Mock drafts sometimes are worthy of being, well, mocked.
NFL.com analyst Bucky Brooks put out his third mock draft over the weekend. He had Green Bay taking running back Christian McCaffrey with the 29th pick of the first round.
The Packers need a running back after losing Eddie Lacy in free agency. Ty Montgomery had a promising first half-season in that role, but Montgomery (77), Christine Michael (31) and Don Jackson (10) combined for 118 regular-season carries. Can Montgomery hold up to a 16-plus-game workload? Can Michael contribute in the passing game? Can Jackson contribute at all?
With that uncertainty, a scout last week said “don’t dismiss” a McCaffrey-Packers link.
Why not? Sure, the Packers need a running back, but there are bigger needs at guard, cornerback and outside linebacker. General manager Ted Thompson might talk about best available player but, in the first round, “best available player” usually comes with the addendum of “at a position of need.” In 2016, Thompson took Kenny Clark after losing B.J. Raji. In 2015, Thompson selected Damarious Randall after losing Tramon Williams and Davon House. In 2014, Thompson filled a gaping hole in the secondary with Ha Ha Clinton-Dix.
Plus, on the surface, why would the Packers draft the 5-foot-11, 202-pound McCaffrey when they’ve already got Montgomery? If the Packers go with a running back, wouldn’t they want a complementary skill-set rather than a similar skill-set?
However, Optimum Scouting’s draft preview has an illustrative look at its top eight running back prospects (McCaffrey, LSU’s Leonard Fournette, Florida State’s Dalvin Cook, Oklahoma’s Joe Mixon and Samaje Perine and Texas’ D’Onta Foreman). At 202 pounds, McCaffrey wouldn’t seem like the type of back who would get a steady diet of between-the-tackles carries against stacked boxes.
Instead, only the 240-pound Fournette got more carries against eight-plus-man boxes than McCaffrey — with Fournette (69 percent) and McCaffrey (65 percent) the only backs to get even half of their carries against loaded boxes. Meanwhile, 65 percent of McCaffrey’s carries came between the tackles — the fifth-highest rate of Optimum Scouting’s top eight.
“Stanford loves to use heavy jumbo packages, but Christian McCaffrey posting the highest average number of box defenders was still somewhat surprising,” notes author Marcus Mosher. “Most of his work came from inside the tackles in the I-formation or in lone-back sets. While he may not be able to handle the same workload in the NFL as he did in college, he should still be effective between the tackles. McCaffrey averaged an impressive 5.82 yards per carry against eight-man and nine-man boxes.”
McCaffrey is a superb talent who put up huge numbers in a pro-style system. During his final two seasons, McCaffrey rushed for 3,622 yards and 21 touchdowns and caught 82 passes for 955 yards and eight touchdowns. And if that wasn’t enough, he boasted career averages of 26.4 yards per kickoff return and 11.2 yards per punt return.
Montgomery has that same type of versatility. Imagine coach Mike McCarthy having both on the field at once. On one play, one could be at running back and the other at receiver. On the next, they could switch roles. And on the next, they could both be at receiver. Now throw fullback Aaron Ripkowski into the mix. One one play, McCarthy could use his inverted wishbone. On the next, he could use Montgomery and McCaffrey as receivers with Ripkowski as the lone back. The possibilities are endless.
The Packers have a lot of holes. But if McCaffrey falls to No. 29, his big-play ability and versatility would be hard to overlook.
Bill Huber is publisher of PackerReport.com and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org or leave him a question in Packer Report’s subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at www.twitter.com/PackerReport.