Grading Thompson on the Running Backs

It took Ted Thompson until his ninth draft to land a difference-making running back, Eddie Lacy. Thompson navigated the second round of the 2013 draft beautifully to get Lacy, who has 3,000 total yards in two seasons. (Benny Sieu/USA TODAY)

This will be Ted Thompson’s 11th draft atop the Green Bay Packers, meaning there’s a decade’s worth of history to examine as this year’s draft approaches. We are taking a position-by-position lookback to see where he and his scouting department have turned up gems and where they have turned up turkeys.

Running backs

2007, 2nd round — Brandon Jackson, Nebraska (5-10, 210): Jackson was given a chance to start as a rookie and in 2010, when Ryan Grant went down in the season opener. He failed to be much more than a solid third-down back, though. In four seasons with the Packers, he rushed for 1,383 yards and added 844 yards on 110 catches. He played two games for Cleveland in 2011 and 2012. Grade: D.

2007, 7th round — DeShawn Wynn, Florida (5-10, 232): Wynn had a 38-yard touchdown run against the Giants in 2007 and a 73-yard touchdown against the Lions in 2008. Those, however, represent about one-third of his career total of 332 rushing yards put together over 23 games in four seasons. Grade: F.

2010, 6th round — James Starks, Buffalo (6-2, 218): Starks emerged in the playoffs to help power the Packers to a championship as a rookie and led the NFL with 5.5 yards per carry in 2013. Durability concerns and issues in the passing game have prevented him from being the team’s workhorse. Starks will enter next season, his sixth in the league, with rushing totals of 1,760 yards and seven touchdowns. Grade: C-plus.

2011, 3rd round — Alex Green, Hawaii (6-0, 225): Green tore his ACL as a rookie and managed just 464 yards (3.4 per carry) when given a featured role in 2012. He played in 13 games for the Jets in 2013 and finished a disappointing 29-game career with only 510 rushing yards and no touchdowns. Grade: F.

2013, 2nd round — Eddie Lacy, Alabama (5-11, 231): The hard-charging Lacy has rumbled for 2,317 yards and 20 touchdowns in his first two seasons. Along with the output on 77 receptions, he’s piled up 3,001 yards and 24 total touchdowns. Despite the abuse he absorbs (and dishes out) he’s missed just one game in his brief career. In the second round of that draft, Green Bay moved from No. 55 to No. 61. At No. 58, Denver took Wisconsin legend Montee Ball, who has rushed for 731 yards and five touchdowns. Lacy went at No. 61 and Seattle took Christine Michael at No. 62, with Michael having 254 rushing yards behind Marshawn Lynch. By trading back in the second round, Thompson was able to get David Bakhtiari in the fourth. Grade: A.

2013, 4th round — Johnathan Franklin, UCLA (5-10, 205): Franklin’s career ended with a neck injury sustained vs. Minnesota as a rookie. He rushed for 107 yards, with 103 coming vs. Cincinnati in his only extensive action. Grade: Incomplete.

Fullbacks

2007, 6th round — Korey Hall, Boise State (6-1, 230): Hall started 26 games and caught 21 passes in four seasons for the Packers before spending 2011 with the Saints. Grade: C.

2009, 5th round — Quinn Johnson, LSU (6-0, 246): Johnson was supposed to be the big, powerhouse, bruising lead blocker but it never worked out. He struggled to find moving targets as a blocker and couldn’t catch a cold. He started four games for the Packers in two seasons and nine games for the Titans the next three seasons. Grade: F.

Overall Grade

Dog Thompson for missing on Jackson and Green, if you wish. However, it’s worth noting that of the 16 backs picked after Jackson, only Michael Bush (fourth round) and Ahmad Bradshaw (seventh round) rushed for more yards than Jackson and only Jason Snelling and Bradshaw have more receptions. None of the 21 backs picked after Green have done much of anything, either. In fact, only four have rushed for more than Green’s meager total. Grade: B-minus.

What it means (if anything) for 2015: The Packers’ preference has been for big backs. That lists not only includes Lacy, Starks and Green but guys like Grant and Cedric Benson. However, given what seems to be a larger focus on special teams, you wonder if the Packers might expand their horizons if they can land a change-of-pace back with proven return experience. Oh, and of the six running backs and two fullbacks drafted by Thompson, only Hall wasn’t at the Scouting Combine.

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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