Nonetheless, two sources told Packer Report that the Packers are extremely high on Fresno State running back Ryan Mathews, who is a first-round prospect. The Packers attended Mathews' superb pro day workout on Wednesday. Contrary to a report on SI.com (and repeated elsewhere), the Packers have not invited Mathews to a workout in Green Bay, agent Frank Bauer told Packer Report, but the team generally uses its 30 allotted workouts on players who were not invited to the Scouting Combine. One instance of that was with T.J. Lang last year.
The 6-foot, 218-pounder's 1,808 rushing yards ranked second nationally behind Stanford's Toby Gerhart. He broke 100 yards in 11 of 12 games as a junior in 2009 and scored 19 touchdowns. While those numbers were built largely against subpar competition, he did rush for 107 yards on 19 carries against Wisconsin and 234 yards on 19 carries against Boise State.
He caught only 19 passes the last two seasons, but he's showed soft hands during offseason workouts — a trait that Grant lacks. He's known as a quality pass blocker — a trait Grant also lacks.
"Mathews is a strong runner who excels between the tackles, but has the deceptive quickness to be successful on the edge," Scout.com's Chris Steuber said. "He displays the patience, quick feet and vision necessary to find an opening within the line, has a burst that allows him to get to the second and third levels, and finishes his runs strong by delivering a powerful stiff-arm. He has great balance and strength, runs with a forward lean and breaks several tackles before being pulled to the ground. He runs with a purpose at all times and plays faster on game day than his timed speed suggests. He's surprisingly shifty and will make defenders miss in a small area. He's a complete back who plays with great effort."
Mathews turned in a solid 4.45-seconds 40-yard dash at the Combine. While most of the Combine's top performers rest on those numbers at their pro day, Mathews showed up on Wednesday and, in a spur-of-the-moment decision, ran anyway. He turned in times of 4.48 and 4.53 seconds on grass, according to the Fresno Bee.
Only general manager Ted Thompson knows whether the Packers really would use their first-round pick on a running back when their roster is crying for a cornerback (or two), a left tackle and an outside linebacker. The Packers hold the 23rd pick of the first round. The Chargers, who need a new feature back, are at No. 28.
Perhaps the Packers' interest is just a way to initiate a trade to acquire extra picks to take advantage of this superb draft class. Or, maybe Thompson sees Grant's ballooning salary and wonders how good this offense could be with a truly special running back.
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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 email@example.com, or leave him a question in Packer Report's subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at twitter.com/packerreport and Facebook under Bill Huber.