Brian Gutekunst’s Shoddy Drafts Are Another Reason The Green Bay Packers Are Struggling

When you pay your quarterback $50 million per season — and your left tackle, nose tackle and No. 1 cornerback also rank among the league’s highest-paid players at their positions — you better hit it big in the NFL Draft.

The draft is where you find reasonably priced labor that remains under team control for at least four years. And if you’re in salary cap hell — like the Green Bay Packers have been in recent seasons — strong draft classes can keep you near the top of the league.

But the Packers — a team that’s prided itself on their draft and develop approach for two decades — are now an organization that’s doing far too much drafting and dumping.

Green Bay general manager Brian Gutekunst is in a major slump. And his recent drafts look more like Mike Sherman’s forgettable classes than the ones typically assembled by Ron Wolf and Ted Thompson — the men most notable for training Gutekunst.

And Gutekunst’s struggles on draft night are a big reason the Packers are 4-6 — and tied for ninth place in the NFC — heading into Thursday’s game with Tennessee.

The latest Gutekunst mistake was sent packing Tuesday when Green Bay released wideout/return man Amari Rodgers — a third round draft pick in 2021.

Rodgers came out of training camp as Green Bay’s No. 1 kick and punt returner, but lost both jobs. Rodgers averaged 20.3 yards on six kickoffs, 6.9 yards on 20 punt returns, but couldn’t hold onto the ball.

Rodgers had four fumbles on punt returns this season and five fumbles overall. According to ESPN Stats & Information, that’s the most fumbles in 2022 by a non-quarterback.

Rodgers also had just eight receptions during his two seasons with the Packers. And after Rodgers lost another fumble on Sunday that set up a Dallas touchdown, Gutekunst waived the white flag.

Gutekunst hasn’t spoken with the media since Aug. 31 — instead leaving head coach Matt LaFleur to answer for him. And while Rodgers was a popular player internally, his constant mistakes earned him a pink slip.

“Amari, that one hurts a lot just in terms of because I know how much this meant to him, and he did everything we asked him to do,” LaFleur said Tuesday. “He was a great teammate, he works his tail off. You could see him really growing just in terms of overall knowledge, but we are in a production-based business and you know it’s unfortunate, it truly is.”

Gutekunst’s decision to draft Rodgers was unfortunate for many reasons.

Not only did Gutekunst miss on the player. He also traded a fourth round draft choice to move up from pick No. 92 to 85 and select Rodgers.

“He fills so many holes for us and that’s one of the reasons I think that why we traded up for him,” Gutekunst said the night he drafted Rodgers. “I think he’s just built for us. He’s built for up here in Green Bay and he’s just a very versatile player, very smart player and we’re just really glad to add him to the roster.”

Turns out his stay on the roster was short-lived. It’s also another red flag on Gutekunst’s drafting record — and why Packer Nation has become louder and louder calling for his job.

Here are three draft-related areas where Gutekunst has failed miserably since becoming Green Bay’s general manager in 2018.


Gutekunst has made one trade during each of his five drafts. By subjective count, his record stands at 0-4-1.

Here’s a look at those trades:

2018 — Gutekunst traded picks in Round 4 (No. 101) and Round 5 (147) for a third round pick (No. 88). He then used that selection on inside linebacker Oren Burks.

Burks spent four years in Green Bay and was a solid special teams player. But he made just seven starts and averaged only 23 tackles per season.

That’s not close to the production teams expect from third round draft picks.

Verdict: Loss

2019 — Gutekunst gave up his first round pick (No. 30) and two fourth round picks (No. 114 and 118) for the 21st overall pick. Gutekunst then took safety Darnell Savage, a remarkably athletic player who has struggled at safety.

The Packers moved Savage to slot corner last week and he wasn’t much better in that role. Nearly four years into his time in Green Bay, it remains unclear where Savage best fits.

Verdict: Loss

2020 — Gutekunst held the 30th overall pick, but didn’t think the apple of his eye — quarterback Jordan Love — would still be on the board. So Gutekunst traded pick No. 30 and a fourth rounder (No. 136) for pick No. 26 and drafted Love.

At this point, no one knows if Love is the long-term answer. He’s started just two games (0-2 record) and has thrown only 71 career passes.

The Love selection also infuriated quarterback Aaron Rodgers, who trashed Gutekunst publicly the following offseason and threatened to never play for Green Bay again.

Gutekunst could have trusted his instincts and traded Rodgers in either the summer of 2020 or 2021 for a treasure trove of draft picks. Instead, he got cold feet, stayed the course, and still has no clue what he has in Love.

Verdict: Loss

2021 — Gutekunst gave up picks No. 92 and 135 for pick No. 85 and took Amari Rodgers.

Verdict: Loss

2022 — Gutekunst gave up two second round picks (No. 53 and 59) for pick No. 34 and took wideout Christian Watson.

Watson has the potential to become a star as his three-touchdown performance against Dallas showed last week. Prior to that game, though, Watson had 10 catches for 88 yards and no touchdowns.

While Watson is currently everyone’s flavor of the day, his lack of strength and injury history means the verdict is still out.

Verdict: Undecided

2020 DRAFT

Ron Wolf, the Hall of Fame general manager who oversaw a football renaissance in the NFL’s smallest city three decades ago, used to strive for four starters per draft.

Amazingly, Wolf found five starters in his memorable classes of 1995 (Craig Newsome, William Henderson, Brian Williams, Antonio Freeman and Adam Timmerman) and 2000 (Bubba Franks, Chad Clifton, Na’il Diggs, Kabeer Gbaja-Biamila and Mark Tauscher).

Wolf also landed four starters in each of his first three drafts (1992-94) and his 1996 draft.

Those players were a huge reason the Packers won a Super Bowl in 1996, won the NFC in 1997, and continued to be a force into the mid-2000s.

There’s still time for Gutekunst’s 2020 draft class to blossom. Usually by Year 3, though, you know what you have, and Green Bay’s lone starter form this class is sixth round guard Jon Runyan.

The Packers have just six of their nine draft picks remaining from the 2020 class. And those that are still in town have been underwhelming.

Love, the first round quarterback, can’t get on the field, and it’s quite possible he’ll ask for a trade this offseason if Rodgers comes back in 2023. Second round running back A.J. Dillon is a nice player, but backs up Aaron Jones.

Third round tight end Josiah Deguara, sixth round guard Jake Hanson and seventh round outside linebacker Jonathan Garvin are all just guys. And at this point, it’s unlikely any of them will receive a second contract from Green Bay.

Fifth round linebacker Kamal Martin, sixth round guard Simon Stepaniak and seventh round safety Vernon Scott are all out of football.

2021 DRAFT

This draft isn’t looking a whole lot better than Gutekunst’s 2020 class.

First round cornerback Eric Stokes and second round center Josh Myers are on their way to becoming solid starters. But the rest of the class has produced little.

Amari Rodgers and seventh round running back Kylin Hill were both waived on Tuesday. Sixth round offensive lineman Cole Van Lanen was traded for a seventh round pick in August.

Fourth round guard Royce Newman showed promise as a rookie, but was benched this season and has fallen down the depth chart. Fifth round nose tackle T.J. Slaton has played a modest 23.6% of the snaps in 2021 and 29.9% this year.

Sixth round cornerback Shemar Jean-Charles has played just three snaps from scrimmage this year and 40 in his career. Sixth round inside linebacker Isaiah McDuffie has shown promise, of late, when injuries hit the position, but he remains No. 4 on the depth chart.

Green Bay went to the NFC Championship Game in both 2019 and 2020. And one Pro Bowl-level player in the following two drafts might have taken the Packers to the summit.

Wolf hit a home run with his 1995 draft class, and that group lifted a rising team to a Super Bowl title in 1996. Ted Thompson’s 2009 draft class — spearheaded by Clay Matthews and B.J. Raji — was instrumental in the Packers winning a title in 2010.

Gutekunst could have blazed a similar trail with a better performance in recent drafts. Instead, he missed the mark and ended up with too many players like Amari Rodgers.

And today, the Packers are paying the price for those mistakes.