GREEN BAY, Wis. — No matter what happens with Sean Clifford, whether he becomes a starter or an afterthought, he’ll always have the distinction of being the first quarterback the Green Bay Packers acquired in the post-Aaron Rodgers era.
The Packers drafted him in the fifth round on Saturday, at No. 149 overall, to compete for the backup spot behind newly anointed starter Jordan Love. And the 24-year-old Clifford, who spent six years at Penn State, is actually older than Love by three months and 19 days.
“I’m just excited to learn, be a sponge [from] somebody who’s been with Aaron,” Clifford said shortly after he was selected. “Obviously Aaron has a great track record, a fantastic quarterback, one of the best, and same with Jordan. He’s a hell of a player. I’ve been watching him for a while, so I’m just excited to learn and grow and contribute in every way.”
He became the third quarterback on the Packers’ roster; Danny Etling, a 2022 practice squad member, is the other. Packers general manager Brian Gutekunst has said they will likely have four quarterbacks on their offseason and training camp roster.
At Penn State, Clifford threw 85 career touchdown passes (fourth most in Big Ten history) and left as the school leader in passing yards, touchdowns, completions and wins. He twice beat out Will Levis for the starting job before Levis, who was drafted Friday in the second round by the Tennessee Titans, transferred to Kentucky.
Without Rodgers in Green Bay, the job of the backup quarterback has gone from being someone to help get Rodgers ready for games to someone who can push Love to improve.
“It’s to bring the intelligence that this kid has and just being a really good fit I think, both in that room and then in our locker room, too,” Packers director of football operations Milt Hendrickson said. “Because the kid’s got some gamer to him which we really like and his personality when he’s here really came through. And I just think he’s going to be a really good fit, the person as much as he is a player, too.”
Clifford was the 11th quarterback selected in the 2023 draft, matching 1995 for the most quarterbacks picked through five rounds in the common draft era (1967-present), according to ESPN Stats & Information.
Clifford was part of an offense-heavy start to the first draft in the post-Rodgers era. Gutekunst already had taken two tight ends (Oregon State’s Luke Musgrave in the second round and South Dakota State’s Tucker Kraft in the third) and two receivers (Michigan State’s Jayden Reed in the second and Virginia’s Dontayvion Wicks in the fifth). Five of the Packers’ first seven picks were on the offensive side of the ball.
The four receiver/tight end picks are the most pass-catchers drafted by the Packers through five rounds in the common draft era.
“Now I think we have a good nucleus of guys, pass-catchers to be able to grow with the quarterback,” Gutekunst said Friday after three rounds were completed. “I think that’s important.”