NFL Draft Countdown: Packers by position

Running back Ahman Green is the man – that was established when he succeeded Dorsey Levens as starter, sending Levens packing to Philly. Tony Fisher made a splash in preseason, then proved that he's not just another Mr. August. Last year's 4th-round pick, Najeh Davenport, is now listed at RB instead of fullback on the roster.<p> What bearing does all that have on Packer draft strategy? They can clear some clutter from the board, because they won't be shopping for an RB on Saturday.<p>

Coincidentally, neither Green ('00 trade with Seattle) nor Fisher (undrafted FA '02) were drafted by the Pack. Last year's premier running back, Kanas City's Priest Holmes, wasn't drafted either. It looks like this might be another year without a RB phenomenon like Ricky Williams making a big splash on draft day.

Had Miami's Willis McGahee not blown out his knee in his final college game, things might have been different. Instead, Larry Johnson of Penn State is the top of the lot, if only because he has no haunting medical history. Then comes McGahee, then Lee Suggs of Virginia (knee), Justin Fargas of USC (multiple leg surgeries), Musa Smith of Georgia (many minor injuries), Onterrio Smith of Oregon (knee, shoulder), LaBrandon Toefield of LSU (knee), Cecil Sapp of Colorado State (foot).

Ouch.

Unlucky teams who have to gamble a high pick on running back include the Steelers, Cowboys and Patriots. The Lions and Bears are looking, too.

That doesn't mean that teams like the Packers, pretty well set at running back, will shy away altogether. Last year the Broncos surprised a lot of people last year by taking Clinton Portis in the second round despite already having several quality backs on their roster. Portis ended up as the Offensive Rookie of the Year.

As for the fullback position, the Packers have nine-year veteran William Henderson still going strong. With Davenport listed as an RB, that leaves recent free-agent signees Nick Luchey and Jerry Westbrooks as backups.

IF the Packers go for Henderson's eventual replacement through the draft, that may be a good way to spend a second-day pick. The highest-rated fullback in the draft is Ovie Mughelli of Wake Forest (6-2, 248), who barely cracks the top 100 prospects. That means that he may very well be around for the Packers' third-round pick if they're interested. As a side note, the Packers have struck fullback gold before in the third round, selecting Henderson out of North Carolina with their second pick of the third round in 1995. Rounding out the top five fullbacks in this year's draft rankings are Andrew Pinnock (South Carolina), B.J. Askew (Michigan), Casey Moore (Stanford) and James Lynch (Maryland).


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