Packers land their receiver in Amari Rodgers, draft center Josh Myers as likely Linsley successor
GREEN BAY - His family kept sharing the same premonition in the weeks leading up to this weekend’s NFL draft. Amari Rodgers tried not to listen. He knew the logic, but the draft is a delicate thing. Say something too often, and it may not happen.
That didn’t stop Amari Rodgers’ family. Cousins. Close friends. As the draft approached, everyone thought he was heading to the Green Bay Packers.
“I literally was trying to block it out,” Rodgers said, “because I didn’t want to get something in my head and then have it not happen. But everybody in my family was telling me it was the Packers, it was the Packers.”
It simply made too much sense. Rodgers has followed the Packers his entire life. His father, the former Tennessee quarterback Tee Martin, was longtime Packers receiver Randall Cobb’s college position coach at Kentucky. Rodgers referred to Cobb as his “big brother,” a mentor. He studied Cobb’s game.
He dreamed of playing for the same NFL team.
“Since Randall Cobb left,” Rodgers said, “everyone in my family said (the Packers) hadn’t had a slot player like him. They felt like it was a good fit for me to go there.”
Of course, there was another factor that made the Packers a perfect fit. The certainty that has been assumed for 13 years now, since that quarterback transition in the 2008. The Packers weren’t just Randall Cobb’s team. No, they belonged to Aaron Rodgers.
So it was undoubtedly strange when Amari Rodgers looked at his cell phone Friday night, saw the 920 area code flash across the screen, and realized those premonitions had come true. Just not in any way like he could have imagined. Because there was this unfathomable reality: Amari Rodgers might be the only Rodgers in the Packers' offense this fall.
The newly drafted receiver didn’t hide how badly he does not want that to become reality.
“You know, we have the same last name,” Amari Rodgers said. “That’s pretty cool that we have the same last name. He’s an amazing quarterback. I’ve been watching him my whole life. So it’s actually amazing and surreal that I get the opportunity to play with a quarterback like him.”
Except, he may not. Aaron Rodgers has informed the Packers he doesn't want to return. So unless something changes, the pair of offensive players the Packers drafted Friday night – a pair they believe can directly benefit the three-time MVP quarterback – will never share the field with the future Hall of Famer.
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Amari Rodgers was the second of the two picks, drafted with the 85th overall selection in Friday’s third round. The Packers traded up seven spots from their original 92nd overall pick, sending their 135th overall selection in the fourth round to the Tennessee Titans. General manager Brian Gutekunst wanted to trade sooner, as quickly as possible after drafting Ohio State center Josh Myers with the 62nd overall pick in the second round. As the 62nd pick approached, Gutekunst said, Myers and Rodgers were his two targets.
There was just one problem.
“Immediately after I got off the phone (after drafting Myers),” Gutekunst said, “I turned around to see if we could get back up to get Amari. And a couple of my guys had gone down to grab something to eat. So we had to get everybody back on the phones and moving fast. We were trying pretty significantly to get up to go get Amari. It took us a little while longer than we wanted to.”
Gutekunst said the scenario reminded him of when the Packers drafted B.J. Raji with the ninth overall pick in the 2009 first round, then traded back into the first round to select Clay Matthews with the 26th overall pick. As soon as former general manager Ted Thompson drafted Raji that night, he turned to lieutenants John Schneider and Reggie McKenzie with instructions to get in position to draft Matthews. How high did Thompson want to go? Just get the player, he answered.
They asked again. How much did he want to pay?
“You guys don’t understand,” Gutekunst remembered Thompson saying. “I want the player.”
These were the two players Gutekunst wanted Friday night: Myers and Rodgers. If Myers had been drafted before he got a chance, Gutekunst said he would have taken Rodgers in the second round.
In Myers, Gutekunst sees the replacement for departed All-Pro center Corey Linsley. Like Linsley, the Packers drafted Myers from Ohio State. He knows Linsley well. He even called a few weeks ago “just checking in” for some advice.
At 6-5, 310 pounds, Myers is a center in a tackle’s body. He never played center until after his redshirt freshman year in 2018. During spring practices, Ohio State coaches approached him with the idea of moving to the middle of their offensive line. After starting the past two seasons, and becoming Ohio State’s captain in the process, Myers now has a chance to replace his fellow Buckeye.
“It would mean everything to me,” Myers said, “to come in and be able to do that. He’s just such a great player, and to follow him up is a big task that I’m excited to get a shot at.”
The Packers believe Myers can play any of the three interior offensive line spots, but they want him to be their center. For all the versatility Elgton Jenkins and Billy Turner provide, Gutekunst said it’s important to have a stable center. That position is in charge of communication for the entire offensive line. A lot of trust is put into a center. Only he and the quarterback touch the football every snap.
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Gutekunst said he traded up to draft Rodgers because of how many roles he can fill. Rodgers called himself a “gadget player,” but Gutekunst said he’s also a “polished” route runner after spending four seasons in the powerhouse Clemson program.
A receiver in a running back’s body (5-9½, 212 pounds), Rodgers has drawn comparisons to former Packers receiver/running back Ty Montgomery. The Packers believe he can line up all across the formation in coach Matt LaFleur’s system. He could fill the jet motion role in LaFleur’s offense.
Rodgers also provides special teams value, something the Packers desperately needed to find in this draft. He returned 68 punts in his college career, returning one for a touchdown. Gutekunst said the lower padding in Rodgers’ 212-pound frame might make kickoff returns possible, too.
He’s the type of versatile receiver Gutekunst believes everybody connected to the Packers should be pleased to see drafted – including a particular MVP quarterback.
"I think it was something we wanted to add for a few years,” Gutekunst said. “Kind of that guy that can play inside and do some returning. So, yeah, I hope everybody’s pleased with it.”
Rodgers hopes everybody is pleased with his third-round arrival, too. Not just friends and family, but the quarterback synonyms with the Packers offense.
After all, in those pre-draft premonitions, he was never the only Rodgers in Green Bay.
“Of course, I’m aware for sure (of the situation with Aaron Rodgers),” Amari Rodgers said. “Of course, I want to catch passes from the reigning MVP, future Hall of Famer. So I know for sure. I would love to have the opportunity to play for somebody like him.”