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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.