Offseason Roster Analysis: Running Backs

A big battle is looming at the No. 3 running back spot behind Eddie Lacy and James Starks and potentially at fullback, as well.

Lacy photo by Jeff Hanisch/USA TODAY

The Green Bay Packers will begin three weeks of organized team activities following Memorial Day weekend, with the first of those that’s open to the public set for Thursday, May 28. We get you ready with a positional look at the team, which continues with the running backs.

Depth chart

Veterans: RB -- Eddie Lacy, James Starks. FB -- John Kuhn.

Rookies and first-year players: RB -- Rajion Neal (undrafted; 2014), John Crockett (undrafted), Alonzo Harris (undrafted). FB – Aaron Ripkowski (sixth round).

Noteworthy: Lacy has rushed for 2,317 in two seasons. Starks has rushed for 1,760 yards in five seasons. None of the other running backs has even played in an NFL game. With Neal (5-11, 220), Crockett (6-0, 217) and Harris (6-1, 237), there isn’t a jitterbug in this bunch to provide a starkly different look than Lacy or Starks. Then again, how much does any of this matter? No. 3 runner DuJuan Harris had all of 16 carries last season, so it’s not exactly a dire need to have one of the rookies contribute immediately.

Offseason outlook

The star: Ted Thompson’s patience was rewarded in the 2013 draft. He traded back in the second round and still wound up with Lacy, who has 3,001 total yards and 24 total touchdowns for his career. There wasn’t any doubt about Lacy’s running skills coming out of Alabama. But Lacy has shown his worth by being a true three-down back – a coveted thing in coach Mike McCarthy’s no-huddle offense. With 1,139 rushing yards and 42 receptions last season, he joined Edgar Bennett, Dorsey Levens and Ahman Green as the only players in franchise history with 1,000 rushing yards and 40 receptions in a season. For his career, he’s allowed zero sacks, one quarterback hit and five hurries, according to ProFootballFocus.com.

The battle: There might not be a more wide-open battle on the roster than at No. 3 running back. In college, Crockett’s three-season total included 1,038 yards in 2012, 1,277 yards in 2013 and 1,994 yards in 2014, giving him a haul of 4,309 yards, a 5.7-yard average and 41 touchdowns. Harris became the third player in Louisiana-Lafayette history to top 3,000 rushing yards (3,300) and finished second in school history with 44 rushing touchdowns. According to ProFootballFocus.com, 74.5 percent of his yards last season came after contact – tops in the entire draft class. Most of Neal’s 2,163 rushing yards came during his final two seasons, including 1,124 as a senior. As receivers, Crockett caught 30 passes as a senior. Harris caught 29 passes for his career, including 15 as a freshman. Neal caught 27 passes as a senior and started a few games at wide receiver as a sophomore.

Rookie impact: There might be a battle at fullback, too. Kuhn, coming off an All-Pro season, was given a one-year contract in free agency that did not include a signing bonus. The coaches and quarterback Aaron Rodgers have the utmost trust in him to deliver, whatever the circumstance. However, is it time to replace or, at least, groom a replacement for Kuhn, who entered the league as an undrafted free agent with the Steelers in 2005? Ripkowski was an outstanding blocker for an Oklahoma offense that ranked among the national leaders in rushing and yards per carry. If he can keep defenses honest as an outlet receiver after being an afterthought in the Oklahoma offense, he'll have a shot.

Quoteworthy: “I’ve gone the other way,” McCarthy said of finding a third back with a complementary skill-set to the top two in the rotation. “I don’t think you can just say this is what we want. There are so many talented young men out there. If somebody has unique talents, your system of offense, defense or special teams needs to be able to absorb that. I’m looking for another good football player, especially at that position. Whoever can produce, we definitely have enough flexibility to take advantage of his skill-set.”

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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