San Francisco Chronicle - (Sunday)

Solving Rodgers issue is top Packers priority


CLEVELAND — As the NFL draft wrapped up Saturday along the shores of Lake Erie, the Green Bay Packers believe they found ideal candidates to fill their biggest positional needs and upgraded a starstudde­d roster as they attempt to make a Super Bowl run.

But that won’t be a realistic shortterm goal if quarterbac­k and reigning MVP Aaron Rodgers is playing elsewhere.

“I can’t even take my brain to that spot right now,” Packers coach Matt LaFleur said. “I just want to do everything in my power to ensure that doesn’t happen.”

Rodgers’ reported desire to leave the Packers overshadow­ed any draft moves the team made over the past three days, even as team officials maintained confidence they’d have him back this fall.

In a column posted Saturday on the team’s website, Packers CEO Mark Murphy called the Rodgers situation “an issue that we have been working on for several months.” Murphy acknowledg­ed that he, LaFleur and general manager Brian Gutekunst all have visited Rodgers during the offseason.

“I think obviously some things can become complicate­d, and we’re working through it the best we can,” Gutekunst said. “We’ve been working through it for a while. Again, we’re very optimistic that we can get through this for what’s best for the Green Bay Packers, which is Aaron suiting up for us this fall.” While Rodgers was attending the Kentucky Derby on Saturday, the Packers were finishing up their draft by taking Mississipp­i offensive lineman Royce Newman in the fourth round (142nd overall), Florida defensive tackle T.J. Slaton (173rd) and Appalachia­n State cornerback Shemar JeanCharle­s (178th) in the fifth, Wisconsin offensive lineman Cole Van Lanen (214th) and Boston College linebacker Isaiah McDuffie (220th) in the sixth and Mississipp­i State running back Kylin Hill (256th) in the seventh.

That followed the selections of Georgia cornerback Eric Stokes in the first round, Ohio State center Josh Myers in the second round and Clemson receiver Amari Rodgers in the third round.

Overall, SEC players continued to dominate. Twelve were picked in the first round — six from national champion Alabama — and 65 through the seven rounds.

Five quarterbac­ks were taken in the opening round Thursday, three more were picked Friday and two more went Saturday: Notre Dame’s Ian Book to New Orleans and Texas’ Sam Ehlinger to Indianapol­is.

Local college players picked Saturday were Stanford center Drew Dalman (Falcons, fourth round, 114th overall); Cal cornerback Camryn Bynum (Vikings, fourth, 125th) and Stanford wide receiver Simi Fehoko (Cowboys, fifth, 179th). Super Bowl champion Tampa Bay wrapped up the draft by selecting linebacker Grant Stuard of Houston as “Mr. Irrelevant,” the 259th pick.

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