The Green Bay Packers needed to draft a quarterback to backup Jordan Love in this year’s NFL Draft. While there still remains a possibility that they sign a veteran, it would be more cost effective for the cap-strapped Packers to have a rookie backup their new starting quarterback. But why Sean Clifford, who most experts believed would go undrafted? And why the fifth round when they could have waited until the seventh, if they wanted to use a draft pick on a quarterback at all? Brian Gutekunst explained why on last night of the draft, and Matt LaFleur offered further explanation in his media session on Sunday.
Why Did the Green Bay Packers Draft Sean Clifford?
The Packers’ draft filled every need that they had, including tight end, wide receiver, and edge rusher. They addressed these needs during the draft’s first two days, and then added a backup quarterback in fifth round on the last day. But why Clifford, and why spend a fifth round pick on a player many believed would not be drafted at all? Gutekunst explained:
““You have to listen to your board. With Sean Clifford today, there was a quarterback run, and a lot of quarterbacks underneath him went, so as we looked at it, we had a number choices up there that were all kind of the same, but there weren’t any quarterbacks after him that we felt strongly about like we did him. That made it easy.”
In other words, the Packers liked Clifford more than any other quarterbacks on their board. Due to the number of quarterbacks taken before him, Gutekunst felt like they’d better grab him before someone else did. Just because media members did not peg Clifford as a draft pick does not mean other teams didn’t either. There were a record number of quarterbacks drafted before the end of the fifth round (12). It is very likely that he would have been scooped up by someone else had the Packers passed on him. T
hree quarterbacks were taken after Clifford in the entire draft and, as Gutekunst said, Green Bay was not as high on any of them as they were on him. If they felt that way, it is fair to say that other teams did too.
So what is it about Clifford that the Packers liked so much? Gutekunst said:
“We really liked what he brings to the table. Started a lot of games in the Big Ten. Has a lot of experience. Really good athlete. Liked his arm talent. We brought him in for a pre-draft visit and we really liked the makeup of the person.”
Matt LaFleur expanded on this statement on Sunday:
“Sean is a guy who is really intelligent. He’s played a lot of games. He’s got some athleticism. He’s a natural thrower. All the things we look for in quarterbacks, he possesses. We had him up here on a 30 visit and went through the meetings with him and were impressed by his football acumen and overall intelligence. Looking forward to working with him coming rookie minicamp.”
So in the [likely] absence of a veteran option at backup quarterback, Green Bay got the next best thing: a young quarterback with plenty of experience in big games, who has seen a great deal as a starting quarterback in college. He is incredibly intelligent and can bring a lot to the room in terms of analyzing film and preparing for games.
To be honest, the Packers could do a lot worse.