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Packers address key objective in NFL Draft's first round with Jordan Morgan: 'Protect your quarterback'

Arizona O-lineman is a typical Green Bay pick

OL Jordan Morgan
OL Jordan Morgan

GREEN BAY – Brian Gutekunst said it a few different ways in discussing his first-round draft pick, Arizona offensive lineman Jordan Morgan, with the media late Thursday night.

"Just our kind of guy."

"The right kind of guy for our locker room."

"Jordan just fit us."

Why he feels that way about the 6-5, 311-pound Morgan is pretty clear.

He's as experienced as they get coming out of college, with 37 career starts at left tackle. He's a leader, as a two-time team captain. He's versatile enough to play possibly "four positions," according to Gutekunst, meaning either tackle or either guard spot.

He's plenty athletic, nearly cracking 5.0 seconds in the 40 as a prototypical big guy. And he's proven he can overcome adversity, returning from a torn ACL late in the 2022 season to earn first-team All-Pac-12 honors in 2023.

That last one might sound strange, given the serious nature of ACL injuries as a potential medical red flag, but the Packers studied it closely and liked what they saw.

"It was remarkable how well he played early in the season coming off (the injury)," Gutekunst said. "(He) just kept getting better and better so that gives us a lot of confidence for where he's headed."

Perhaps the most significant factor, though, in choosing Morgan at No. 25 overall with several standout defensive players still available in an offense-heavy first round, was this:

Having lost three veteran offensive linemen this offseason in David Bakhtiari, Jon Runyan and Yosh Nijman, the Packers needed to fortify their depth up front – a front that's crucial to the success of their rising star at QB, Jordan Love, who will soon be signing a mega deal to lead the Packers for the foreseeable future.

"If you can protect your quarterback, particularly one like we have, you have a chance to win the football game," Gutekunst said, putting it rather matter-of-factly.

In Morgan, the Packers added a potential starter who can create legitimate competition at the somewhat unsettled left tackle and right guard spots. In the short term, he checks that box. In the long term, he could do a heck of a lot more.

The first round certainly fell nicely for Gutekunst. Three positions that weren't really first-round considerations for the Packers – quarterback, receiver and tight end – constituted 10 of the first 13 picks, pushing more potential targets down toward Green Bay's spot.

His board was strong enough to even entertain thoughts of trading down, closer to the bottom of the first round, or perhaps out of the first round entirely.

But when decision time arrived, it wasn't worth possibly losing Morgan, the seventh offensive tackle of eight taken in the first round.

"Obviously it's a premium position," he said. "For me, there's only so many big guys usually in each draft, and you realize that they're going to go early and they're going to go quick and if you don't get one, you might be out of luck.

"There's some of that. But again, where we had him valued, this was a pretty easy decision for us."

The real fun for Gutekunst & Co. starts Friday night, with two picks in both the second and third rounds. That's potentially a major haul to address several areas on the depth chart – the defensive backfield, linebacker, and yes, maybe the offensive line again.

Regardless of position, look for more of the same in the overriding traits – experience, versatility, leadership, athleticism. They're rarely missing when Gutekunst spends premium picks.

"Tomorrow's a big day for our organization," he said regarding Friday. "I've talked about how important the draft is. To have four picks in the second and third round, we have a nice opportunity to help our football team, so yeah, I think we're all really eager to get after it."


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