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Best & Worst Case Scenarios: 2013 Packers Running Backs

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Best & Worst Case Scenarios: 2013 Packers Running Backs

Alabama running back Eddie Lacy. Photo by Brian Carriveau of Cheesehead TV.

It's time for the seventh annual "Best & Worst Case Scenario" series, a feature that goes back to the days of the old RailbirdCentral.com domain.

I attempt to take a look at what is the very best possible season a player is capable of producing, and on the other hand, what would happen if a player fell flat on his face (without assuming they suffer a season-ending injury). These are intended to be extreme scenarios on both sides of the spectrum. More than likely, each player is going to fall somewhere in the middle, but every now and then, they just so happen to come to fruition.

As one final note, I also try to take a look at what these scenarios would be from an individual standpoint and not necessarily what's best (or worst) for the team.

Eddie Lacy

Best-case scenario: Lacy is everything the Packers thought he would be and is a legitimate Offensive Rookie of the Year candidate. After winning the starting job in training camp, he becomes the team's workhorse back. With a deep stable of running backs, Lacy won't get every carry, but he gets more than anyone else, and just enough to reach the 1,000-yard milestone in his first season in the NFL. He's also the team's designated short-yardage and goal-line carrier, meaning he scores more touchdowns than any other running back on the roster as well.

Worst-case scenario: Lacy is merely a complementary back and finds himself as part of a running back by committee in Green Bay. He might be suited for their short-yardage and goal-line carries, but he doesn't get any more carries than any of the other running backs on the roster. Compared to college, Lacy finds out that NFL defenders are a lot faster, and things that worked for him at Alabama aren't cutting it in the NFL. He has less than 400 yards by the end of the season.

Johnathan Franklin

Best-case scenario: Franklin displays an extra gear that no other running back on the Packers roster possesses. Over the course of training camp, it becomes increasingly apparent that the Packers just can't afford to keep Franklin off the field. It takes time, but Franklin eventually earns the starter's job in Green Bay and receives more carries than any other player over the course of the season, ending just shy of 1,000 yards. It doesn't hurt that he's reliable both receiving and in pass protection, and he also leads the team in receptions among the running backs.

Worst-case scenario: Lost in the shuffle is the best way to describe Franklin's rookie season in the NFL. Sure, he finds occasional playing time and rotates with the other running backs on a series-by-series basis, but it's hard for him to gain any momentum when he's not out on the field on a regular basis. Franklin plays as much on special teams as he does on offense and has somewhere in the realm of 300 some odd rushing yards.

DuJuan Harris

Best-case scenario: Harris puts his health issues behind him and picks up where he left off late last season. With a crowded backfield, he doesn't carry the load, but he won't be denied his carries. At the very least, he's a good change of pace from Lacy. Harris uses his quickness and short stature to hide behind his offensive lineman and finished the year as the team's second-leading rusher.

Worst-case scenario: Between his recovery from having a cyst removed from his lung in the offseason and a nagging knee injury, Harris falls behind the curve compared to other running backs on the team. He might have looked good compared to an injured James Starks and Alex Green a year ago, but he doesn't look nearly as nifty now that the Packers have added Lacy and Franklin to the mix. He makes the roster, but his opportunities to carry the ball are few and far between.

Alex Green

Best-case scenario: Green looks far better than he did a year ago when his surgically-repaired knee was not back to 100 percent. He uses his knowledge of the Packers offense to his benefit, but he still finds it difficult to get anything more than spot duty in a crowded backfield. Green doesn't have any more yards than he did a year ago, but he's able to greatly improve upon his yards-per-carry average of 3.4.

Worst-case scenario: When the Packers added Lacy and Franklin in the first four rounds of the NFL draft, the writing was on the wall. Even being another year removed from a torn ACL, he's still not as athletically gifted as the rookies on the roster. There's just not room to keep Green on the roster, and the Packers either have to cut him or trade him by the end of training camp.

James Starks

Best-case scenario: With an impressive training camp, Starks earns a spot on the Packers' 53-man roster, even if he's third or fourth on the depth chart at best. Still, he's able to stay completely healthy for the first time in his career, which is an accomplishment in its own right. Perhaps being part of a backfield by committee is the best remedy for Starks, because he's not taking the pounding of an every-down back.

Worst-case scenario: Starks is cut as part of a numbers game. Simply put, he just doesn't have the natural talent of a Lacy or a Franklin, and he's not significantly better than Green. Among Starks' best qualities is his strength and power, but the Packers have that and more in Lacy, which makes Starks expendable.

Angelo Pease

Best-case scenario: Mike McCarthy's comments from back during the offseason program are justified when Pease continues to turn heads at training camp. He's an under the radar type of player, but he somehow seems to exceed expectations at every turn. Whenever he's given a carry in a preseason game, he doesn't go down easy and always seems to impress. Against all odds, he's kept as the fourth halfback on the team's 53-man roster, even if he doesn't see much playing time in the regular season.

Worst-case scenario: Pease might have potential, but he doesn't get enough opportunities to show it with so much competition at the running back position. He's lucky to get a carry or two during preseason games, but the fact is, he's raw and his ceiling isn't nearly as high as other rookies such as Lacy and Franklin. There's just not room to keep Pease around, even on the practice squad.

John Kuhn

Best-case scenario: Kuhn continues in much the same role he's held the past couple seasons. While he doesn't get nearly as many carries as he had in previous year, he still gets the occasional opportunity to carry the ball and even scores a touchdown or two. The fact is, Kuhn is reliable. He knows the offense, he stays largely healthy, he contributes on special teams, and he's the best pass protector among all the running backs. Kuhn continues to fill a third-down role in single-back sets and proves his worth.

Worst-case scenario: It's hard to believe the Packers went from keeping three fullbacks on their roster as recently as 2011 to zero in 2013, but they finally phased the fullback out of their offense. It wasn't an easy decision, but it was made more palatable when the other young running backs on the team's roster proved capable in pass protection. And with Lacy around, there was no need to keep Kuhn as a short-yardage back. The Packers have to eat the dead money on on Kuhn's contract, but they find it worth it.

Jonathan Amosa

Best-case scenario: In Amosa, the Packers find a promising young fullback that can be a good blocker, as well as being a reliable ball handler and in pass protection. There isn't room for him on the 53-man roster, but they find a way to stash him and develop him on the practice squad.

Worst-case scenario: Over the course of training camp, the Packers find out that Amosa is merely a middle of the road fullback, and it doesn't help that the fullback position in general isn't one in demand. He's not worth keeping on either the 53-man roster or the practice squad.

Brian Carriveau is the author of the book "It's Just a Game: Big League Drama in Small Town America," and editor of Cheesehead TV's "Pro Football Draft Preview." To contact Brian, email carriveau@uwalumni.com.

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Fan friendly comments only: off Comments (17) This filter will hide comments which have ratio of 5 to 1 down-vote to up-vote.

UP-Packer's picture

Fun to read the different possibilities that may exist. Funny thing is tho, the success or lack of success by any of the running backs will be determined by the play of the OL. It's possible that it could take the entire season for the OL to establish itself in the run game. Hope not.

hayward4president's picture

If Harris can play anyway near he did last year this season is going to be a blast to witness. The fact that we don't know who the starter is going to be is awesome. Three possible starters ....not a lot of teams can say that.

Drealyn Williams's picture

Exactly. I'm sure a lot of fans tend to forget about little 'ol Harris.

GrnMachineCrushesQueens's picture

Based on training camp and OTA's, its only fair (and logical) to include James Starks as a possible starter in your "Best Case Scenario's"

Jamie's picture

I believe the roster positioning and praise of Starks is a bit of smoke used in hopes of flipping Starks for a future low rd draft pick to a RB needy team.

Evan's picture

I don't know about that. It was just one day, obviously, but according to all reports he was bringing it today in practice. It doesn't seem he'll be giving up his spot without a fight.

Drealyn Williams's picture

I'd hope he wouldn't give up his spot easily. But it comes down to Starks and Green -- and I think Green brings more to the table.

Evan's picture

I'd agree with that, too. Just nice to see him have a good day of practice.

fish/Crane's picture

Starks will be the game one starter.

Evan's picture

Bold prediction.

aNEWpackersJERSEY's picture

Mmm, not so fast, Evan. People forget (or never knew) that Starks was touted as a high-round draft pick before the year with the shoulder injury. When healthy, I honestly think he's the best all around back that we have, and his talent level is definitely right there with E. Lacy concerning NFL prospects. Speed, agility, power, vision, quickness, elusive, always falls forward, super physical, etc. It's his health that's usually been his achilles' heel (no pun intended) but this offseason he's certainly proving his worth

L's picture

Eddie Lacy

Likely Scenario: Lacy in his 1st year will be merely a complementary back and finds himself as part of a running back by committee in Green Bay. He’s best suited as the team’s designated short-yardage and goal-line carrier. This may also translate to being given more opportunities in the red-zone than any other running back on the roster and to be the critical chain mover RB. He probably doesn't top 700 yards by the end of the season and my guess is he'll be around 500. Only injuries to the other RBs, them putting the ball on the ground too much, or Lacy proving to be a complete beast every time he has the ball in his hands changes this likely scenario.

Johnathan Franklin

Likely Scenario: Franklin proves to be a very dynamic RB who's excels as a receiver out of the backfield, but his inability to consistently provide pass protection means he finds himself getting occasional playing time and rotates with the other running backs & Randal Cobb on a series-by-series basis. This keeps it hard for him to gain any momentum when he’s not out on the field on a regular basis. Franklin ends up playing more on special teams then he does on offense. He finishes the season around a total of 600 rushing and receiving yards combined, but becomes more and more involved with the offense as the season wears on given his pass protection continues to improve.

Alex Green

Likely Scenario: Green is far better than he was a year ago when his surgically-repaired knee wasn't back to 100%. He uses his knowledge of the Packers offense to his benefit, but he still finds it difficult to get anything more than a share of the RB duty in a crowded backfield. Green doesn’t achieve any more yards than he did a year ago unless injuries and inexperience issues leave him as the obvious go-to RB. My guess is that he totals less than 300 rushing yards. He'll improve upon his yards-per-carry average of 3.4. There's certainly some potential that he's used as trade-bait by the end of the pre-season if Starks and Harris clearly outplay him in the pre-season games.

James Starks

Likely Scenario: With an impressive training camp/pre-season Starks can definitely earn a spot on the Packers’ 53-man roster. Even though the position will be handled by committee he could earn the right to be the team's starter and be the other bruiser RB if Lacy isn't able to get the job done. Nevertheless, the story for him is still his health; it's the major deciding factor on him. Any set-backs in training camp/pre-season will probably see him lose any opportunities his talents would otherwise provide; he'll end up getting cut. If he makes the team there's a good chance he could earn over 500 yards by season's end if he can stay healthy. The other option is that he simply puts the Packer's in a good position to earn something of value in return for his services through a trade prior to finalizing the rosters; he's probably got the highest trade-bait potential of all the RBs if he performs in the pre-season.

DuJuan Harris

Likely Scenario: Harris falls behind the curve compared to other running backs on the team due to his recent health issues. It's a tough decision as to cut, trade or retain him come final roster decisions. I think he still manages to provide enough reason to the team to keep him on the roster and he eventually gets back to where he left off late last season, but thanks to a much more crowded backfield his opportunities to begin the season are somewhat few and far between. He proves himself as an excellent change of pace from the bruisers like Lacy & Starks. He totals less then 300 yards for the season.

John Kuhn

Likely Scenario: Kuhn continues to play a similar role, but this time more reduced. However, a less likely scenario but one I think the team should do is to finally phase out the true FB position from their offense. They should continue using their TEs as their run blockers instead of a FB. This decision wouldn’t be an easy one, but it would be made much more palatable if Starks, Green, Harris, and the other young RBs can prove capable in pass protection; and with Lacy and Starks around there's no need to keep Kuhn as a short-yardage back. In this case the Packers try trading Kuhn for something of value in return... draft pick?

The rest of the RBs battle for a practice squad position or two.

hayward4president's picture

Did u seriously just type all that lol

Al Fresco's picture

I have to side with Hodges on ESPN today when they talked about Lacy and his weight. Hodges said he is concerned when he's see's something like this because it goes directly to ones work ethics, drive, determination.
Hodges said he doesn't expect much from Lacy and the Packers shouldn't either.

PS: they did show film of him in practice and to me he looked large, slow and very so so at best.

packeraaron's picture

Film at practice where there isn't live tackling? Who gives a shit?

Lacy will shine when the lights come on, mark my words.

aNEWpackersJERSEY's picture

"Very so-so".... All scouting credibility lost in one phrase.

Neil's picture

Hodge is a joke, he has never, and I mean never said anything positive about the Packers or their players including Rodgers. The pick of Lacy was proven to be a bad angle. Other pics show him in a completely different light. By all accounts Lacy as been impressive in camp so far.

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