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Being Ted Thompson - Running Back Tendencies

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Being Ted Thompson - Running Back Tendencies

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 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.

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Fan friendly comments only: off Comments (43) This filter will hide comments which have ratio of 5 to 1 down-vote to up-vote.

vj_ostrowski's picture

Good to see my man Justis here. And thanks to CHTV for hosting articles about Thompson tendencies. Our GB paper beat writers don't really seem to pay attention to what are some very clear analytic tendencies with our GM.

You can argue whether his analytic tendencies are a good thing or not, it's pretty clear that they do exist

UmpireMark's picture

Excellent research and sound summation.

I just have one question, however. Did James Starks ever have a prime?

Nicely done.

marpag1's picture

"Did James Starks ever have a prime?"

Yes. It occurred on January 9, 2011 in the NFC wildcard game during the first and second quarters.

All downhill from there....

UmpireMark's picture

Hahaha ... a 2 quarter career in the prime of his talent set!

Sahweeeeet ......

EdsLaces's picture

Perine ...Foreman....Mack....Hill. Any of the 4 and we win!

EdsLaces's picture

Oh my McCaffrey obsession is over knowing he's a 1st rounder and I want defense first. New obsession....Perine. 30 freaking reps! He's a monster!

Michael Grunewald's picture

Yes, can we please just park McCaffery talk. Until we can field a defense, we are looking at a cage match for the division title...and an early plaHoffa exit.

croatpackfan's picture

I see, you calls 2 championships game and divisional round game as early playof exits. Good!

mrtundra's picture

What is the consensus on Dare Ogunbawale from Wisconsin? He can run, catch passes and is a smart player. I haven't seen any posts on him.

marpag1's picture

Looks like an undrafted guy to me. Was one of the slowest RBs at the combine. Just doesn't have the juice, IMO. Might make a team if he can contribute on special teams, but honestly I don't see him as an NFL running back.

marpag1's picture

It's a fair opinion and you are entitled to it, of course, but I'll still take the other side. I'd be willing to bring Dare in as an UDFA, but I wouldn't give up a draft pick for him. Where draft picks are involved, I'm willing to take a flyer on "upside," but I just don't see enough upside here to justify the pick, IMO.

We'll see what happens with Melvin Gordon, but when has any Wisconsin running back done particularly well in the NFL? Ron Dane, Brent Moss, Terrell Fletcher, Aaron Stecker, Brian Calhoun, Michael Bennett, PJ Hill, John Clay, Montee Ball, James White...

... at Wisconsin, it's the blockers, not the back.

Turophile's picture

Now watch all that data go into the bin after they draft someone else like Samaje Perine. or Elijah McGuire.

Best of all would be if they drafted Pumphrey, that would just explode the heads of everyone who takes the measurement thing seriously !!

zoellner25's picture

very interesting analysis. Like this post better than Fackrell needs to pass rush better.

Zachary Jacobson's picture

Unnecessary. Praise Justis' work all you want, because his research and analysis is absolutely tremendous and we're all excited to see his series launch here, but you don't need to shoot down the work of one of our other writers in the process.

Jersey Al's picture

Beat me to it. Thanks Zach.

Nick Perry's picture

Thanks for saying something Zack. I don't understand some of the comments written here when they don't like the story. I appreciate any story you guys take the time to write for us here. Maybe you should give them a break from Cheesehead TV if they find the work put in isn't up to THEIR standards.

Zachary Jacobson's picture

We appreciate that, Nick. Very nice of you to say.

Jersey Al's picture

yes, thanks Nick.

dobber's picture

On another note...Packers have apparently signed Ricky Jean-Francois. 1 yr, $3MM.

stockholder's picture

Bargain Ted. Really like it. Now is Guion done in GB?

Lphill's picture

I still want the best defensive player available in the first round .

UmpireMark's picture

I agree.

Although House and RJF are additions over last year's defense (for good or for bad, we shall see), I still want to see defensive picks in rounds one and two.

badaxed's picture

TT could have had Marshawn Lynch cheap.....NAAAAAAAA , not his kind of player.

Since '61's picture

If the contract numbers on RJF are correct, that's a good signing. I would still draft a DL and chuck Guion. Good analysis on the RBs. Thanks, Since '61

Michael Grunewald's picture

I should know better, but I wouldn't expect a back to be drafted before round 5. Defense and O line needs take priority. That's what should be done....what will be done is anybody's guess.

akeemthedream's picture

Looking at those RB's drafted by TT makes me think that maybe he should tweek his criteria a bit.
That is one ugly list.

Thegreatreynoldo's picture

Under whelming is the word that came to my mind, but I think we are in the same zip code on this. [If you criticize TT, you will get dislikes, so don't worry about it.]

Nick Perry's picture

It isn't too impressive is it. The thing is I think he had it right in 2013 with Lacy and Franklin. With Bell and Bernard gone Lacy was really the best available without looking back and I still love the Franklin pick. I wonder what could have been with Franklin in the line-up. more than a few weeks.

MITM's picture

I also figured out a tendency of TT, only with free agents. If the last name is Francois he will end up a Packer sooner or later.

pooch's picture

I was falling a sleep halfway thru this way to long article.. did I miss anyrhing

MITM's picture

I wish you missed the submit comment button

Jersey Al's picture

you missed the opportunity to go somewhere else.

Dzehren's picture

I really think GB is going to draft a RB in the first 2 rounds. Our current RB stable needs 1 more play maker who contribute down the stretch in yr 1.

marpag1's picture

I know I'm probably crazy, but I'd be scared as hell to draft Fournette high. No question that he has a mountain of physical talent, but something about him gives me the willies. I don't like the word "character," and it's NOT really about skipping the bowl game, but I do have questions if he is a "me first" guy. My gut says the bust potential is pretty high with him. I also question the scheme fit in GB, and I agree with this statement from the article: "he's going to be as good as his offensive line when his team is under center."

But then again, I would say the same things about Ezekiel Elliot, so maybe I'm just nuts...

He'll obviously be gone before GB is on the board anyway. I'd be dumbfounded if he's not top 10, but I wouldn't feel comfy if I'm the team that takes him that high.

croatpackfan's picture

I think all of you just missing very important fact. Preparing draft board is much more complicated job than just put the measures there and see which players suit them.
Draft board preparing lasts more than year with lot of moving pieces. That board is product of mutual hard work of many scouts. Also, coaches has the right to put their opinion on each and every prospect.
I think it is not fair to impair role and knowledge of Packers Scouts organization. And, comparing to how the best decision is made in other fields, I think that board is product of detailed discussion of relatively big number of persons who is doing that job for life.
Of course that Ted Thompson has the last word, but that last word is the product of group work, not one person...
I know that would be easier if Ted Thompson will be that only one person, but reality is that is not like that!

Donster's picture

I wonder what else Jersey Al and Justis encountered while in TT's brain? Was their a large amount of cobwebs? Did they see a huge room with bags of money stamped "Property of the Green Bay Packers but don't spend it"?

Very good article Justis. Enjoyed reading it.

I want defense to be the priority in the first two rounds. Good RB's can be found in the mid rounds anyway. Plus have to keep in mind that MM may say he wants to run the ball more, but rarely does. So you don't need the 1st round guy that will make a lot of $$ but won't play but 15 snaps a game. And not carry the ball more than 10 of those. The signing of the two FA TE's show that the passing game is still priority one with TT and MM.

fthisJack's picture

i want me some Perine!

Matt Gonzales's picture

Though I expect the Packers to go OLB, DL, OL, or DB in the first couple rounds I wouldn't be shocked to see the Packers pick up a marquee back should one fall into either of their first two picks. Ty has shown a ton of upside but he hasn't shown yet that he can be a franchise back. Ditto (with less upside and more risk) for CM. If you have a difference maker in the backfield that can play all formations, pass protect, occasionally lead block on a TE or FB run or screen, slide into the slot or wide out as more than a decoy, and stay on the field for 75% of the offensive snaps, then a 1st or 2nd round pick is well worth it as that's the kind of player that takes the pressure off your D.

Not sure of that kind of talent is in this draft class, but of it is (and is available at either of our first two picks) I'd be fully on board.

PackEyedOptimist's picture

Funny, I was just watching Brian Hill videos a couple of days ago and thought "This kid reminds me of James Starks; he seems like a "Packer type pick." Personally, I'd rather they get a true scat back (though Michael has a lot of those qualities).

bjwpack's picture

If you update for Pro days, Kareem Hunt from Toledo matches the criteria. 5'10.5" 216 lbs 4.57 40. However he would have to be listed with the incompletes as he didnt run the 3 cone.

bjwpack's picture

Adjusting the "rule of 3" to a 2% rule, which I believe to be a better way of doing the math, It adds 4 more names to the mix. Joe Mixon from Oklahoma, Both of the Wisconsin Backs, and Aaron Jones from TCU. Sadly , If you asked Thompson to design a perfect RB, It would look a lot like Joe Mixon.

Dzehren's picture

There r 4- 5 RB's with a first round grade. After that, there is a big fall off. That's why I'm predicting we pick a RB in first few rounds. value pick- TT special

Dzehren's picture

With Lacey and starcks gone and #88 as RB1-C Mike as a camp body- RB is a high priority to #-12 and TT - striking gold in the 5 or 6th round is great when u have a proven/ guaranteed RB on the roster.

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