The Packers have a handful of positions that desperately need to be attended to this offseason. The defense was a mess throughout the 2016 season, but the already high-powered offense could use some buffs too. The biggest position in question there? Running back.
The Packers struggled running the ball last season, with Aaron Rodgers leading the team in rush yards for a large chunk of the 2016 campaign. Ty Montgomery filled in nicely towards the end of the season, but who will the team put in the backfield for 2017? There are plenty of directions the team could go.
Adrian Peterson could re-sign to a smaller deal with the Vikings after the team decided not to pick up his $18 million option. For now, though, he is a free agent, and the potential that Green Bay brings to the table for the aging star to get a Super Bowl is very appealing. Peterson is coming off of another season-ending knee injury, but has proven he is the master of recovery. In 2011, Peterson tore his ACL and MCL in a late December matchup with the Washington Redskins. Doctors predicted the recovery period to take a year, but Peterson worked hard rehabbing and was back within eight months. That season, “All Day” ran for 12 touchdowns and an incredible 2097 yards, just eight away from tying Eric Dickerson’s record for most rush yards in a season. AP turns 32 this month and is bound to trail off eventually, but he would still be a great addition to any team if he does not re-sign with the Vikings.
The Packers have the 29th pick in the NFL draft and will likely not be able to get Leonard Fournette, who is being acclaimed as the “next AP.” However, there is still talent at running back that would make sense for Green Bay to select in the early rounds. Here are a few options for the Green and Gold:
- Dalvin Cook – A standout at Florida State with burning speed, a solid 6’0”, 215 lb. frame, and pass catching abilities out of the backfield, Cook looks like a great NFL prospect. He is likely to be selected a bit before the Packers get the chance to take him at pick 29, but if he falls he is certainly a player capable of helping Green Bay.
- Christian McCaffrey – The shifty, dual threat stud out of Stanford is a bit small for an NFL running back, but Green Bay has already proven they can make that work by using Ty Montgomery as the featured back for the bulk of the tail end of the 2016 season. Likely to be picked in the first or second round, the former Heisman candidate is a possibility for the Packers.
- D’Onta Foreman – The Texas back led the nation in rush yards in 2016 despite a poor team showing from the Longhorns. At 6’1” and 245 lbs., he is a beast of a man and will be tough for anyone to bring down. The downside to his game is that he is not much of a pass catcher, grabbing just seven receptions last season. He is projected to be picked anywhere from the first to third round, making him another player Green Bay should keep their eye on.
If Green Bay chooses not to acquire a free agent, and opts to focus on other young talent in the draft, the team will have to make to with players they already have.
Christine Michael was an interesting experiment. The Packers picked him up off waivers shortly after he was released by the Seattle Seahawks midway through the season. Michael has talent, shown by his ~600 yards in what had to have been a very tough season on him, bouncing back and forth from starter to backup, switching teams, and learning a new playbook on the fly. He struggled mightily with Green Bay though, scoring just one touchdown and catching just three passes in nine games while never surpassing 47 rush yards in a game. While he may be a valuable asset to the team, he is NOT an ideal player to have as the starter in 2017.
Ty Montgomery is a speedy slot receiver that was moved to the backfield because there were no other options. And what do you know? He flourished as a running back, gaining 5.9 yards per carry. He never carried the ball too much, seeing more than ten carries in a game just three times last season, but he showed that he is great with the ball in his hands and can learn on the fly. Montgomery officially changed his position to running back, and will change jersey numbers this season, showing that Green Bay is not closed to the idea of having him continue in his starting role.
And finally, we get to Eddie Lacy. After an inconsistent 2015 season in which many fans began complaining that he was out of shape and too overweight to be Green Bay’s lead back, Lacy hit the gym hard in the offseason and came back in 2016 looking much more lean, and hungry to prove the masses wrong. Unfortunately, he suffered an ankle injury just five games into the season that required surgery, and led to his season coming to an early end as the Packers placed him on injured reserve. In those five games, Lacy looked like he was getting back to his old self, running downhill and keeping his pads low, breaking tackles and amassing 360 yards on 71 carries, but failing to get into the end zone. Lacy will become a free agent this month, and is a bit of a boom-or-bust option. Green Bay has expressed interest in resigning him, but at what price?
Whatever the Packers do, they will need to improve their run game this season to take some pressure off of Aaron Rodgers. A better run game will also help in controlling the game clock and keeping the lackluster defense fresh. Green Bay is always going to be a contender with Rodgers in at quarterback, but to get over the hump and make it to a Super Bowl there are plenty of changes to be made.