do a lot of different things. He’s athletic enough and has played some nickel as well. So I think he’s a real versatile piece in our secondary, along with some of the additions we’ve made in the past couple years, I think he’ll be a good addition to that."
Darnell Savage Jr. met the media via conference call. Here are some highlights:
"I feel like I’m extremely versatile. I really bring that physical presence to the field and to the game. Always around the ball, always making plays. Just a playmaker, you know? I’m fast, I like to hit, I like to be around the ball, I like to make plays. I just love to play the game of football."
"I think interceptions are really just from — you know, some people will tell you it’s luck, but I really feel like it’s just a want-to. You’ve got to be around the ball, you know? Eventually a couple of them are going to fall your way. Just playing hard and just using the techniques that you were practicing that you work on all the time, you’ll find yourself in position to make plays. Once you’re in that position, you just make it."
"Honestly, I do (feel he can be a starter). I feel like if you asked anybody that question that a confident person would say that. 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 I’m able to. I just want to come in and do whatever I can do to help this team and help get us to a Super Bowl. I want to do anything I can to help this team."
Former Packers safety Matt Bowen tweeted this out:
The analytical site ProFootballFocus.com gave Savage Jr. coverage grades of 89.9 in 2017 and 86.1 last season.
"Savage will offer an interesting litmus test for how teams value instincts, IQ and coverage quickness against size. He sports a compact frame with a muscular build and was actually bigger at the combine than some scouts expected. His sticky cover skills and ability to close on throws from all areas of the field are valuable commodities that should not be undervalued. Savage should be targeted as a Day 2 hybrid defender offering early starting potential as a two-high zone or slot cover talent." - NFL.com scout Lance Zierlein
"A chameleon type of prospect that has the unique of ability to being scheme versatile. Savage can adapt to any scheme that he's included within and it makes his value even greater. His athleticism makes him an ideal fit as a nickel defender or as a
strong safety. With the difficult transition of potentially playing the nickel, he has the hips and fluidity of being able to have success at that spot. A firm outlook as an early Day 2 prospect, it would not be surprising at all to see Savage be one of the better defensive backs in this class before it's all said and done because of his complete game and natural athleticism." - draft analyst Jordan Reid
"There's no player that's got more steam and momentum right now in this draft than Darnell Savage. Teams love him, love him to the point where I would not be surprised if he found his way into the first round. The only thing he's lacking is just kind of ideal size, a little bit undersized, but he ran 4.3, he plays to that 4.3. ... He'll be in my top 50, having watched a little bit more and you get a chance to see him, the things he can do, lining up all over the field and that versatility you're talking about." - NFL.com draft analyst Daniel Jeremiah
- Official Maryland bio.
- A look at how Savage Jr. shot up draft boards after the Senior Bowl.
- And he had to overcome quite a bit to get to the Big Ten as well, namely a major injury in high school.
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