Pssst, Hey! Over here... Jersey Al here. Listen, you have to keep this between us, but behind this file cabinet in this weird too-short 7th floor office, I found a small door. Always curious, I entered this door, crawled down some hallways and somehow, some way, I was in the brain of Ted Thompson. I could see everything through his eyes, tap into his thoughts, and follow his reasoning and decision-making. It literally blew my mind being inside his mind. It was too much for me to handle, quite frankly, so I had to exit his brain (which somehow dumped onto some seedy alleyway in Milwaukee).
In any case, I started thinking, now that I know how to get in, who could I send in there that might have the ability to process all of this information and regurgitate it into a form we simple humans could understand? Well, after reading his attempts to dissect Thompson from the outside, who would be better than Justis Mosqueda to send INTO Thompson’s brain and get us the real skinny? So that's the plan folks. Very quietly, Justis has already made the trek and is currently inside and “Being Ted Thompson." He hopes to stay in there for a week or so, gleaning all of the information he can.
Current plans are to publish 6 articles, divided up as RB, WR, OL, DB, DL/EDGE and TE/QB/LB. I met Justis at the door this morning, where he handed me the first installment on running backs and then bravely dove back in to Ted's brain. (Note: when he's done with the last installment and leaves Thompson's brain, he too will end up in some seedy Milwaukee alleyway. If you happen to see him, get him out of there and go buy him a beer.
The Green Bay Packers have a type at running back. Since 2006, when head coach Mike McCarthy joined Ted Thompson in Titletown, the team has only drafted six running backs, slightly below the league average of 6.36 running backs drafted per team over that time.
If you dig into Green Bay's “type” of running back, you'll find something very interesting: They're very specific. First, we need to list off the characters:
• 2007 second-round pick Brandon Jackson
• 2013 second-round pick Eddie Lacy
• 2011 third-round pick Alex Green
• 2013 fourth-round pick Johnathan Franklin
• 2010 sixth-round pick James Starks
• 2007 seventh-round pick DeShawn Wynn
Of those running backs, Jackson, Green, Franklin and Starks were all running backs who were within an eighth-inch of 5'10” or taller, were 205 pounds or heavier, ran a 4.55-second 40-yard dash or faster and recorded at least a 7-second three-cone, with the data coming from NFL Draft Scout's database. That in itself probably means nothing to the average draftnik, but when given context, you realize how similar all of those backs were athletically.
For reference, here is the correlation between those numbers and measurable percentiles of running backs according to Mock Draftable.
205 pounds in weight: 24th percentile
4.55-second 40-yard dash: 54th percentile
7-second three-cone time: 59th percentile
Since 2007, when Thompson and McCarthy drafted their first running backs, there have been 102 tail backs drafted in the first four rounds of the draft. Of those 102, only 21, about one-fifth of the pool, hit what we'll call “Thompson Back” measurables, which are listed above. Of those 21 backs, Green Bay drafted three in Jackson, Green and Franklin, while the rest of the league drafted 0.58 of those backs on average over the past decade. The Packers are drafting these specific type of running backs at a clip five-times higher than the league average.
Not only that, but receiver convert Ty Montgomery, mid-season signing Christine Michael and mid-season trade Knile Davis also all have the athletic profile of “Thompson Backs.” Up and down the Packers' rosters under Thomson and McCarthy, outside of Lacy and Wynn, you see the team littered with the same type of body.
Now, you may ask why the team drafted Lacy and Wynn then, and that's a fair question. If I were to explain why the Packers would “break their rules” for those backs, I would look back into McCarthy's history with Deuce McCallister. After serving as Green Bay's quarterback coach in 1999, McCarthy became the offensive coordinator of the New Orleans Saints, the same team which would trade for third-string quarterback Aaron Brooks in August of 2000 and make him a starting quarterback.
In 2001, the Saints drafted McCallister, a running back from Ole Miss, in the first round. In 2002, he had the first of four 1,000-yard seasons, with three of them coming under McCarthy, who left the team after 2004 for a one-year stint in San Francisco before becoming the Packers' head coach. McCallister is listed at 232 pounds on his NFL.com profile. According to NFL Draft Scout, Lacy was 231 pounds at the combine in 2013 and Wynn was 232 pounds at the combine in 2007.
If you look at it that way, the Ted Thompson-Mike McCarthy duo have two types of running backs: Medium-sized, athletic runners who tend to be talented pass-catchers and large running backs in the mold of McCallister. The difference, in my opinion, is that Green Bay has only taken those bigger backs when they were viewed as extreme value selections by the media. For example, look back at the replies when the Packers drafted Datone Jones in the first round of 2013.
Fans and media alike were expecting Lacy to be the selection at 26 overall, not 61 overall, after a trade back in the second round. Wynn was also projected as a fourth-round pick by NFL Draft Scout, just for him to come off the board with the 228th overall pick.
Other than the “Thompson Backs” mold, a Packers fan's best hope at Green Bay addressing the running back position, in this draft or any Thompson draft, is to hope that a big back falls in the draft. What does that mean for this year's NFL draft class?
On NFL Draft Scout, there are 26 running backs with at least a “seventh-round/undrafted free agent” grade in this draft class. Of those 26 running backs, only 2 have been within three units (0.03 seconds, 3 pounds, 3/8ths of an inch) within the “Thompson Back” measurables: Christian McCaffrey of Stanford (1st round projection) and Brian Hill of Wyoming (4th-5th round projection.)
With that being said, LSU's Leonard Fournette, South Florida's Marlon Mack, Texas' D'Onta Foreman, Oklahoma State's Chris Carson and North Carolina's Elijah Wood have met the “Thompson Back” measurables so far, but have yet to complete a full data sample. For reference, Thompson has never drafted a running back who hasn't both ran the 40-yard dash and a three-cone in the draft process, which may tip off that he does indeed look at those numbers. Pro days will be important for those backs in the eyes of Green Bay's front office, one would assume.
If I were asked to construct a Packers draft board at running back, based on NFL Draft Scout's grades and what we know about how Green Bay drafts at the position, it would look like this:
There are four players who are hovering around the top-100 in draft stock who you'd think that the Packers would consider, based on a decade of data: McCaffrey, Fournette, Tennessee's Alvin Kamara and Mack. Here's a synopsis of every player's game:
• McCaffrey: The son of Ed, a former NFL receiver, and a former Heisman Trophy finalist. McCaffrey's best traits are his pass-catching ability and his patience as a runner, both as an I-formation back and in the shotgun, which has drawn comparisons to both Le'Veon Bell and labeled him as a “Patriots type.”
• Fournette: A former five-star recruit who has been talked about as a star since he was a middle school player. There are questions about what he can do in the passing game and in the shotgun in general, similar to how Adrian Peterson has been discussed in recent years. Fournette isn't a talented stretch runner, but he can be a home run threat on both gap plays and inside zone plays. For the most part, he's going to be as good as his offensive line when his team is under center.
• Kamara: An Alabama transfer who spent a year at Hutchinson Community College before landing at Tennessee. Kamara never really shouldered the load with the Volunteers, compiling 210 total carries in two years with the team, but he flashes plus athleticism and caught 74 balls for 683 yards and three touchdowns in Knoxville. Like McCaffrey, the stereotype of having a good three-cone time and checking out as a plus pass-catcher checks out here, which follows the narrative of most Packers backs.
• Mack: In three years with the South Florida Bulls, Mack took 586 carries for 3,609 yards and 32 touchdowns, not including 65 receptions for 498 yards and a score. He's a bit of a fumble concern, as he has LeSean McCoy tendencies when holding the ball, but he's a bursting back who isn't a liability on third down by anyone's account. Think of Jonathan Stewart minus 15 pounds of playing weight and you have something close to Mack.
Outside of those four, the most interesting back to me is Brian Hill of Wyoming. From a movement perspective, he's very similar to Starks in his prime. The one added bonus that Hill has over Starks, though, is his physicality. Even though Hill is currently listed as a “fourth/fifth-round”grade on NFL Draft Scout, he plays much more like someone who should be hovering around top-100 grades than a mid-Day 3 selection.
It's quite possible that the Packers look at a bigger back like Oklahoma's Samaje Perine or Foreman, but big backs are only drafted by Green Bay when they are massive value selections, so don't bank on one until at least Day 3 of the draft in late April.
- Like Like
- 5 points