D'Onta Foreman / JOHNSON / USA TODAY Sports Images

Green Bay Packers Day 2 Lookahead: Running Backs

There is talent — albeit flawed talent — at running back heading into today's second and third rounds.

After two players were selected in the first round, here are the Day 2 options at running back. The Green Bay Packers own two picks in the second round (Nos. 33 and 61) and one pick in the third round (No. 93).

Joe Mixon, Oklahoma (6-0 5/8, 228; 4.43 40; 4.25 shuttle): Redshirt sophomore. Mixon started only nine games at Oklahoma but piled up 2,027 rushing yards (6.8 average) and caught 65 passes for 894 yards. That gave him a two-year total of 2,921 yards and 26 total touchdowns. In 2016, he rushed for 1,274 yards (6.8 average), caught 37 passes for 538 yards (14.5 average) and averaged 23.5 yards with one touchdown on kickoff returns. His school-record 2,331 all-purpose yards got him first-team all-Big 12 honors. Mixon was the only player in the nation in 2016 to account for touchdowns passing, rushing, receiving and returning. His talent is undeniable. In our top 16 backs, he ranked sixth with an average of 3.8 yards after contact. Among all draft-eligible backs, he ranked 11th in ProFootballFocus.com’s elusive rating and seventh in pass protection. If you were to an award one point for each of those ratings for a composite rating, Mixon’s 18 points would rank No. 1 in the draft.

In a vacuum, he would have challenged top-eight picks Leonard Fournette and Christian McCaffrey as the No. 1 back off the board. Really, the only knock on him is ball security (five fumbles last season). However, in July 2014, he punched a female student in the face. Many teams — including Green Bay — brought in Mixon for a visit. The Packers probably wouldn’t have wasted one of their 30 visits on a player who didn’t check out from interviewing those who know him, so chances are they felt relatively solid about his personal growth since the incident. “People better appreciate him,” offensive coordinator Lincoln Riley told the Tulsa World. “He’s fantastic. He’s a fantastic player. He’s a great young man. He’s one of one of most valuable flat-out players on the team because of the energy he brings. … I think Joe will be a team captain one day. He acts like one right now.”

Packers coach Mike McCarthy covets three-down backs. Mixon is a four-down back in the draft. He’s big, he’s fast, he returns kicks and he hits the team’s physical parameters in terms of size, speed and agility. The no-brainer comparison is to Le’Veon Bell.

Dalvin Cook, Florida State (5-10 3/8, 210; 4.49 40; 4.53 shuttle): Junior. One number stands out for the confounding Cook: that 4.53 in the shuttle. Nico Siragusa, a 319-pound guard from San Diego State, ran his shuttle in 4.56. The shuttle is the ultimate measuring stick of change-of-direction agility. The slowest shuttle time for any Packers running back drafted by Thompson was 4.37 seconds by DeShawn Wynn, a 232-pounder who went in the seventh round in 2007. Cook’s time could very well take him off Green Bay’s board — an interesting fact to consider with him still available.

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The film, however, is a different story. In just three seasons, Cook broke Warrick Dunn’s 20-year-old school career rushing record. His 4,464 career rushing yards rank second in ACC history, though Cook is the only player with more than 4,000 rushing yards in three seasons. Cook rushed for 1,765 yards (6.1 average) as a junior, 1,691 yards (7.4) as a sophomore and 1,008 (5.9) as a freshman. It didn’t matter who he played. Cook averaged 5.8 yards per carry against Top 25 teams and 5.7 yards against unranked teams. That includes a 169-yard, four-touchdown day against eventual national champion Clemson. and 145 yards against Michigan in his final collegiate game. Cook ranked second in PFF’s elusive rating. Cook averaged 4.2 yards after contact, the best among our top 16 prospects. Wisconsin’s Corey Clement averaged 4.4 yards overall.

Is Cook a three-down back? Cook has the potential to be an excellent receiver (33 receptions for 488 yards in 2016) but is a poor pass protector (55th in PFF’s protection metric). His pass protection would need to be schemed around. Cook coughed it up six times in 2016 and there are off-the-field concerns. Those facts — and that pesky shuttle — led to him falling through Round 1.

D'Onta Foreman, Texas (6-0 1/4, 233; 4.45 40; 4.26 shuttle): Junior. In 2016, he was a first-team All-American and the winner of the Doak Walker Award, which goes to the nation’s top running back. He rushed for 2,028 yards and 15 touchdowns and led the FBS ranks with 184.4 rushing yards per game — the 10th-highest figure in NCAA history. Foreman played in 11 games. He topped 100 rushing yards in each of them, tying Hall of Famer Earl Campbell for most 100-yard games in a season. In his first career start, he rushed for or 131 yards against Notre Dame. In nine Big 12 games, Foreman rushed for 1,740 yards. He ran for 341 yards against Texas Tech, with 200 coming after contact. In our top 16 backs, Foreman ranked seventh with an average of 3.5 yards after contact. Unlike most backs in most draft classes, there’s not a lot of wear and tear. While he carried 323 times as a junior, he had only 108 in his first two years.First, the good: He’s huge, fast and remarkable agile. “He's faster than you think. The first guy doesn't get him down,” Texas Tech coach Kliff Kingsbury said. As was the case with Lacy, Foreman isn’t dependent on brute force to break tackles. Both Foreman and Lacy did their testing at pro day. At 231 pounds, Lacy ran his 40 in 4.64 seconds and didn’t do the shuttle. Foreman beat Lacy’s 40 time by almost two-tenths of a second. Also, he ranked No. 1 in PFF’s pass-protection metric with no pressures in 163 pass-blocking snaps. He was the only “perfect” back in this draft class with more than 75 snaps, though he won more with size than any particular skill. Now, the bad — and it’s gruesome: In 2016, Foreman caught seven passes but fumbled five times. The fumbles are particularly troubling considering his huge 10 1/8-inch hands that are the second-largest in the draft class.

Samaje Perine, Oklahoma (5-10 5/8, 233; 4.65 40; 4.37 shuttle): Junior. Perine needed only three seasons to set Oklahoma’s career rushing record. Perine rushed for 1,713 yards (6.5 average) and 21 touchdowns as a true freshman, 1,349 yards (6.0) and 16 touchdowns as a sophomore and 1,060 yards (5.4 average) and 12 touchdowns as a junior to give him a three-year total of 4,122 yards (6.0) and 49 touchdowns. As a freshman, a week after Wisconsin’s Melvin Gordon rushed for a FBS-record 408 yards, Perine beat it with 427 yards against Kansas.

Perine started lifting weights when he was 8. Hence, it’s little wonder why he led the running back group with 30 reps on the bench press — seven more than anyone else. His shuttle time would tie Wynn for the slowest of any Packers running back draft pick but he’s 233 pounds, so what did you expect? Combine those two things and you get what you see on film: a powerful runner (with the ability to get skinny) who wins by stinging like a bee rather than floating like a butterfly. There is very little open-field creativity, and if the play is stacked up at the line of scrimmage, Perine is going nowhere fast.

Perine had 40 career catches, with 15 in each of his first two seasons. He’s got good hands, and his size and strength give him the potential to be an excellent pass protector, though he finished only 32nd in PFF’s pass-rushing metric. That gives him the ability to be a poor man’s Lacy as far as being a three-down back. He fumbled twice in 2016 and six times in three years.

Alvin Kamara, Tennessee: (5-9 3/4, 214; 4.56 40; 4.35 shuttle): Junior. Kamara is a confounding case, too, based on Green Bay's history. He'd be the shortest running back drafted by Thompson; Brandon Jackson was 5-9 7/8. Kamara's shuttle time was slow, too. Jackson, James Starks, Alex Green, Johnathan Franklin and Ty Montgomery averaged 4.21. (Lacy did not run a shuttle.) For those reasons, we did not even include Kamara in our original running backs preview. He's never been the guy, with a career-high 106 rushes in 2015. In two seasons, he started only eight games and rushed for 1,294 yards and 16 touchdowns. As a junior, he rushed for 596 yards (5.8 average) and nine scores. He excels in the passing game, with 34 catches (for 291 yards and three touchdowns) in 2015 and 40 catches (392 and four) in 2016. That gave him 1,977 scrimmage yards and 23 total touchdowns, plus a 10.9-yard average on punt returns, in two years. Kamara was Georgia’s Mr. Football in 2012. He redshirted at Alabama in 2013, a dismal year in which he had preseason knee surgery, wasn’t allowed to practice for one week and was suspended for the Sugar Bowl. But he is a dynamic player. He ranked third in PFF's elusive rating and forced a class-high 23 missed tackles on receptions. He fumbled only once at Tennessee.

Bottom line: Mixon and Cook have character red flags. Cook and Kamara didn't test well. Foreman's catch-to-fumble ratio is appalling. Perine is a bruiser but offers little else. Mixon, Foreman and Perine at least offer complementary skill-sets to Montgomery.
Bill Huber is publisher of 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 www.twitter.com/PackerReport.


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