How can the Green Bay Packers upgrade at running back?
By Tim Thomas
Dec 16, 2012; St. Louis, MO, USA; St. Louis Rams running back Steven Jackson (39) carries the ball against the Minnesota Vikings during the second half at the Edward Jones Dome. Minnesota defeated St. Louis 36-22. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports
The Packers have had some issues at running back as the Packers need help in the backfield as a decent running game can make the Packers offense more effective with the ability to have a passing game. The Packers will have the cap space to make some moves this offseason despite the fact that they have to resign Greg Jennings. Alex Green and James Starks are not going to be the players that fix this issue as the Packers will have to look for running backs this offseason and their first option is to do it via free agency.
Steven Jackson is one of the bigger name running backs that will be available and with the emergence of Daryl Richardson as the potential long term replacement. Jackson would be a huge upgrade over Green and Starks, and give the Packers a legitimate running game that would open up more room for Aaron Rodgers to make plays. The question is how much cap space would Jackson’s salary take up and whether it might be too much. Also, Ted Thompson isn’t very involved normally in free agency and after the way Jeff Saturday has disappointed, Jackson might not be that likely of a signing.
November 18, 2012; Pittsburgh , PA, USA; Pittsburgh Steelers running back Rashard Mendenhall (34) runs the ball past Baltimore Ravens linebacker Terrell Suggs (55) and cornerback Corey Graham (24) during the second half of the game at Heinz Field. The Ravens won the game, 13-10. Mandatory Credit: Jason Bridge-USA TODAY Sports
Another free agent running back the Packers could consider is Dallas’s Felix Jones as Jones has fallen behind DeMarco Murray on the Cowboys’ depth chart. Jones is not a power back but Jones has the ability to get outside and make tons of plays in the running game.
The biggest sleeper candidate for the Packers in free agency is Pittsburgh’s Rashard Mendenhall as Jonathan Dwyer has emerged as a long term replacement and Mendenhall is a good risk for the Packers to take. Mendenhall was one of the top 15 or 20 running backs in the NFL before his injury as he could be a steal as he will not demand as big of a contract as he would have last year which will be perfect for the Packers. However, Ted Thompson has never been big on signing non-Packer free agents and I don’t expect that to change this year.
Nov 15, 2012; Charlottesville, VA, USA; North Carolina Tar Heels running back Giovani Bernard (26) runs past Virginia Cavaliers defensive end Bill Schautz (47) during the second half at Scott Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Rafael Suanes-USA TODAY Sports
Therefore, the Packers will need to look to the draft to solve their issues in the backfield and there are some players that could be the right choice for Green Bay. The top running back that could be in this year’s draft is Giovani Bernard.
Bernard has all the potential to be the answer to the Packers problems as he is a good all-around runner as he has very good speed and decent strength. Bernard also was a very effective playmaker in the passing game for a running back at North Carolina as Bernard would be a great fit for the Packers and could be even worth a first round pick.
If Bernard does not end up in Green Bay, the Packers will still have some other options for later rounds. Oregon’s Kenjon Barner proved he can handle a 25 to 30 carry workload at Oregon as he could be a great value in the third round.
A possible value pick on day 3 is Stepfan Taylor who can be at least another Toby Gerhart as he a very tough runner who could a solid starting running back in the NFL. Nebraska’s Rex Burkhead is a potential 6th or 7th round pick that would be higher up if it wasn’t for all of the injuries he had this past season as Burkhead can be an every down running back and he also has excellent speed.
October 27, 2012; Columbia, SC, USA; South Carolina Gamecocks running back Marcus Lattimore (21) rushes for a touchdown against the Tennessee Volunteers in the first half at Williams-Brice Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Blake-USA TODAY Sports
However, the running back who might be the best target for the Packers is South Carolina’s Marcus Lattimore as despite the fact that he suffered a severe injury, the Packers will be able to rehabilitate Lattimore into a healthy starter who has a ceiling as high as Adrian Peterson and could at least be as good as Steven Jackson was over the course of his career.
Lattimore was incredible his freshman year and has shown signs of returning to full health and confident in his legs soon enough. Lattimore has ideal strength, size, and speed as Lattimore can be the star running back that the Packers have been lacking for a long time and is worth risk in as high as the second or third round.