Golden Opportunity for Packers rookie Running Backs

 

Gene Sweeney Jr./Getty Images

 

By: Marques Eversoll

The Green Bay Packers lost running back Eddie Lacy this offseason to the Seattle Seahawks as unrestricted free agent. Ever since, we’ve wondered when the Packers would address the position.

Ty Montgomery became the “starter,” despite converting from wide receiver just last season. And behind Montgomery, only Christine Michael and Don Jackson were under contract. In other words, the Packers went into the 2017 NFL Draft with three running backs who had a grand total of 121 career carries in a Packers uniform.

Shortly after the draft, the Packers cut ties with Michael and Jackson, respectively, leaving Montgomery’s 80 career carries as the Packers’ lone NFL “experience” carrying the football. Packers head coach Mike McCarthy — not surprisingly — called Montgomery the “starter” after the draft. But behind Montgomery, one of the league’s best offenses will rely on their rookies.

McCarthy stresses the importance of having multiple backs, and said after the draft that all three of his new rookie runners have shown the ability to play all three downs. Even with Montgomery entrenched as the No. 1 back, the team will need one of their rookies to step up.

In the fourth round of the draft, the Packers picked BYU running back Jamaal Williams, then doubled-down at the position in the fifth round with UTEP running back Aaron Jones, and finally tripled-down(?) when they took Utah State’s Devontae Mays in the seventh round. It’s undoubtedly an attempt to prevent what happened last year when they were caught with their pants on the ground after Eddie Lacy and James Starks were injured; Don Jackson started. Knile Davis was acquired, then cut. Aaron Ripkowski played some tail back. It wasn’t pretty.

At the very least, the Packers will need one of their rookie runners to step up and play the role of James Starks to Montgomery’s Eddie Lacy. And given the fact that Montgomery has battled numerous injuries throughout his career, perhaps a rookie will be asked to play more than just second fiddle in his first season.

Williams, the all-time leading rusher at Brigham Young, is an interesting story. He missed time to both injury and suspension — for doing things most college students consider “normal,” but violated the Honor Code at BYU. But he’s got a great work ethic, he’s built like an NFL back, finishes every run, and could prove to be one of the best “value picks” of this year’s draft. A golden opportunity awaits.

… and the Packers picked him.

Williams lands in perhaps the perfect situation with the Packers. Without a bell-cow runner in place, Williams could carve out a role immediately as a rookie. Defenses play against the Packers conservatively, and Williams is a tough, between-the-tackles runner that could gash teams if they opt to put extra defensive backs on the field. Williams is a similar player to a younger Starks, whom the Packers rode as their starter his rookie year, down the stretch to the Super Bowl.

Brady Poppinga, the former BYU and Packers linebacker, spoke glowingly about Williams during our Draft coverage this year. Poppinga even went as far as to say Williams would be “an upgrade” over Eddie Lacy.

Jones and Mays will surely add competition to the room, but Williams looks the part. Don’t be surprised if he emerges as a big part of the Packers offense at some point during his rookie campaign.

Oh, by the way, he looks good in his No. 30 Packers uniform. (PhotoShop is an amazing thing.)

 

Marques Eversoll hosts “Air it Out” (9-11 AM) weekday mornings, and co-hosts and produces “SportsLine” (4-6) PM weekday afternoons. He’s on Twitter @MarquesEversoll, and accessible via email at Marques.Eversoll@cumulus.com.