The Green Bay Packers struggled to find consistent production from the running back position in 2015. With Eddie Lacy struggling with his conditioning and an impending free agent at the end of the 2016 season, and James Starks a free agent and on the wrong side of 30, the Packers may look to invest a draft choice in the running back position.
John Crockett is an interesting young developmental player may be an option at the position going forward. With other pressing needs it seems unlikely that the Packers would draft a running back in the first couple of rounds, unless the value dictated that high of an investment.
Ohio State’s Ezekiel Elliott is the clear-cut number one running back in this class. However, he will likely be off the board when the Packers pick in the first round. Alabama’s Derrick Henry could be available when the Packers pick in the 2nd round. Henry is a one-cut back who won’t show a lot of wiggle, but is a physical force. At 6’3” and 241 lbs. Henry can take on linebackers in the hole, but also has the speed (4.54 40 yard dash) to break big runs. He also showed the ability to factor in the pass game this season, not only catching passes out of the backfield, but becoming one of the best pass protectors at the position.
There are several intriguing backs that may be available in the 3rd through 5th rounds. Alex Collins from Arkansas has an excellent blend of size and speed. He’s a physical, decisive runner, but has had issues with ball security, and despite being a highly touted recruit, was never the dominant feature back in his three years as a Razorback. Devontae Booker had excellent production at Utah as a powerful back who broke a ton of tackles. However, Booker is currently recovering from a torn meniscus and there are some concerns about long speed.
Kenneth Dixon of Louisiana Tech, Jordan Howard of Indiana, and Jonathan Williams of Indiana all offer options of smart, decisive runners who have limited speed and would primarily be running between the tackles. Kenyan Drake from Alabama would provide the Packers with an explosive playmaker who may be the best receiving back in this year’s draft. Drake does have a history of injuries, but also has very low mileage for a college running back.
Paul Perkins of UCLA is a slasher who provides the kind of electric playmaking you’d expect from a small back who played in the spread offense. However, that small frame brings up the concern that he may not be able to hold up to pounding the NFL will bring. Notre Dame’s CJ Prosise is a former receiver who runs very upright and is still learning the position, so his immediate impact would be in the passing game and on special teams. Kelvin Taylor from Florida is the son of former Jaguar running back Fred Taylor. Kelvin is physical, makes sharp cuts, and is an intelligent runner, but lacks ideal body type for the NFL. Josh Ferguson from Illinois is a scat back, who is a good receiver. He is another player who would be an injury concern because of his small frame, and at times can be an indecisive runner.
Ted Thompson will have some options in the early and middle parts of the draft to pick an impact player at the running back position. Depending how early he chooses to take a player at the position will be an indicator of the trust they are willing to put in Eddie Lacy’s conditioning.