This isn't meant as a pure prediction of who the Packers will select in April's draft. Instead, this is meant as a way to introduce you to some of the names who could fill holes on the roster. Our round projections are based on our conversations with three scouts (now, four scouts) and Optimum Scouting's Eric Galko.
How important is the Senior Bowl? In the last five drafts, the Packers have selected 11 Senior Bowl players, including their top selection three times and eight of their 12 choices in the first two rounds. Casey Hayward participated in the 2012 Senior Bowl, Derek Sherrod and D.J. Williams played in the 2011 game, Mike Neal and C.J. Wilson were part of the 2010 game, B.J. Raji, Clay Matthews and Quinn Johnson suited up for the 2009 game, and Jordy Nelson, Brian Brohm and Pat Lee played in the 2008 game.
Here's a strange-but-true fact: During Ted Thompson's eight drafts, he's drafted just four running backs. His strong overall draft record notwithstanding, he's not done well. Brandon Jackson (second round) and DeShawn Wynn (seventh) were taken in 2007, James Starks (sixth) was plucked in 2010 and Alex Green (third) was grabbed in 2011.
This season, Green and Starks played in 18 of a possible 36 games, including playoffs. Combined for their five seasons in the league, they've rushed for 1,409 yards and just two touchdowns.
Plus, Thompson's decision to grab veteran running back Cedric Benson didn't work out when Benson sustained a Lisfranc foot injury that ended his season after five games. Because of injuries and inconsistent play, the Packers rolled into the playoffs with DuJuan Harris and Ryan Grant as their backs. Neither were on the 53-man roster until December.
The Packers are sold on Harris but the rest of the running back corps is in flux. Grant and Benson are free agents, and there's a good chance neither will be back. Brandon Saine, signed as an undrafted rookie in 2011, tore his ACL playing special teams in Week 6.
With coach Mike McCarthy showing a renewed focus on building a running game, don't be surprised if Thompson uses an early pick to form a one-two tandem with Harris.
Stanford's Stepfan Taylor is 5-foot-9 and 216 pounds. Historically, and as we've documented several times, Thompson has shied away from short running backs. Starks is 6-foot-2, Grant is 6-1 and Green is 6-0. Taylor isn't in that mold but he's a north-south runner with great vision, surprising power and the ability to be a three-down back because of his pass-blocking skills and intelligence. About the only thing he doesn't have is breakaway speed. With Harris' explosive stop-and-start, they'd form a nice punch-counterpunch. They could potentially split the carries, with Taylor serving as the third-down back to provide more of a threat in the checkdown game.
Taylor is ready for the NFL game. He was coached by Jim Harbaugh, and his offensive coordinator, Pep Hamilton, recently replaced Bruce Arians as the Colts' offensive coordinator.
"They get you very prepared for the NFL," Taylor said. ‘"In everything they do, they look at the big picture. They look at defenses and blitzes and coverages, rather just running the ball. He always gave me a chance. He knew I could catch the ball and run the ball and also protect the quarterback. I'm here to showcase that."
Taylor left Stanford as the school's career leader with 4,300 rushing yards, 45 touchdowns and 21 100-yard games. As a senior, Taylor was the focal point of an offense that had lost quarterback Andrew Luck. He rushed for 1,530 yards, caught 41 passes and scored 15 total touchdowns to help the Cardinal win the Rose Bowl.
"I just go out there and try to play my game," he said. "You hear all the things on the news but I'm still trying to get to the top spot. I'm going to control what I can control, and that's 100 percent attention to detail."
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Bill Huber is publisher of Packer Report magazine and PackerReport.com and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at email@example.com, or leave him a question in Packer Report's subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at twitter.com/PackerReport.