The Packers are known for their powerful passing attack, and rightfully so, they have been a top 10 passing offense every year with Aaron Rodgers under center. But in 2013, the Packers had a top 10 rushing attack for the first time since 2004.
The Packers have a workhorse running back in Eddie Lacy, but they also have great depth at the position. James Starks and DuJuan Harris have both been starters for the Packers, and they have a group of young players, led by Johathan Franklin, that could push for carries this season.
The Packers currently have 7 running backs on their roster and I have put them into one of the following categories.
Impact Players – A potential Pro Bowler who opposing teams need to game plan for.
Solid Starters – An average to slightly above average starter.
Quality Backup/Role Players – A player who can start if needed and may also contribute on special teams. These players may also have some upside and untapped potential.
Not Guaranteed a Roster Spot – A player who may be fighting to make the final 53 man roster or the practice squad.
Here is how I currently rank the Packers’ running backs
- Eddie Lacy – Lacy’s bruising running style and ability to get yards after contact makes him the perfect complement to the Packers passing attack. 2013’s offensive rookie of the year ran for nearly 1,200 yards and had 11 touchdowns in 15 games last season. As good as Lacy was last season, he has a chance to be even better this season with a healthy Aaron Rodgers drawing the attention of opposing defenses.
- James Starks – As a rookie, Starks was an integral part of the Packers’ Super Bowl run, but Last year at this time many were wondering if Starks would make the Packers’ opening day roster. The Packers had just selected 2 running backs in the draft, and what little was seen of DuJuan Harris at the end of the 2012 season was very promising. But in 2013, Starks, who has battled injuries much of his career, had one of his most productive seasons in the NFL as a complimentary back to Lacy.
- DuJuan Harris – Harris came on strong at the end of the 2012 season and had been penciled in as the opening day starter for the 2013 season, but a knee injury sidelined him for the entire season, opening the door for a breakout season from Lacy. Harris has reportedly looked explosive during OTAs, and could push Starks for playing time this season.
Quality Backup/Role Players
- Johnathan Franklin – When the Packers traded up to select Franklin in the 4th round of last year’s draft, there were some draft experts who thought that not only would he be one of the steals of the draft, but that he could also be a better back than Lacy. However, Franklin did not impress in training camp or the preseason and often looked indecisive with the ball in his hands. During the regular season, Franklin looked good in the one game where he saw more than a handful of carries, week 3 against the Bengals, but he also had a costly fumble. Franklin is still recovering from a neck injury that ended his rookie season and did not participate in OTAs, which has caused speculation that he could start the season on the PUP list.
Not Guaranteed a Roster Spot
- Rajion Neal –undrafted out of Tennessee, Neal rushed for 1124 yards and 12 touchdowns his senior season. At 5’11” and 220 pounds, Neal is similar in size to Lacy, but he doesn’t have the same physical running style. The Packers seem to be set at running back, but Neal could find his way on to the practice squad.
- LaDarius Perkins – At 5’7” and 195 pounds, Perkins probably doesn’t have the size to be an every down back in the NFL, but his speed and ability to catch the ball out of the backfield make him an intriguing change of pace back. Perkins also returned kicks at Mississippi State, which may help his chances of making the Packers final roster or practice squad.
- Michael Hill – Hill bounced all over NFL rosters last season. Signed as an undrafted free agent by the Chargers, Hill was eventually released and signed to the Packers’ practice squad shortly after the season began; he was then signed to the 53 man roster after a spate of injuries to Packer running backs, but was released after being active for 2 games. After clearing waivers and being re-signed to the Packer’s practice squad, Hill was then signed by Tampa Bay. And after being released by Tampa Bay, Hill once again re-signed with the Packers in February. Hill will have an uphill battle to make the Packers roster this season.