With one of the league’s top quarterbacks in Aaron Rodgers and a deep group of pass catchers in place, the Green Bay Packers will continue to have a pass-oriented offense for the foreseeable future. But with a rushing offense that has finished 20th in the league or worse in each of the last three seasons a talent upgrade at running back was clearly needed, and they used two of their first five picks in April’s draft on the position.
After using their second-round pick (61st overall) on Alabama’s Eddie Lacy, the Packers used their third fourth-round pick (125th overall) on a second rookie running back in UCLA’s Johnathan Franklin. Both were highly touted in pre-draft rankings, with Lacy broadly considered the best running back in this year’s draft class, and each should step into a significant role immediately.
Lacy currently sits atop the running back depth chart for the Packers, but Franklin had 33 receptions during his senior season at UCLA and his overall skills are a good fit for the team’s offense. DuJuan Harris, James Starks and Alex Green all had some good moments as a primary ball carrier for the Packers in 2012, however fleeting, and it would not be surprising to see at least one of those three incumbents traded or released sometime during training camp.
There is little doubt that Franklin will make Green Bay’s 53-man roster, and he may well be the most versatile back on the team. He got some work returning kickoffs and punts during rookie minicamp in May, which adds to his potential value while perhaps showing some desire on the team’s part to get him on the field as much as possible. I think Franklin will lead the Packers in rushing this year, and he is my current darkhorse candidate for NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year.
Brad Berreman is a contributing writer at Rant Sports.com. Follow him on Twitter @bradberreman24.