The Green Bay Packers didn’t need a quarterback in the 2005 NFL Draft.
Brett Favre was four years into a historic 10-year, $US100 million contract. He was ageing but not old, and had led the team to four-straight 10-win seasons.
So what did the Packers do with the 24th-overall pick?
They picked a quarterback, Aaron Rodgers, and it turned out to be one of the best decisions in franchise history.
Green Bay general manager Ted Thompson did a interview with MMQB’s Peter King, and he talked about the process that went into picking Rodgers. He said that Rodgers wasn’t even on his radar until a few days before the draft.
Thompson told MMQB:
“Three or four days before the  draft we’re doing our research, going down the board, and I’m looking, and I think, ‘None of these teams are taking a quarterback.’ I couldn’t find one, after San Francisco. We hadn’t really paid attention to Rodgers because we just figured he’d be gone. Plus, we didn’t have that big a need there, obviously. So I just buried myself and went to look at all the Rodgers tape — from games, from the combine, from his pro day. After a couple of days I just felt he was too good to pass. So I said, “If he falls to us, we’re taking him.'”
The interesting thing about this story is that everyone thought Rodgers was going to be picked in the top 15. He was invited to the draft, where he sat in the green room as team after team passed on him. ESPN’s Mel Kiper had him going No. 3 overall to the Browns in his mock draft.
When the draft got to pick No. 15 and Rodgers still wasn’t taken, ESPN turned his unexpected fall into the big story of the first round.
One of the only people to see the fall coming was Thompson. After the San Francisco 49ers took Alex Smith No. 1 overall, there were zero quarterbacks taken until the Packers came up. If Thompson hadn’t binge-watched Rodgers tape a few days before the draft, he may have been caught unprepared and picked someone else.
Here are the 23 players taken above Rodgers:
- Alex Smith, 49ers
- Ronnie Brown, Dolphins
- Braylon Edwards, Browns
- Cedric Benson, Bears
- Cadillac Williams, Buccaneers
- Pac-Man Jones, Titans
- Troy Williamson, Vikings
- Antrel Rolle, Cardinals
- Carlos Rogers, Redskins
- Mike Williams, Lions
- DeMarcus Ware, Cowboys
- Shawne Merriman, Chargers
- Jammal Brown, Saints
- Thomas Davis, Panthers
- Derrick Johnson, Chiefs
- Travis Johnson, Texans
- David Pollack, Bengals
- Erasmus James, Vikings
- Alex Barron, Rams
- Marcus Spears, Cowboys
- Matt Jones, Jaguars
- Mark Clayton, Ravens
- Fabian Washington, Raiders
And here’s a partial list of quarterbacks that started for those teams in 2005: Jake Delhomme (Carolina), Drew Bledsoe (Cowboys), Trent Green (Chiefs), David Carr (Texans), Mark Brunell (Redskins), Kerry Collins (Raiders), Gus Frerotte (Dolphins), Kyle Orton (Bears), Aaron Brooks (Saints), Byron Leftwich (Jaguars), Trent Dilfer (Browns).
The Packers were one of the few teams in the league that could legitimately say they didn’t need a quarterback, but they took Rodgers anyway.
Thompson wasn’t beholden to short-term planning or positional needs. He saw Rodgers as the heir apparent to Favre, even if he didn’t take a single snap for three or four years. He took the best player on the board, and decided to figure the rest out later.
It worked out perfectly. Rodgers backed up Favre for three years, took the starting job in 2008 at the age of 25, and has been one of the best players in the league ever since.
If the 2005 Draft were re-drafted today, Rodgers would be the 1st pick. The Packers got him at No. 24 in one of the great NFL Draft steals.
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