Without Jackson, Who Are Draft Options at RB?

An AFC scout breaks down the six power backs who fit what the Packers desire in a running back. Eddie Lacy and Le'Veon Bell are the cream of the crop, with Wisconsin's Montee Ball sitting third. Get his breakdowns in yet another draft exclusive.

Where do the Green Bay Packers turn at running back now that they lost out on Steven Jackson?

Obviously, there are in-house candidates James Starks and Alex Green. Starks, a sixth-round pick in 2010, has been productive when healthy but has played in only 22 of a possible 48 regular-season games in his three years. Green, a third-round pick in 2011, tore his ACL during his rookie season. Either he wasn't fully recovered last season or the Packers simply missed on a big running back who doesn't run with much power or vision.

Cedric Benson and Ryan Grant are free agents who would welcome a return but their careers are on hold until the Packers — and the rest of the league — see where they are at running back following the draft and offseason practices.

That leaves the draft. Recall what the Packers' draft preference: They like big, north-south runners adept at gaining yards when fields in Green Bay (and other northern locales) get bad in late November, December and January. Who would form a nice tandem with DuJuan Harris?

Here are the top six big, three-down backs, according to an AFC scout familiar with the Packers' preferences and scheme.

Eddie Lacy, Alabama (5-11, 231): Lacy rushed for 1,322 yards (6.5 average) and 17 touchdowns as a junior in 2012. The consensus top pick in the draft will go in the bottom one-third or so of the first round. He does have a history of ankle and hamstring issues, and he hasn't tested because of his hamstring. On the plus side, he had only 355 carries at Alabama.

Scout: "He's a real good player. He's a guy that's going to run through tackles. For a big guy like him, he has some elusiveness to him. He's not a real shifty guy but he has a subtle patience to his running style."

— Le'Veon Bell, Michigan State (6-1, 230): Bell rushed for 1,793 yards and 12 touchdowns, plus caught 32 passes for 167 yards and another score, as a junior in 2012. He carried the ball a whopping 382 times this season but his three-year total of 671 is of no concern.

Scout: "Le'Veon is an intriguing kid. He's probably worked himself up into that mid-second round. I think I graded him in the third but he'll go before that just because he's done so well (in the offseason). When I was at Michigan State (for its pro day), he caught the ball real well. He's smooth, he's fluid. For (Green Bay's) style — zone running, downhill — he's a good back for that style of offense. Plus, he can catch the ball out of the backfield and he can block"

Montee Ball, Wisconsin (5-11, 214): Nobody in the scouting community understands why Ball came back for his senior season. He rushed for 1,923 yards and 33 touchdowns in 2011 and 1,830 yards and 22 touchdowns in 2012. For his career, he's had a stunning 924 carries — including 663 the past two years.

Scout: "Montee's just a solid, jack of all trades, master of none. You'd like for him to be a home run hitter, which he's not. You talk about a guy that he puts it up under his arm and he's going to get you 4 or 5 yards. He's just very natural and has very good vision and really has a natural feel. I could see him coming off the board in the mid- to late second (round)."

Christine Michael, Texas A&M (5-10, 220): Michael rushed for 631 yards in eight games as a sophomore until breaking his leg. He rushed for 899 yards in nine games as a junior until a season-ending knee injury. His senior year fizzled after a one-game suspension and spent the year in the doghouse, which limited his production to 432 yards. He carried 529 times in four seasons.

Scout: "His character, people are going to be leery of him because you can't count on him to do the things you need to do to be successful on the field. Will he know the plays? Will he go hard in practice? Some of those types of things. Does he have ability? He has a bunch of ability. Can you count on him week in and week out? That's going to be his biggest deal."

Marcus Lattimore, South Carolina (5-11, 221): If healthy, Lattimore would be the overwhelming top back in the draft and perhaps the top pick overall. He tore the ACL in his left knee in 2011 and three ligaments in his right knee in 2012. In three seasons, he rushed 555 times for 2,677 yards (4.8 average) and 38 touchdowns.

Scout: "His knee, even when he walks, his knee is kind of tilted out. It doesn't look that great. I think that thing's pretty nasty."

Knile Davis, Arkansas (5-11, 227): Davis also has been dogged by injuries, though not nearly to the extent of Lattimore. He rushed for 377 yards and just 3.7 yards per attempt as a junior in 2012. He missed all of 2011 with a broken ankle sustained a few weeks before the start of the season. Dating to high school, he's had two broken ankles and a broken collarbone. Dominated the Combine with a 4.37 in the 40 and stunning 31 reps on the bench.

The scout hadn't evaluated Davis and limited his thoughts to: "He ran really fast and he's big and he was real productive early before getting hurt." A separate scout during the Combine said Davis was a "Mack truck with Ferrari speed."

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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 packwriter2002@yahoo.com, or leave him a question in Packer Report's subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at twitter.com/PackerReport.

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