Brian Gutekunst’s first boss in Green Bay was Hall of Fame general manager Ron Wolf.
Gutekunst, the Packers’ G.M. today, learned a lot watching Wolf wheel and deal during the NFL Draft every year.
And he’s employed that same type of aggressiveness during each of his first three drafts.
Gutekunst traded up in the first round each of the past three years. And using history as an indicator, don’t be surprised if Gutekunst moves up again when the NFL Draft begins Thursday night.
The Packers currently hold the 29th pick in the first round. But if there’s a player Gutekunst covets, he has a history of climbing draft boards to land the apple of his eye.
“I like to move around,” Gutekunst said before the 2020 draft. “I like to move around and see if we can get to the areas of the draft that I think are strong.”
He’s certainly done that in recent seasons.
Here’s a look at Gutekunst’s first round trades the last three years.
2018 — Gutekunst had the 14th overall pick in the first round, traded back to No. 27 with New Orleans and picked up a 2019 first round draft pick. Gutekunst then gave up a third-round draft pick to move back up to No. 18 and took cornerback Jaire Alexander.
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Alexander has developed into one of the top cornerbacks in football and went to his first Pro Bowl in 2020. He has 41 passes defensed in his first three years and intercepted Tampa Bay quarterback Tom Brady twice in last year’s NFC Championship Game.
“I’ve spoken highly of Jaire since he first got here,” Packers wide receiver Davante Adams said. “I love the way this kid operates.
“He doesn’t just show up to work like it’s just another job, he takes it seriously, you know, he’ll be on his Ipad within five minutes asking me why I did this and how I beat him; what was I thinking, you know different things like that that young guys typically don’t pay attention to or just aren’t interested in. When I see him go about his business like that, it makes me excited to be on the same team.”
2019 — Gutekunst gave up two fourth round picks to Seattle to jump up to No. 21 from No. 30. He then selected safety Darnell Savage, who was an all-rookie performer in 2019 and got even better in 2020.
Savage had four interceptions and broke up 12 passes in 2020 and is already one of the NFL’s top young safeties.
“Just really proud of him,” Packers coach Matt LaFleur said of Savage late in the 2020 season. “He’s such a smart player, he’s so athletic. It’s so fun to see a guy work so hard and then start to have the results.”
2020 — Gutekunst traded up from No. 30 to 26 in the first round and drafted quarterback Jordan Love. The cost of jumping up was a fourth-round draft pick (No. 136).
Love was inactive every week last year, so he remains somewhat of a mystery to many. Gutekunst believes he’s found his quarterback of the future, though. Whether he’s right or not will start becoming clearer this summer.
“We feel very good about what he was able to do in the small window of development that he had,” Gutekunst said of Love. “But I think this preseason and moving forward are going to be very, very important.”
Green Bay is armed with 10 picks this year — one in Rounds 1, 2, 3 and 7 and two picks in Rounds 4, 5 and 6. That should give Gutekunst the firepower to move around the draft board if there’s a player he desires.
That certainly follows the blueprint of Wolf — his old boss.
During Wolf’s nine years as Green Bay’s general manager, he made a whopping 89 trades — 67 more than any other team in football. Gutekunst figures to remain assertive next weekend as he tries building a championship team.
“One thing I told my guys: when it’s all said and done, I’m going to have two six-shooters on me and I’ve got 12 rounds on me,” Wolf told me in a 2015 interview. “And I can guarantee you fellows I’m going to fire all 12 rounds. I’m not coming back here with one revolver half full.”
Gutekunst has operated the same way.
Based on history, that means he’s likely to jump up in Round 1.