Are the Packers set at Running Back?

The Packers have some young, talented running backs. But can they be trusted to carry the load in 2018? 

Last offseason, the Green Bay Packers invested heavily in the running back position and looking back, that was a wise thing to do. But as free agency and the NFL draft approaches, does more need to be done?

Of course, it’s a somewhat rhetorical question. Teams should never stop trying to improve at a position. There is always room for another playmaker, no matter where he plays. But in terms of needs, is running back a big one? Will Aaron Jones and Jamaal Williams be enough?

Obviously, the Packers like Jones and Williams, and why not? Both had their moments during solid rookie campaigns this past season. Williams rushed for 556 yards and four touchdowns, while averaging 3.6 yards per carry.

Jones, who was limited to 12 games due to a knee injury, rushed for 446 yards, but averaged 5.5 a carry. He also scored four rushing touchdowns. Williams also added 25 receptions for 262 yards. Jones caught just nine for 22.

Green Bay drafted Williams in the fourth round of the BYU in the 2017 draft and also nabbed Jones in the fifth round from UTEP. They were supposed to augment Ty Montgomery, but the former wide receiver suffered a series of nagging injuries and was limited to just eight games and 71 rushing attempts.

Devante Mays, another rookie running back from last season, is also in the mix, but outside of the that, the Packers have those four guys. Is that enough or does Green Bay still have work to do?

There are plenty of reasons to be excited about the combination of Williams and Jones. Williams is a powerful back, who can get the tough yards inside. Jones, on the other hand, is more of a big-play threat and a guy that excels running out of spread formations.

Williams wasn’t necessarily known for his pass-catching skills coming out of college, but he had five games with at least 30 yards receiving and two with more than 60. He also had one 100-yard rushing game and four games with more than 100 total yards from scrimmage, including 135 total yards and two touchdowns against Pittsburgh.

Jones also had two stellar outings before hurting his MCL. In the win at Dallas, he rushed 125 yards on 19 carries. Then, two weeks later, he racked up 131 against the Saints.

Both players have shown glimpses, but can they be trusted to carry the load in 2018? Possibly, but there are also reasons to be skeptical.

For starters, neither played for the whole season. Williams didn’t see regular action until almost halfway through the season and Jones missed a big chunk of the year due to injury. After that, he didn’t have another big game, outside of a game-winning touchdown run against Tampa and two runs for 47 yards against Carolina.

While each should be able to carry over their performance, it’s not guaranteed. Just look at Montgomery or other one-year wonders like Samkon Gado or to a lesser extent Ryan Grant. Sure, Grant had some good years after 2007, but he was never, ever the same guy.

So Green Bay needs to guard against that. It needs to look in free agency for more depth and if a good opportunity presents itself, the Packers shouldn’t pass it up. Same with the draft. With a few extra picks on Day 3, Green Bay should draft at least one more ball carrier.

Certainly, the Packers should feel good about having two promising young players in their backfield. But at the same time, putting all their eggs in that collective basket could be dangerous.

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Chris is a sports journalist from Montana and has been blogging about the Packers since 2011. Chris has been a staff writer for CheeseheadTV since 2017 and looks forward to the day when Aaron Rodgers wins his second Super Bowl. Follow him @thepackersguru

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Comments (61)

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Bure9620's picture

March 04, 2018 at 09:06 am

Inside pounder for short yardage and goal line, if available in the 2nd... Guice is nice, Also love Royce Freeman day 3.

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Cubbygold's picture

March 04, 2018 at 10:45 am

GB can't afford to go RB in the second round. There are so many more important needs

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OrganLeroy's picture

March 04, 2018 at 11:59 am

Kalen Ballage, ASU, juts ran a 4.46 @ 6' 1" 227lbs. under used @ ASU, good receiver and can be had in the 4th round, burst quickness, speed & hands.

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TheVOR's picture

March 04, 2018 at 05:18 pm

I'd release Ty Montgomery, the dude has been injured for his entire career in GB, time to move on, the great experiment is over, not only does he not have an NFL body, but he'll absolutely positively NEVER hold up as a RB. Jones is clearly the only real threat at RB on the roster, and his MCL issues late in the season are worrisome, he didn't hold up! Durablity at RB is paramount. Williams has zero instincts, he climbs right up the backs of his OL and couldn't see a cutback lane if it looked like the grand canyon!. Don't like that player as an answer either, Let him continue to compete, but w cannot rest and trust in a Williams to provide he answer, he simply doesn't have the Skills.

Does GB need to draft RB? Absolutely! They need to anchor that position, we don't really have a star RB on the entire roster, and we cannot sleep until we do. Do we need to draft RB, absolutely, 2nd year in a row that the position is very deep in the draft pool. 3rd to 4th round could yield another decent prospect.

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croatpackfan's picture

March 05, 2018 at 07:22 am

I believe you would... That is why you do not have the job with any of NFL teams...

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Dzehren's picture

March 04, 2018 at 09:17 am

We need playmakers at all levels. I could see a late round pick with question marks regarding Devonte Mays and #88’s availability.

I don’t think GB is set at any position.

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fastmoving's picture

March 04, 2018 at 11:30 am

.....like all the other 31 teams.

and at RB we are so close to set like you can be in the NFL

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Turophile's picture

March 05, 2018 at 05:46 am

Montgomery. Jones and Williams are a fine base.
Ripkowski and Kerridge fill out the FB position just fine.

However, there is nothing wrong with competition. Mays is one guy who can bring that, but I expect either a later draft pick or a rookie FA to be added there. I do doubt any added RB will make the final 53 roster, but they might be added to the PS.

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NMPF's picture

March 04, 2018 at 10:02 am

Don't waste a draft pick on a RB just for competitions sake. The Williams/Jones combo turned out to be a nice surprise. I highly doubt there was even plans for these 2 to contribute on a regular basis. OTA's, mini camps and pre-season with this combo as 1&1A will be more that enough for an offense that passes 40x & runs 20.

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Bedrock's picture

March 04, 2018 at 01:20 pm

That’s really all the draft picks can be, more competition.

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nigrivasilayesrej's picture

March 04, 2018 at 10:16 am

No, and this coming from a fan of Aaron Jones. If GB has the chance to draft a difference maker like Guice (Marshawn Lynch) or Sony Michel (Lesean McCoy), in the 2nd round, they should pounce.

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4thand10's picture

March 04, 2018 at 10:25 pm

I agree with this. Especially if you want to make an aging QBs life easier....you get a really fricken good RB if he's sitting there when they pick. Green Bay has always lacked in this area. I look at at all the really good backs Brady and Manning had in their careers over the years.

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CAG123's picture

March 05, 2018 at 01:16 am

Like who? Lawrence Maroney? Joseph Adai? Manning had Marshal Faulk for a few years and then James but who has Tom Brady had that could be considered REALLY good?

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4thand10's picture

March 05, 2018 at 08:29 am

Brady....Corry Dillan (who I believe was a free agent from Bengals at the time) Lagarette Blount (known bruiser back) Curtis Martin. The talent of the James White/ Dion Lewis combo isn't bad given how the nature of that particular teams RB position has changed.

Manning...Marshall Faulk , E. James, and I will include Addai because he was a top scorer at his position . Willis McGahee .

"Looking a little deeper, you'll find six instances in which one of Peyton's running backs finished in the top five at his position. " per NFL.com.

Six times a top 5 running back in NFL during his career.
I do put Rodgers in the same class as Manning, Brady but in my opinion he has had less production out of the running game for longer periods of time. Course Lacy in his prime shape was an exception to this.

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CAG123's picture

March 06, 2018 at 03:05 am

Oh stop it, you say six times but how many of those came from Faulk and James? Plus Faulk wasn’t even in Indy long enough with Manning they played what 1season together? Brady has had some decent RB but none you would consider great. I mean guys like Benjarvis Green-Ellis? Danny Woodhead? Pretty much just interchangeable replaceable parts. The pats use their running backs more as extra pass catchers than anything a few of them being exceptions.

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Nick Perry's picture

March 04, 2018 at 10:27 am

I think TE and WR are much higher priorities for the Packers offense than drafting another RB early and that's assuming they've already addressed the CB and Pass Rusher issues they have. I'd also put RT and Guard as higher priorities than RB.

I'm REALLY looking forward to what Gutekunst does in the later rounds of the draft compared to Thompson. I know those 6th and 7th round picks are tough to get much production from, but the last few drafts have been terrible for the Packers once they've passed round 5. Use that Comp Pick in the 5th round for another RB if one's there you like but not before.

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Thebearsstillsuck's picture

March 04, 2018 at 11:06 am

The also haven't been all that great before round 5.

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OrganLeroy's picture

March 04, 2018 at 03:54 pm

If RB is by far and away the BPA on your board and a clear upgrade over Williams & Jones, you draft him. If Barkley fell to # 14, the Packers would be bat-shyte-crazy not to pick him. Need shouldn't be the overriding factor.

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pooch's picture

March 05, 2018 at 04:35 am

Lets make believe we can get by another year without an edge rusher

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carlos's picture

March 05, 2018 at 09:28 am

Hey Nick,wasn’t Howard of the Bears a 7th round pick. I like our backs, but the injuries at that position can really put a damper on things. A top back is probably out of the question, but a great back sure can open up an offense. Maybe a sleeper in the later rounds. We can all only hope.

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DD's picture

March 05, 2018 at 12:45 pm

I agree. TE and wideout before running back. Later rounds maybe.

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Colin_C's picture

March 04, 2018 at 10:26 am

Agreed with the posters above. Guice in the second would be amazing value, as would Michel. I also like John Kelly out of Tennessee in the 4th round.

We've got two RB's that showed a lot of promise, but a serious injury to one of them leaves the backfield pretty thin again. I'm all for drafting one RB in the early to mid rounds.

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John Kirk's picture

March 04, 2018 at 01:48 pm

I love Kelly and Michel. Surprised Michel ran 4.54. Thought he would be a little faster. Kelly didn't run. Probably, a smart decision. Kamara ran 4.53 and 4.65 at the combine.

If the Packers took Michel in Round 2, I'd be thrilled. Most comments here impose need into the equation. I want BPAs... a guy like him would likely be that in Round 2.

Agree with you on Guice in Rd. 2, at 4.49, being great value but I doubt Brian would draft him due to injury concerns. Hard to take another injury prone back when we have 3 of them already.

Can't think we're okay there because not one our guys stayed healthy all season. Would love a Saints scenario where we have two top flight guys. The right back with great pass catching ability would really change things. I really thought that would be a strength of Aaron Jones but he looked awkward there.

(OT...your boy, Miller looked good on the bench...my guy, Tate, has fallen to Day 3...Sutton might be first overall WR...and I'd love to have him. Ridley really hurt himself with his other measurables, bottom 7th percentile SPARQ?)

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Colin_C's picture

March 04, 2018 at 12:42 pm

Yep, BAP is the way to go this year, especially since we need an infusion of top tier talent at most positions.

I was disappointed Miler didn't run (he's recovering from a foot injury I believe), but it probably gives us a better shot at getting him in the 2-4 rounds. I knew Tate wasn't a burner, but was a bit surprised he ran that slow. Still, he could be a great value pick on day three. Sutton was the guy that blew me away though. His 40 was decent, but his 6.57 3-cone has to be one of the fastest times this year. He also had a 4.11 20 yard shuttle, which is faster than Barkley ran it. I would be alright with him at #14 at this point.

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John Kirk's picture

March 05, 2018 at 08:52 pm

Sutton (86th SPARQ percentile) is the top WR in this class, now. At 14, I'd be...ecstatic. Going to need some rookie deal contracts during Aaron's last few years here to offset his huge deal. Sutton gives, on paper, 5 years of an affordable ready now difference maker.

It's going to kill me if we need draft and get a decent prospect at a need area when there's a difference maker at another of less perceived need still on the board.

Your guy is recovering from a foot injury. Hard to run with one one of those.

Chark is the speed/measurables freak in this class. I'd love to get Sutton and Chark but someone will overdraft Chark. I wouldn't be surprised to see us just focus on Moore (97th SPARQ percentile) or Cain in Round 2 and not look at WR in the 1st, but I wish we would. Sutton or Landry, Josh Jackson, Vander Esch...I mean, who is the best player out of that group?

Landry ran well, so he might be the pick...Davenport likely vaulted to a place where he'll go before us.

Gesicki (99th SPARQ percentile) just killed it. He's got to be a late 1st or early 2nd. Basically, just another WR. A 41.5" vert and 4.54 in the 40?....those are better numbers than Davante Adams put up...actually, he outdid every single measurable of Adams. That's incredible. What a special, special athlete. Brian loves those measurables. I wouldn't be shocked to see a trade down having this guy as a target. What a potential face lift to the TE position that is a black hole right now.

EDIT: In looking back to last year, Packers sure seem to like the SPARQ profile athletes. We had 3 of the top 21 in our camp at WR with, Dupre, Montay Crockett, and Speedy Noil. Aaron Jones was the 3rd highest SPARQ RB (88), one spot above Kamara.

With DJ Moore up in the 97th percentile and Sutton up in the 86th, those are two to watch. Gesicki was 99th at TE so he's one to really watch. Chubb and Scarborough are two high SPARQ athletes at 89 and 83.5.

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DD's picture

March 05, 2018 at 12:48 pm

Gesicki!!!!

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carlos's picture

March 05, 2018 at 09:34 am

Kamara’s 40 wasn’t that fast, but he sure looked faster. It’s vision, quickness and instincts that make a great back. Good hands and not a fumbler is a plus obviously.

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John Kirk's picture

March 05, 2018 at 08:58 pm

Kamara seemed to have a force field around him when he ran last year, at least until he got concussed vs. Atlanta. He was one of my favorite players and I had him in fantasy so I followed him very closely. Super intelligent player. I didn't think he was the same player after the concussion. Pretty incredible season by him. Jones being right there with him as a SPARQ athlete makes sense to me. Jones has the burst, vision and balance like Kamara does but not his stop and start feel. Too bad he didn't stay as healthy. Very very excited to watch 33 in these upcoming years.

Fun to think what Kamara may have done in our offense and if we would've integrated him like the Saints did. He's like having another WR1 on offense. You had to pay him so much attention.

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carlos's picture

March 06, 2018 at 06:46 am

Kamara was awesome in the screen game.

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Rossonero's picture

March 04, 2018 at 10:44 am

We're solid at RB. The guys we have are still developing, give it some time. We have a nice 1-2 punch with Jones and Williams. Mays will develop more this year too.

Maybe in the 5th round if they really like someone, but this roster has bigger holes elsewhere.

Let's not try to imitate the Buffalo Bills when they had Fred Jackson, Marshawn Lynch and then spent the 9th overall pick on CJ Spiller. That's just stupid.

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Cubbygold's picture

March 04, 2018 at 10:51 am

GB's run game will improve if they pick up some o-line help and a TE that can block well.

Would the team improve if they picked up the next AP, sure...but there are so many needs before RB. I wouldn't even think about RB before the 5th round.

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stockholder's picture

March 04, 2018 at 11:47 am

No their not set. TY is #1.( Don't move him.) To many eggs in the basket here. (But none will Hatch. ) Williams still hasn't shown you anything. He's a body. Jones is a pot head. Mays couldn't hold on to his own nut, let alone the ball. Size? They can't move the line. We still need a difference maker here. But the band-Aid here has to stay on. New lines must be built first.

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The TKstinator's picture

March 04, 2018 at 12:28 pm

Set?
Not if they lose their top 4 guys they’re not.

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Tundraboy's picture

March 05, 2018 at 08:50 am

Lmao I rule nothing out with this team sometimes.

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Since '61's picture

March 04, 2018 at 01:16 pm

Keep our options open. If an RB who is too good to pass up is available take him. To me, we need OL, TE, a speed WR before TH but you never know who is going to be available when your turn comes. If there is game break RB available take him. We need better players just about every where except starting QB. Thanks, Since '61

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Tundraboy's picture

March 05, 2018 at 08:54 am

Cant argue with that. If a difference maker is there at any position, take him. Prefer someone on D of course, but must find at least one player this draft, that will make the team better immediately.

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nostradanus's picture

March 04, 2018 at 01:26 pm

Best-Player-Available-Always-Period.

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4thand1's picture

March 04, 2018 at 01:55 pm

The way injuries hit position groups in GB, we never have enough players. If there is great value in 4 or 5 take it. Mays is expendable and Monty can catch more passes.

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Handsback's picture

March 04, 2018 at 02:08 pm

No position should be forgotten in the draft, just keep picking BPA. Don't target player or position.

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Spock's picture

March 04, 2018 at 02:46 pm

Disagree with the author calling Ty an "one year wonder". I don't think we NEED another back, but If there's a "sure thing" (if anyone in the draft can be that) RB and he's top of the board Gute would have to give it a lot of consideration. I'd kind of find it hard to see pulling the trigger on an RB at 14 with other needs on the team. If you have two guys who are close in BPA ratings on your board, I'd have to think you'd tend to grab the one that fits your need 1st. Let's face it, a lot of the fun of the draft is each team's trying to jockey picks with draft value/position to fill out their teams with as a good a player at each position as they can get. I liked what Gute said about packaging picks to move into places/rounds in the draft where he and his scouts see the most value. I hope it happens!

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Oppy's picture

March 04, 2018 at 05:15 pm

The Packers are "set" at RB because we have 3-4 acceptable talent RB's.

If any of you think the Packers are going to utilize a top talent RB to the extent that it warrants the price of acquiring a top talent RB (either in FA or high draft pick), you've forgotten who the QB is in Green Bay.

MM has made it easy to read between the lines over his time in GB- he wants to run the ball more. The Packers need to give more opportunities to the RBs. It's not lip service I don't believe. He's calling those plays. But #12 has been given the power to switch plays outright and in general, most of MM's plays have run-pass check outs built into them. Aaron Rodgers doesn't want to run the ball in my estimation.

So, yes, we are "set" at RB.

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flackcatcher's picture

March 04, 2018 at 07:46 pm

It all depends on what offense the Packers run. If they keep the current Rodgers centrist scheme, then the current RB crop will be used mostly as receivers out of the backfield. If they revert to the classic west coast offensive scheme that they ran from 2010-2011 and part of 2013- 2014 then the RB will get the ball, and we will see less run-pass options in that offense. Frankly, I see Philbin's return as a good thing for both Rodgers and McCarthy. The new old offense will spread the ball around, and put less pressure on Rodgers to be 'super' on every play. And McCarthy will be able to put more push into TE and 2 back sets, something he has been saying he wanted to run for the past couple of years.

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Oppy's picture

March 06, 2018 at 03:29 pm

We haven't seen anything close to a classic WCO since Holmgren left town.
MM doesn't run a west coast offense, never has. He talks occasionally about utilizing West Coast route concepts.. but that's only in the defense dictating the routes being run in real time, not in play selection or philosophy.

Not to mention, in the classic WCO, the short out routes are considered almost a substitution for running the ball.

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Doug Niemczynski's picture

March 04, 2018 at 07:34 pm

You can never have enough players at any position, especially when your the injury plagued packers every year.

I would like to add a veteran RB and or draft anothet RB in the 5th round.

On a side note TE Mike Geseki Penn State is having a great combine. Packers could draft him in the 2nd Round.

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fastmoving's picture

March 05, 2018 at 03:23 am

but you know they have some rules there with only 53 players on the roster and stuff like that...........???
so you can have very well too much good players on a position.....
many of us thought that was the case with the WR group last TC. What difference a year can make..........

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Doug Niemczynski's picture

March 05, 2018 at 09:22 am

There is something called injured reserve and cutting players and also practice squad.

Should have cut Buluga and kept JC tretter

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dobber's picture

March 05, 2018 at 09:46 am

Because Tretter would've made a huge difference at ... RT? Jahri Evans came much cheaper and, for all we know, played every bit as well as Tretter, who was tagged more as a C than as a G, would have. Tretter's injury history was problematic, as well.

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Doug Niemczynski's picture

March 05, 2018 at 04:31 pm

Jahari Evans is like 36 years old ..he is 1 and done

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dobber's picture

March 06, 2018 at 04:01 pm

I vaguely remember what it was like to be 36 years old...

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Doug Niemczynski's picture

March 05, 2018 at 09:27 am

If we thought we had so many good players at wide receiver then why are we looking for another wide receiver than Davante Adams Jordy's getting older Randall Cobb wants too much he sucks. McCarthy didn't play Geronimo Allison enough and Trevor Davis evidently just looks like a kick and punt returner probably not wide receiver and we don't know what to do with Ty Montgomery running back slash wide receiver and Michael Clarke is too Raw so I think you need to go get some free agents like Paul Richardson and go cut people , because evidently the Packers do not know how to evaluate talent that's why we suck now.

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Samson's picture

March 04, 2018 at 08:34 pm

Sign some undrafted FA to take some carries in preseason, then cut him before the regular season starts. (practice squad?)

The Pack have a long list of needs. -- RB is not one of them. --- Besides, AR (if healthy) will be throwing 40+ a game if GB's "D" doesn't improve considerably. Running the ball will be an afterthought by (self declared great coach) MM.

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dobber's picture

March 05, 2018 at 04:57 am

If the defense continues to be poor, ball control will become even more important. They've done it in recent years through the passing game, but credible threats running the ball behind an OL that can run-block when called upon will help. It's not about having that one monster RB anymore. It's about having guys who can do the job when called upon.

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Doug Niemczynski's picture

March 05, 2018 at 04:33 pm

Yes a lllllooooonnnnngggg list if needs !!!

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OnWisconsinGoPack's picture

March 04, 2018 at 08:31 pm

Unless we are getting a great value, I mean Sony or Guice in the 3rd, I think we're good. Too many other needs that need addressed. Generational players are different, so if Barkley is Barry Sanders 2.0, then you got to take him. With that said, if we are active in FA, then it become easier to take BPA.

Realistically, I'd take a shot on a RB in Round 5 again. Maybe Roc Thomas or Justin Jackson. I don't see a lot of RB needy teams and with this being a deep draft, it's possible someone like Josh Adams, Kalen Balladge or Nyheim Hines falls further than expected into Day 3

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Tundraboy's picture

March 04, 2018 at 10:44 pm

Let's hope so but a draft pick is not a bad idea. A full season, give or take a game, from everyone is long overdue. We need that to go our way ,this year especially while we have so much else to sort out.

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pooch's picture

March 05, 2018 at 04:32 am

Maybe there is a Cory Clements out there

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Royalty Free GM's picture

March 05, 2018 at 04:45 am

Yes we are. We have enough competition and depth at RB position

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RCPackerFan's picture

March 05, 2018 at 06:06 am

Packers are set? Yeah, mostly.

Jones I think could be special.
Williams I think will be really good as well. He really played better as the season wore on.
Montgomery is a special player that can be used in many different ways. Unfortunately he hasn't been able to stay healthy. Limiting his snaps would be the best thing for him and the offense.
Mays, I have no idea what we have in him.

While I love Jones, and I like Williams and love the versatility of Montgomery, I wouldn't mind seeing them drafting a RB in the mid to late rounds. Due to the strength of the RB class they should be able to get a really good RB later in the draft.
A few guys I would like to see them look at are Rashaad Penny, Akrum Wadley, Ito Smith.

RB is a tough position to stay healthy at. Last year all 3 of the top RBs were hurt. Its a position that having a good rotation would be wise.

When this group is healthy I think they can be as good as anyone. Problem with that is one or 2 injuries and that depth becomes very thin.

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OnWisconsinGoPack's picture

March 06, 2018 at 05:39 am

I agree. With all of the depth in this class, a highly productive RB is sure to fall into 4th or 5th. My money is on Josh Adams of Notre Dame. Others boosted their stock in the Senior Bowl and the Combine and he hasn't been talked about much. Same goes with Royce Freeman. Would love to add either of them in the 5th.

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Doug Niemczynski's picture

March 05, 2018 at 09:30 am

This team is in complete shambles

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tincada's picture

March 06, 2018 at 08:28 am

Are the Packers set at LB, Safety, CB, DLine, WR, TE and most important BU QB??

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