The selections of Eddie Lacy and Johnathan Franklin in April’s draft bring both excitement and question to the Packers’ backfield for the coming fall. In Lacy, the Packers get the goal line force that they have lacked for years, and in Franklin, a three-down speedster. Both backs are virtual locks for the Week 1 roster, if they remain healthy. With these two rookies now in the mix, what becomes of James Starks, Alex Green and DuJuan Harris?
As evidenced in trade rumors during draft weekend, Starks is likely the first back on the chopping block. Starks has been an injury concern since being drafted in 2010 yet, when healthy, offers instant production to any team willing to take on the three-year veteran. I don’t anticipate any team ponying up draft picks in exchange for Starks; the likely scenario is the release of Starks before or during training camp unless multiple running backs suffer injuries.
The Packers had high hopes for Green, who failed to capitalize on a backfield to himself early last season. Green is yet to show any consistent productivity but has significant upside. Since Green was drafted in the third round only two years, the Packers have enough invested in the former Hawaii Rainbow that a strong performance in training camp could prove sufficient for a roster spot. Green could help his case for a roster spot by showing more as a special teamer.
While Harris proved capable of carrying a full load in the 2012 playoffs, he is still seen as a textbook third-down back. And with the release of Brandon Saine in April, the door is open for Harris to stick on the Packers roster with a decreased role. The former car salesman certainly knows how to compete in an uphill battle and should be given the opportunity to retain his three-down role. Strangely enough, Harris may have the best chance of opening the 2013 season as a Packer.
There is no telling what the future looks like for either rookie running back. There remains skepticism around Lacy’s commitment to football and ability to stay healthy. However, it is a certainty that not all three veteran running backs will make the 2013 roster. It is also likely that the Packers’ play calling on offense will become significantly less predictable, with an increased focus on the running game.