First thing’s first. The Packers have a couple running backs with game experience…Ty Montgomery comes in as tailback and Aaron Ripkowski was able to step in as feature back as well as needed. Ty, the converted wide receiver, could de facto be argued to be the best past catching running back around. Ripkowski is a guy who is rarely in the wrong place…rarely makes a mistake (Packer Nation remembers one, however). These two look to be the core of a running back group that will likely be the beneficiaries of additions like Martellus Bennett and Jahri Evans. But the young rookie tailbacks in particular will likely be called upon early and often as there is currently no-one behind Ty Montgomery on the depth chart…wide open competition.
The Packers drafted three running backs mid to late in the 2017 draft, partly because they were the best player available, and partly because they hedge the bet that one of these guys becomes at least a serviceable number two. The draft favored Thompson not just in quantity but also in quality as these three backs would likely have been long gone in years where there was less depth at the postition. Let’s take a look at them.
Jamaal Williams: BYU 6’0″ 212 lbs Rd 4 pick 28 (134 overall)
Williams has patience without being wishy-washy. A decisive runner who was a four year starter and ran for almost four thousand yards. Williams’ 5.6 yard average is not as flashy as some players who didn’t have as many games under their belt but availability is paramount and almost six a carry is definitely good. Translates well to the NFL with a solid stiff-arm to handle angling tacklers and enough bend to bring contact to defenders and gain an extra yard or two. Williams (whether for good or ill) has been likened by draftniks to former Packers running back, James Starks.
Williams was rated as a better back than Samaje Perine or Joe Mixon by some scouting companies and will certainly have a chance to prove his worth in Green Bay. With Ty Montgomery in the driver’s seat, Williams could become the thunder to Montgomery’s lightning and give the Packers extra versatility with Aaron Ripkowski as well. He may project as a good short yardage option for the Packers in heavier packages that require a one-foot cut and decisiveness. At 212 pounds, some would say he may need to add some meat to his six foot frame but the training staff will make that decision and it will be up to Williams to carry it out. If he runs at closer to 220, he could become an interesting first down back as well. The Packers are in an interesting situation overall because their three down back (Montgomery) is a prototypical third down back. But the Packers like to rotate their backs to keep them fresh so Williams would presumably be in on a series-by-series basis. It will be interesting to see if coach McCarthy moves away from that paradigm and rotates the number two in with Ty intermittently in a series rather than a series at a time. I think this change would maximize the effectiveness of both Montgomery (keeping him fresh but letting him get in the “zone”) and the rookie (here, presumably, Williams who doesn’t have to be the bell-cow for an entire series).
Williams is a bit of an upright runner but he has great instincts in traffic and uses his blockers well in the open field, and with the Packers’ focus on downfield blocking from WR’s and the like, and the excellent job they typically do blocking the run game, I think Williams may be as seamless a fit as any of these rookies can offer. With mini-camp in full swing and training camp just around the corner, I will be looking for good things out of Williams and expect him to fit well with our zone schemes as well as in the power game. I think the ability to do both may be what separates Williams from the pack and I expect him to be given plenty of chances to become “the guy” behind Montgomery going into the regular season. Of course, time will tell and the Packers have 2 other rookie draftees that will be competing with their eyes on that second string position.
check out Williams’ 2016 highlights here:
Aaron Jones: Texas El-Paso 5’9″ 208 lbs Rd. 5, pick 39 (182 overall)
The twin brother of Alvin will have plenty of support as he tries to prove his value to the Packers’ roster. Aaron Jones is compact and explosive, more explosive than Williams. In fact, according to 3 Sigma Athlete, Aaron Jones scored third highest among all running backs in SPARQ this year, which is above guys like Kamara, McCaffrey, Mixon, Perine, Mays, Mack….you get the picture. SPARQ stands for speed, power, agility, reaction, and quickness and is a wide-ranging set of tests which, when combined with the athletes bodyweight, give a score. The test is most practically used to determine where an athlete needs to do the most work. Jones’ SPARQ score indicates that he is a full 33.3 percentage points above the SPARQ score of the average current NFL running back. This 33.3% (83.3% overall where 50% is average) is not the above the average of the candidates in this year’s draft…but above the average of current players in the league. The most important thing to get out of it though is…Jones is a compact (5’9″ 208 lbs) and very explosive athlete.
I think Jones is in a position to give Williams a run for his money and his past productivity couldn’t hurt him. Jones racked up over 2,000 combined yards for UTEP and was one of only 42 players to accomplish that since ’06. According to RotoViz, Jones accounted for 45.3% of the team’s total yards from scrimmage in 2016. This puts him in the same conversation as Leonard Fournette, along with McCaffery and many of the above mentioned (with more thrown in like D’onte Foreman, Dalvin Cook, Donnel Pumphrey) but looking at NFL players who accomplished the 2,000 yard mark and went on to play in the NFL the list grows and the company is still the good kind to keep:
- Melvin Gordon
- Matt Forte
- Ray Rice
- Tevin Coleman
- Ezekiel Elliott
- Trent Richardson
Productivity is the name of the game and Jones has that in spades. With his athleticism and explosiveness, he will be gunning for the number two spot as well and may be the most electrifying of the backs the Packers drafted. Don’t blink, or you might miss him taking the second spot behind Ty Montgomery. At the same time, that is part of my hesitation…the Packers have Ty Montgomery. It would seem that a bruising, churning chain-mover the likes of Eddie Lacy may be a better complement…well that brings us to our final rook.
Here are your Aaron Jones highlights:
Devante Mays: Utah St. 5’11” 230 lbs round 7 pick 20 (238 overall)
Just for comparison purposes…when Eddie Lacy came out, he was measured at 5’11” and 231 pounds…but he ran a 4.52 40 yard dash as opposed to Lacy’s 4.64. Mays also boasts a 420 pound bench press so his strength is up there. Mays has had his share of injuries or he would likely have been drafted higher. He is a big “load” with a solid lower body and strength all the way through. Getting a prospect like this as late in the draft as the Packers were able to shows the depth of the draft and, if Mays can stay healthy he looks pound for pound like a Lacy clone without the China food problem.
Mays likes to lower the boom and he has more “boom” than most to lower. One knock is that he tends to lower his head with his pads and bring himself to the ground. But pad-level overall is good. He has adequate speed, fluid hips and is built like a brick you-know-what-house. Add to that a little bit more speed and he truly looks like the total package. The injury history is a concern but there will be plenty of time for Mays to prove his value to this team. He is another guy who looks like more of a complement to Ty Montgomery.
Here are some Mays highlights to whet your appetite:
As you can clearly see by now, the Packers chose three running backs in this year’s draft for more reason than just need. Each of these young players brings their own exciting aspect and it will be fun to see them compete at the highest level. Of course, so much has to do with the mental aspect of the game and how each of these players absorbs the concepts of an intricate offensive system. And then there is special teams considerations and whoever contributes to S.T. will likely get a leg up on the competition. But looking at this list causes me to wonder if we can’t get by with just one fullback…and make sure all these horses are in the stable come September.