Draft Review: Aaron Rodgers

The NFL's all-time leading passer

GOSSELIN DRAFT ANALYSIS: Aaron Rodgers set passing records at Chico (Calif.) Pleasant Valley High School, but his height (5-10) conspired against his hopes of playing major-college football. The only school to court him was Illinois as a walk on, so he went the J.C. route to Butte College. After throwing for 26 touchdowns as a freshman and winning 10 of his 11 starts, Rodgers transferred to Cal. He started the next two seasons, posting a 17-5 record. He set an NCAA record by completing 26 consecutive passes, including his first 23 in a row in a game against No. 1 Southern Cal. He also had streaks of 105 and 98 consecutive passes without an interception in his career. Rodgers set school records for passing efficiency in both a season (154.3 in 2004) and career (150.27). He skipped his senior season to apply for the NFL draft and then measured 6-2, 223 pounds and ran a 4.71 40 at the combine. Gosselin rated him as the No. 2 quarterback in the 2005 draft behind Alex Smith and placed him No. 8 on his Top 100 board. The Green Bay Packers claimed Rodgers with the 24th overall pick of that draft. It’s clear now there was an NFL concern that Rodgers was a system quarterback – a manufactured product of Jeff Tedford’s offense. Tedford coached several quarterbacks previously selected in the first round of NFL drafts – Trent Dilfer, Joey Harrington, Akili Smith and Kyle Boller – and none lived up to that lofty draft standing…until Rodgers.

Here are comments on Rodgers from 10 talent evaluators leading up to his 2005 NFL draft:

Scout: Tough, tough decision (between Alex Smith and Rodgers). Both are Top 5. Stronger arm than Smith. A perfectionist. Wants to do everything right. He had no receivers last year but still found a way to compete. He’s used to 120-125 plays in the gameplan, so he can handle it mentally. It will come down to whose personality do you like more? Aaron is more high-strung than Alex. He’ll drill the guy in the head with the ball if he runs the wrong route.

Quarterback coach: My clear-cut #1 (quarterback).

Offensive coordinator: Mechanical. None of (Cal coach Jeff) Tedford’s guys have made it yet.

Offensive coordinator II: Like his mobility and strength. Not an anticipation thrower but gets mustard on the ball. Just tall enough. There’s concern because he’s in Tedford’s system. He’s really not the type of player who goes No. 1 overall.

Offensive coordinator III: More polished than Smith.

Personnel director: #1 (QB).

Head coach: Second round. Don’t like. One-year guy. Self-made. Holds ball too high. Look at the history of Cal quarterbacks.

General manager: #1 (QB).

General manager II: #1 (QB).

General manager III: Rodgers/Smith is like Carr/Harrington (top 2 QBs in 2002 draft, both Top 3 picks). They’ll go (high) together but both are really mid (first) round guys.

Green Bay Packers vs Minnesota Vikings
November 21, 2021

NFL CAREER: Knowing what we know now, it’s incredible that 23 teams in a quarterback-driven league could pass on Rodgers in 2005. And Green Bay was already set at quarterback with Brett Favre when the Packers finally ended his slide at 24. That’s also why Rodgers sat his first three NFL seasons, throwing only 59 passes as Favre’s backup. But Green Bay moved on from Favre to Rodgers in 2008 and never looked back. He has been voted to the Pro Bowl in nine of his 13 seasons as a starter and is a three-time NFL MVP. He also became a Super Bowl MVP in 2011 when the Packers defeated the Steelers, 31-25. Rodgers has won three league passing crowns and claimed a spot on the 2010 NFL all-decade team. He set an NFL record by throwing 402 consecutive passes without an interception in 2018. He also holds the single-season records for highest passing efficiency (122.5 in 2011) and lowest interception percentage (only two in 597 passes in 2018). Rodgers has won 67.6 percent of his career starts (126-63-1) and steered the Packers to seven NFC North titles. The Cowboys and Vikings both passed on Rodgers twice in the 2005 draft. The Bears, Bengals, Browns, Buccaneers, Cardinals, Chargers, Chiefs, Dolphins, Jaguars, Lions, Panthers, Raiders, Rams, Ravens, Saints, Titans, Texans, 49ers and Washington also passed up the chance to draft Rodgers. Wonder how many of them wish they could have a mulligan?

EDITOR’S NOTE: Rick Gosselin spent 20 years as the NFL columnist for the Dallas Morning News, including 20 offseasons studying and researching prospects for the NFL draft. He didn’t watch any tape – he was a writer, not a scout – but he talked to the men who did watch tape. He built a network of NFL general managers, head coaches, personnel directors, scouts and assistant coaches from all 32 teams who would share with him their analyses of players. Gosselin used their insights to build his own draft board, Top 100 board and mock drafts. For 10 consecutive years he had the best Top 100 board in the country (2001-10), according to the Huddle Report, and three times he produced the best mock draft. Gosselin resurrected his scouting reports here for a look back at how NFL talent evaluators viewed the top draft prospects coming out of college.

1 Comment
  1. Joseph C Simmons says

    The rumor was Jon Gruden was doing everything he can to trade up from #5 to draft Alex Smith, but couldn’t get any takers. If he only knew he could’ve traded DOWN and taken one of the all-time greats. He’d probably still be coaching the Bucs right now.

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