Green Bay Packers draft: RBs to consider
North Carolina Tar Heels running back Giovani Bernard. This is a back who can score any time he touches the ball.
Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports
This morning we’ve already taken a peek at running back Marcus Lattimore as a possible target for the Green Bay Packers draft.
He’s going to be a huge risk for whichever team selects him.
But there are others out there who could fill the need for the Packers. Since Green Bay seems to have cooled on the idea of bringing in former New York Giant free agent running back Ahmad Bradshaw, it’s looking more like the team will consider the draft as the best means to address one of their most glaring needs.
We will focus today on five quality backs who might fit well into their system and the Packers’ draft placement this year:
Eddie Lacy, Giovani Bernard, Montee Ball, Stepfan Taylor, and Le’Veon Bell.
Packers GM Ted Thompson has never selected a running back in the first round and we don’t expect him to break the mold this year either. Most likely Lacy is going in the first round, so it’s unlikely he would land in the Packers’ lap, but we’re including him here because he’s an intriguing selection.
The others – Bernard, Ball, Taylor, and Bell – are second through fourth round selections who are expected more realistic picks for the Packers. Of them – to me – Taylor is the most intriguing, but certainly not the safest.
I would be pleased, frankly, with any of these selections. All of these players would fit well into the Packers scheme and would help the Packers’ anemic running attack. However, I would also caution that improving the offensive line has got to be the number one priority for the Packers. If the team is going to improve it’s running game between the tackles, they’ve got to improve their line up the middle, starting at center. That’s why I believe the Packers should focus on taking a lineman with that first and possibly second round picks, a safety and a running back. They might even throw in a linebacker of defensive back into the mix.
But I digress. Let’s take a look at each of the running backs who may fall into the mix. We’ll do this in no particular.
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Eddie Lacy: The nation saw what Eddie Lacy can do out of the backfield during the national championship game against Notre Dame this past January. That certainly hasn’t hurt his draft status. There are many mocks out there who have the Packers taking him at number 26, but as we said above, that’s not Ted Thompson’s M.O. We also feel there may be a running back-hungry team before 26 who may snatch him up – he’s that big of a talent.
Walterfootball.com has him listed at or near the top in all of their pre-draft attribute characteristics – Natural Running Ability, Yards After Contact, Zone-Blocking Runner, Power-Man Runner, Elusiveness, and Breakaway Speed. The only two categories where he was listed near the bottom of the eight running backs evaluated was in pass receiving and pass blocking – two particularly important categories for the Packers. That fact is one of the reasons I feel the Packers will pass on Lacy in the first round.
Lacy will be an excellent NFL back, I just don’t think it will be in Green and Gold.
Here is video of Lacy …
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Giovani Bernard: Bernard is an elusive, speedy runner who catches the ball very well out of the backfield and could help the Packers recapture their past reputation as one of the best screen teams in the league – that is if the offensive line can pull it off.
Depending on how the draft falls, many feel that Bernard could be a first round selection, but is definitely in the top 20-40 picks in the draft. If the Packers don’t select Lacy with their first round selection, Bernard would be an excellent second round consideration. I feel that Bernard has more of an upside than Ball or Bell and it would be a toss-up between Taylor and Bernard.
If it came down to pass blocking and toughness between the tackles, one would have to give the nod to Taylor, but if it came down to pass catching, speed and elusiveness, Bernard would most likely be the better fit. Bernard’s durability has also been questioned
Either way, Bernard would be a great addition to the Packers backfield and would add the missing element that the Packers have been missing since the departure of Ahman Green.
Here’s video of Bernard …
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Stepfan Taylor: Here’s another running back who would be an excellent addition to the Packers offensive attack. If he’s available when the Packers select in the second or even third round, he would be a no-brainer because he. He’s another back with balance, strength and the ability to run between the tackles and hit the holes quickly. He catches the ball well out of the backfield, and is rated highly for his pass blocking abilities that have become so important in the Packers’ offense.
Toughness would be valued by the Packers as he hasn’t missed a game in the past two years – an advantage, an important advantage that he has over Bernard. In addition, Taylor is one of those backs who does just about everything well and could be the complete back who would add so much to the Packers already explosive offense. In fact, we all know how deficient the Packers running game has been the past two season – Taylor wouldn’t bring an explosiveness to the Packers, but he does have the ability to bring balance.
He’s a safe pick that would be valuable in all phases of the game.
Here’s video of Taylor …
Richard Mackson-USA TODAY Sports
Montee Ball: Given the tag as the biggest disappointment at the NFL Combine, Bell improved his lot immensely at his pro day – with Ted Thompson in attendance – and solidified his draft placement as either a second or third round choice.
Whether the Packers are willing to give up their second round pick on Ball would certainly be up for debate, it’s also a debate whether they would go with the hometown guy over players of Bernard and Taylor’s caliber if they are available with that pick. There are some who would argue that Bell might be the best pick with that selection.
Ball, according to walterfootball.com, is rated mid to low in all the attribute categories they provide, making him one of the possibilities for being a bust at the next level. Because of that, I feel if Ball is selected in the second round, that would be a stretch. He’s got talent and could be serviceable, but I just don’t see the Packers reaching that high into the draft for a player who doesn’t catch the ball well out of the backfield, who is a minimal blocker and doesn’t have the explosiveness of the other players ranked ahead of him.
His strengths include his vision, patience, good feet, cutting ability, stamina and ball security. Those are important positives, but if the Packers do have the opportunity to take him, I would think he would be a fourth or fifth-rounder.
Here is video of Ball …
Le’Veon Bell: Many have grown attached to Bell, but I don’t see him as a good fit with the Packers. He’s a big, plodding back – the type I see as two yards and a cloud of dust-type player. He is a good zone blocking back and picks up yards after contact, but he’s rated in the middle in most other categories. He has very little elusiveness and no breakaway speed, though he is surprisingly rated pretty high as a pass catcher.
He has been considered as a Packers pick, but I just don’t see it happening. Unless they want a player who might step in for John Kuhn in the near future, I just don’t see Thompson having an interest.
There are too many others with more talent in their overall game who would be much better fits for the Packers.
Here is video of Bell …