When you look at the Green Bay Packers’ offense there aren’t too many glaring needs, outside of the line. Quarterback, wide receiver and tight end are set for the most part. This is not to say the Packers won’t take a flier on one of those positions later in the draft, but it would be hard to see them wasting an early round pick.
Running back, however, is a position that could get some play early on. Ryan Grant put together yet another solid season with a career-high 1,253 rushing. However, that does not mean he couldn’t use help. Brandon Jackson has never lived up to his 2nd round status, despite showing some moments late last year. Most fans would be happy with a Grant/Jackson combo, but what if one of the top RB’s is still available when the Packers draft? You would have to at least give it some serious thought. So here’s a first look of some backs the team could be targeting come draft day. We’ll be listing the other top running backs later this evening.
- C.J. Spiller, Clemson
The numbers: 5-feet, 11-inches, 196 pounds…22 years old…4.37 40-yard dash (second best among RB’s)…2009 ACC Player of the Year….2009 1st-team All-American as a kick returner…ACC career leader in all-purpose yards with 7,588, also good for second all-time in NCAA history….Three-time All-American in track.
What he does that could work for the Packers: Spiller is fast, fast, fast. Can add more speed to the backfield to compliment Grant. He is also a very versatile player in the run, pass and return game, giving Aaron Rodgers a potential threat to catch the ball out of the backfield. Spiller will give the Packers a threat in the return game. A smart, high character guy who graduated in 3 1/2 years at Clemson.
What he doesn’t do that could hurt the Packers: He doesn’t have great size and tends to shy away from contact. With a suspect offensive line at times, he will need to change that. Struggles in pass protection, which can take his pass-catching abilities off the field on third down.
Final thoughts: There is no doubt Spiller is a great talent. He can be a great homerun threat in a homerun type of offense. He might be just as valuable in the return game, something the team hasn’t had consistently since Desmond Howard. There have been knocks that he can’t carry the load, which he won’t have to do with Grant. He can probably help this team right away, but will he still be there at 23?
- Jahvid Best, Cal
The numbers: 5-feet, 10 inches, 199 pounds…21 years old, forfeiting senior season…4.35 40 yard dash (best among RB’s)…ran for 1,580 yards as a sophomore in 2008, averaging 8.1 yards per carry…867 yards rushing last season…32 total touchdowns in his last two collegiate seasons combined.
What he does that could work for the Packers: Remember what we said about Spiller being fast? Well, Best is even faster. If Best can find an open patch of real estate – something he’s very good at doing - and get even a quarter-step on a defender, it’s pretty much game over. This holds true in the receiving game, as well. Best has very good hands and is a natural at route-running.
What he doesn’t do that could hurt the Packers: Remember what we said about Spiller being subpar in pass protection? Well, Best is just as bad. Best has also struggled against top-flight competition (USC and Oregon both kept him under 60 yards rushing last season). The biggest knock on Best, though, comes in the form of his concussion history. He’s already been knocked out several times. He likely can’t handle too many more concussions before he’ll have to call it a day as a football player.
Final thoughts: Like Spiller, Best is intriguing because of his ability to hit the home run from anywhere on the field as both a rusher and receiver. If he can avoid the concussions, Best is the type of player who could put Green Bay’s offense into the “truly frightening” category with only 10-15 touches a game. That is a big “if”, of course, as his concussions will certainly scare more than a few teams away. He’ll be there in round one – and maybe round two – but his injury history should lead the Pack to look elsewhere.
- Jonathan Dwyer, Georgia Tech
The numbers: 5-feet, 11-inches, 235 pounds…turns 21 years old in July…forfeited his senior season to enter the draft…ran a 4.59 40 at the combine (improved it to 4.55 for his pro day)…second team All ACC in 2009…ran for exactly 1,395 yards in each of his last two seasons at Georgia Tech…27 total touchdowns in that same span.
What he does that could work for the Packers: Forget everything you’ve heard about Spiller and Best; Dwyer is completely different. At 235 pounds (and a beefy 235 at that), Dwyer is a big, physical, punishing runner who’d rather go through defenders than around them. He’s got underrated quickness and, like Grant, does a good job of hanging on to the ball (no fumbles last season, for example). Also unlike Best and Spiller, Dwyer has no problem sticking around to help pass block.
What he doesn’t do that could hurt the Packers: The main thing here is that Dwyer simply has no experience as a receiving back. He literally caught four passes last season. That’s right – four. That will limit his playing time, at least right away. Also, the Yellow Jackets ran that goofy “flexbone” offense last season, so it might take Dwyer some time to learn a pro-style scheme. There are also some doubts about his gamebreaking abilities as Dwyer isn’t likely to break many 15-plus yard runs at the next level (even though he did it in college).
Final thoughts: There’s a lot to like about Dwyer. His ball security is crucial and he’s tough; he could be a very good closer in the fourth quarter when the defense is tired from chasing Grant, Greg Jennings and Jermichael Finley all day. The lack of pass-catching ability essentially cancels out the whole “change of pace back” idea, though, and you wonder how long it will take him to fully learn a pro offense. Still, he wouldn’t be the worst pick in the world, especially if he falls to the Packers in the second round.
Again, check back later tonight for some more top rushers.
-Adam Somers and Chris Lempesis