With the impending free agency of both Aaron Jones and Jamaal Williams, the likelihood of losing one if not both options look to grow by the day. And with the uncertainties surrounding the falling salary cap number, it seems like they both could be done as Packers running backs. Thankfully, this year’s class of rookie running backs can help with that.
Jones has been one of the most consistent RBs in the league the past two seasons, getting the fair share of carries and getting integrated into the passing game under head coach Matt LaFleur. Being utilized to his strengths, unlikes under former HC Mike McCarthy, Jones has generated a ton of value for himself heading into free agency, and he should command top dollar, even for a position that commonly does not justify paying big money for.
Not to be left out, Williams has done his fair share as the hybrid back of the bunch, providing both power and elusiveness, as well as supreme ball security. The BYU product has spent his entire career, just like Jones, with the Pack, and he has established himself as two in the one-two punch with Jones, something that Packers fans may need to learn to live without moving forward.
So if both Jones and Williams were to leave, Green Bay would not be entering into the 2021 NFL season with just second-year man AJ Dillon as their lead back. While the Boston College product showed some solid moments, it was the lack of touches that he earned that makes him not ready to take over that bell-cow role for this team. Plus, LaFleur’s offensive system is built around RBs holding different skillsets, and Dillon’s fits into it but does not cover the whole gamut of what he would need.
This upcoming NFL Draft has a bunch of potential fits for what LaFleur and offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett would be looking for as Jones/Williams replacements – here are three options that they could target in April.
After having sat out the ‘20 NCAA season due to having unfortunately lost family members to the ongoing pandemic, Kenneth Gainwell used his impressive 2019 stats and his workouts to help boost his stock heading into this year’s draft.
The former Memphis Tiger is a very elusive back, as his 5-foot-11, 190 lb. frame suggests – gaining some weight to boost him up over 200 pounds would do him well, but LaFleur certainly would be interested in him to help with his zone scheme.
Gainwell projects to be one of the top guys off the board once both Najee Harris and Travis Etienne go, and he could carry out what another fellow Memphis RB (Antonio Gibson) did in the NFL and combine solid rushing and receiving skills to break out in his rookie campaign. The Packers would look to target him in the 2nd or 3rd round.
Another mid-round option for Green Bay is UNC’s Javonte Williams, who combined with Michael Carter to form a solid combination for the Tar Heels last season. While Carter is seen as more of the elusive option, Williams combines athleticism and brute force and packs a punch with his 220 lb. frame.
Williams did not become much of a household name until last season, where he broke out to the tune of over 1,400 total yards, 22 total touchdowns on just 182 touches. His receiving abilities improved as the year went on, but he showed out more on the ground, running for 1,140 yards and 19 scores.
With a lack of sustained collegiate production, Williams may be seen as a bit of a risk going on Day 2 of the draft, but Green Bay could look to pair his physicality with Dillon’s. Williams has a better passing game acumen than what Dillon has, and even though his pass-blocking work will surely need to improve if he wants to see the field, he could be a sneaky addition in April.
You want Percy Harvin back in the league? Take a few MPH off the speedometer and you have Demetric Felton.
The UCLA Bruins RB/WR hybrid was a Swiss army knife for them, showcasing his athletic abilities in both the rushing and passing games. In 2019 Felton scored four TDs of 75 yards or more (including two of 90+ yards against Washington State in just one game), and in 2020, Felton had two games of 100+ rushing yards (against Cal and Oregon), so he is dangerous from both areas of the game.
His undersized frame (5-foot-8, 189 lbs.) certainly can lead to him being beat up by defenses, but having Felton in the role that was supposed to be for Tyler Ervin would be a great way to get him in on plays early on in his career.
A mid-round grade, settling around the fourth round, would be solid value for Felton, and he would immediately become a nice gadget option with potential for sturdy projections as he gets into his role more.뿓뿓뿓
Mike Johrendt has been an avid fan of the Packers ever since he can remember. He is now a writer at PackersTalk and you can follow him on Twitter at @MJohrendt23