GREEN BAY, Wis. (AP) — UPDATE: Trading up to 21, the Packers select Darnell Savage Jr. from Maryland.
The Green Bay Packers took Michigan's Rashan Gary with the 12th overall pick Thursday night, sticking with their long recent tradition of focusing on defense first in the NFL draft.
Gary, who has formed his own agency to represent athletes, is quick, strong and was a two-time All-Big Ten choice. He broke down in tears at home as he learned he was headed to Green Bay.
Green Bay has six selections in the first four rounds, including No. 12 and No. 30 in the first round. The 12th overall pick is the Packers' highest in 10 years since they made defensive tackle B.J. Raji the ninth selection. The 30th overall pick came by a trade from New Orleans in the previous draft.
Since Aaron Rodgers become quarterback, the Packers have now spent their first picks on defense in eight straight drafts. The only offensive player taken in one of the first three rounds in the past three years was tackle Jason Spriggs, the second-round selection in 2016 from Indiana.
Still, Rodgers is 35 entering his 15th season and the Packers have missed the playoffs two straight years, putting more pressure on the star QB and new coach Matt LaFleur to deliver. During last year's forgettable 6-9-1 season, Green Bay was 15th in the league in points, 12th in yards and a woeful 23rd in third-down conversions. Rodgers was banged-up all year, finishing with 25 touchdown passes, a career low for a season in which he played at least 15 games.
The Packers also lost experienced slot receiver Randall Cobb and many believe the team needs a top tight end even though Jimmy Graham and Marcedes Lewis are back.
During free agency, general manager Brian Gutekunst did sign four potential starters in outside linebackers Za'Darius Smith and Preston Smith, safety Adrian Amos and offensive lineman Billy Turner. The defense began to show some promise last season under new coordinator Mike Pettine but still ranked 22nd in points and 18th in yards allowed. Gary should help a team that watched longtime rush specialist Clay Matthews leave in free agency.