Packers fans clamoring for a free agency acquisition at running back may have to make due with a new rusher coming via the draft.
Big names like Adrian Peterson and Jamaal Charles are still out there, but with legitimate questions their regarding price tag, age and durability – not to mention a fairly loaded draft class at running back – the more likely scenario is Ted Thompson and the Green Bay intelligentsia target a new set of legs come April 27-29 in Philadelphia.
This post will attempt, as others before it, to get a sense of who Green Bay might be interested in.
In the interest of full disclosure, one of my favorite NFL draft writers out there is fellow Packer fan Justis Mosqueda. He's one of the very best in my opinion, and he's the one responsible for finding the exact metrics referenced below. (His pre-draft analysis last season had the Packers taking Kenny Clark in the first round. He knows his stuff.)
Mosqueda dug into the numbers to see the type of running backs Thompson has been interested in. The findings paint the following set of minimums:
- Height: 5-foot-10
- Weight: 205 pounds
- 40 time: 4.55 seconds
- 3-cone: 7 seconds
Based on the available data, several backs nearly meet the criteria. Let’s take a look at them.
Stanford’s Christian McCaffrey has the height (5’11”), 40 time (4.48) and a ridiculous 3-cone result (6.57), but he comes in light at just 202 pounds. His otherwise impressive combine also showed a lack of strength in the bench press (just nine reps), but he showcased other skills – like route-running ability exceeding most wide receivers. McCaffrey is a bonafide playmaker who could instantly help a pass-happy offense like Green Bay’s. Pairing him with former Stanford teammate Ty Montgomery would give the Packers some truly versatile set pieces to move around, flex out, and of course, take handoffs out of the backfield. Can McCaffrey hold up to an NFL pounding? And will he even be on the board at pick No. 29? Those are the biggest question marks.
Alvin Kamara of Tennessee hasn’t participated in all of the requisite drills, and his 4.56 40-time would appear to be a touch slow, but he has good size (5-10, 215) and his burst and agility jump off the tape – leaning me to think his 3-cone would be well within Thompson’s standard. Kamara could be gone in the second round, though he’s good enough to merit a first-round pick. He has excellent lateral quickness and he’s a decisive runner. Most accounts say he needs to bulk up, and his pass-blocking leaves much to be desired, but he’s a monster in space and has excellent hands.
Jeremy McNichols of Boise State meets all the prerequisites (215 pounds, 4.49 40-time, 6.93 3-cone) but he stands just 5-foot-9. That said, I don’t think size is an issue. He’s pretty solidly built, and he’s quite nifty with his feet. His vision is among his strengths – McNichols is great at finding a cutback lane. He’s also fantastic in the screen game and generally excels as pass-catcher. The jack-of-all-trades skill set is exactly what you’d like to see added when your goal is to build depth. McNichols could definitely improve in pass-pro. He’s another guy that isn’t expected to be gone before the 3rd or 4th round.
Brian Hill of Wyoming has the size (6-1, 220) to run over defenders and the speed (4.54) to run away from them, making him an exciting prospect when aligned with Ty Montgomery, one of the NFL’s best after contact on a per-rush instance. He’s more of a traditional, early-down back and thusly makes sense as a potential fill-in for Eddie Lacy. His 3-cone time of 7.03 is right at Thompson’s traditional cut-off, but it’s worth mentioning that Thompson has taken guys before who didn’t his traditional mold (Eddie Lacy is a perfect example). Hill leaves plenty of room for improvement as a pass catcher, but he’s a solid pure runner and has impressive speed to match his most obvious trait: power. Most folks see Hill being selected anywhere from the 3rd to 5th round.
Aaron Jones of UTEP is another “almost,” coming in at 5-9 like McNichols and a tad slow (4.56) like Kamara. He also barely makes weight at just 208 pounds, so questions as to why a smallish rusher doesn’t have better home run speed is legitimate. But on a per-snap basis, Aaron Jones was one of the most productive running backs in all of college football, and he did so on a crappy team. I’ve seen plenty of running back rankings where Jones doesn’t crack the top 20. It’s hard to believe in light of how productive he was. Jones last year rushed for 1,773 yards with 17 touchdowns, averaging 7.7 yards per carry, and added another 28 receptions for 233 yards and three TDs in the receiving game. That he’s physically so close to what the Packers typically covet, he seems like he’d be well worth a 5th or 6th round flier.
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