In Day 4 of our Green Bay Packers draft preview, here is a look at the running backs.
Packers depth chart
The only sure thing is DuJuan Harris, which is quite a remarkable statement considering his Packers resume includes all of 71 touches in six games. He averaged 4.6 yards per carry in the regular season and 3.6 in the playoffs with four total touchdowns. By comparison, Alex Green averaged 3.4, James Starks 3.6, Cedric Benson 3.5 and Ryan Grant 4.1 in the regular season with four total touchdowns.
Green, coming off a torn ACL that ruined his rookie season, was given two shots to become the team’s No. 1 back, but he couldn’t hold off the veteran Benson in the preseason and simply didn’t produce after Benson went down with a foot injury that eventually ended his season. Starks has played in just 22 of a possible 48 regular-season games, including six in 2012 when he missed time with toe and knee injuries. Benson and Grant are free agents.
At fullback, John Kuhn is entering his final season under contract. He’s due a base salary of $1.8 million and has a cap figure of more than $2.54 million.
Packers draft outlook
Under Ted Thompson, the Packers have used a second-round pick on Brandon Jackson, a third-round pick on Green, a sixth-round pick on Starks and a seventh-rounder on DeShawn Wynn. Plus, he’s drafted two fullbacks: Quinn Johnson in the fifth and Korey Hall in the sixth. Two things are clear: One, Thompson’s success rate has not been good; and, B, running back has not been a priority.
Also, keep in mind the Packers’ preference for big running backs. Until Harris came along as a practice squad addition, the Packers had just two running backs shorter than 5-foot-11 under Thompson: Jackson and Vernand Morency, both 5-foot-10. So, unless Harris completely changed the team’s thinking, the Packers probably will not consider any short, scat backs. Stanford’s Stepfan Taylor (5-foot-9) could be the exception, according to a source.
Strength of draft class
As a whole, the class is slightly above average, but given the Packers’ preference for big, north-south, pile-moving runners, it’s relative slim pickings beyond Alabama’s Eddie Lacy and Michigan State’s underrated Le’Veon Bell. Questions galore surround Texas A&M’s Christine Michael, South Carolina’s Marcus Lattimore and Arkansas’ Knile Davis.
Bottom of the first (round)
Unless the Packers are showing the ultimate poker face, the interest in Lacy appears to be tepid, at best. He missed a decent chunk of his senior season of high school due a sprained ankle and sprained MCL, had turf toe surgery following the 2011 season and only recently performed for scouts due to a hamstring injury. Bell could be a wild card option. In fact, two scouts say they think Bell is the better back. Several sources have told Packer Report about the Packers’ interest. Round 1 might seem too early but he might not get to pick No. 55 of the second. Lacy has a bit more make-you-miss and Bell is a punisher who led the nation in yards after contact (51.4 percent of his 1,793 rushing yards) and second-half and fourth-quarter rushing.
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Bill Huber is publisher of Packer Report magazine and PackerReport.com and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org, or leave him a question in Packer Report’s subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at twitter.com/PackerReport.