The offseason will be officially be upon the NFL in just under 48 hours and that means it’s time to look inward at your own roster to see where you stand. And for the Packers, that stance is still pretty strong. They have a lot of strong spots on the 90-man, but that doesn’t means that these strengths cannot be augmented.
But like all teams, they also have weaknesses, and we will look at them as well. And like the first part in our position be position outlook, we will address potential free agent additions that make sense as well as draftable players that would fit the team. But instead of quarterbacks, we will be looking at the guys who reside in the backfield with him: the halfbacks and fullbacks.
We start with arguably the most scrutinized man in Green Bay over the past season:
The third-year running back was a major disappointment on and off the field for the Packers, as he showed up to camp overweight and only got bigger as the season went on. Once compared to Marshawn Lynch, he now is known as “Feast Mode” due to his propensity for playing at least 30 pounds over the desired weight. Looking at the pure numbers, he wasn’t as terrible as the fans made him out to be, though he wasn’t even close to the guy that had run over the NFC North for two years. He ran for 758 yards at 4.1 yard per carry. But he took a long time to hit holes and lost his agility over the season, leading to a public calling out by Mike McCarthy after the season ended. He also had his worst season as a receiver (20 rec.) and had a career high four fumbles. He has since allegedly been reached out to by P90X creator Tony Horton who will attempt to get him back to the budding superstar he was over his first two seasons. And in a contract year, he has to bring it or he will be looking for a new home.
Where would the Packers be without Starks over the past six years? He has been a dependable back who, while he will never be a top flight starter, is one of the best backups in the NFL. A great change of pace from Lacy, he is much more decisive and hits the hold with a ferocity you would expect from a guy who is only 215 pounds. Starting four games after Lacy was benched, Starks set career highs in almost every meaningful category, including carries (148), yards (601), as well as his career long run of 65 yards. He also was a key member of the passing game, executing the screen pass to great effect, keeping defenses a little more honest without a serious deep threat on the team. He ended up catching 43 passes for 392 yards and 3 touchdowns. The only downside to his season was his 5 fumbles, all in consecutive games. If he can hang on to the ball, he is an exceptional back. A free agent, the Packers will likely look to keep him, but there might be a team out there who might give him one more chance to be a full time starter, but at 29 going on 30, hopefully he can come back to Green Bay for a reasonable price and form a potent combo with Lacy.
One of the most hyped UDFA signees last season, Crockett didn’t make the final 53, getting beaten out by Alonzo Harris, but after the Detroit curfew incident, Crockett got promoted the day of the game and got his first NFL action in Hail Mary #1, showing his burst and agility on a couple of runs, one of which was a slippery 12 yard gain. But he never could get it going, partly because he rarely got used near the end of the season, partly because he was still adjusting to the NFL’s speed. But he showed some potential that could make him a steal as a third down back and maybe the primary backup if Starks leaves in free agency. A record setter in college, Crockett had the ideal size and skill set for a third down back and if he can become more comfortable in the offense, look for him to be a potential break out candidate in 2016.
Warm body from the practice squad. He was the only player from the squad not to get a futures contract, so he likely won’t even make to the Draft on the Packers roster.
A Pro Bowler again, Kuhn always seems to be the guy most likely to be shown the door after every year, but he continues to produce, as a runner, receiver, blocker, and perhaps most importantly, a leader in the locker room. Kuhn had his lowest rushing total in 6 years in 2015 as he carried the ball only 9 times, but scored on 2 of them. He also only caught 6 passes, but scored on one of them. So if nothing else he was efficient. But he buoyed the offense with his attitude and work ethic day in and day out, so he could be a Packer again next year. Another impending free agent, we’ll see if the Packers have confidence in the guy below to let Kuhn go or if we will see #30 in the Green and Gold again
Ripkowski was drafted to be the heir apparent to Kuhn and while he did see action in 15 game, he didn’t record a single carry and recorded just one catch for 18 yards. He played primarily special teams and was adequate, but didn’t ever stick out. A pure throwback blocking fullback, Ripkowski was known for his bruising style, but he needs to show it in camp this year otherwise he might be a one year player in Green Bay.
FREE AGENT FITS
The Packers aren’t looking for a starter, so depth running backs are the key here. Of them, there are a few interesting options to at least give a look to, including Jacquizz Rodgers. He was thoroughly ineffective for Chicago last year but when he was in Atlanta, he made some big plays. As a third down guy he could be worth a look. There really aren’t any other good depth backs out there in unrestricted free agency.
This is where we will likely see a guy drafted. Maybe as high as Round 2 or 3. One back I am keeping an eye on is Kenyan Drake from Alabama. Now a year removed from his broken leg, he is an explosive back who is a true home run threat whenever he touches the ball. Just take a look at his kick return touchdown in the National Championship game. According to CBS Sports, he is a round 3 prospect, and he could be a steal there. Other guys to keep an eye on in later rounds are Aaron Green from TCU, Paul Perkins from UCLA, and DeAndre Washington from Texas Tech. And for fullbacks you can never go wrong drafting a Watt (Derek) or a Gronkowski (Glenn). I fully expect a running back to be drafted by Ted Thompson without a doubt.
Next week we hit on the area that caused so much grinding of teeth and potentially destruction of drywall or television screens: the wide receivers.——————
Mike Wendlandt is originally from Iola, Wisconsin and graduated from Drake University in 2015 with a degree in History. With a significant journalism background both in writing and broadcasting, Mike can be heard as the play-by-play voice of Central Wisconsin High School sports on WDUX FM 92.7 and on Twitter @MikeWendlandt.
Mike Wendlandt is a writer covering the Green Bay Packers for PackersTalk.com.