How Many RB's Will Make the Packers 53-Man Roster

The Green Bay Packers are going to have difficult decisions to make when it comes to finalizing their 53-man roster for the 2017 NFL season. But one position that might prove more difficult than others is running back.

After leaving themselves short at the position a year ago, forcing Ty Montgomery to make the change from wide receiver, the Packers invested three picks in the 2017 NFL draft to try to ensure that doesn’t happen again.

In 2016, Green Bay exited training camp with four backs total, three running backs and one fullback. Eddie Lacy. James Starks and Brandon Burks to go along with Aaron Ripkowski.

For the first few games, everything seemed fine. Lacy looked like his old self and while Starks was struggling, it didn’t really seem to matter. However, the injuries struck and soon, Green Bay was desperate.

Undrafted rookie Don Jackson got a shot as did Knile Davis, who the Packers got in a trade from Kansas City. But nothing worked until Montgomery took over and became he primary ball carrier.

Now Montgomery is the presumptive starter, but in terms of depth, things are still a little shaky.

The Packers did select three running backs in the draft, starting with Jamaal Williams out of BYU in the fourth round. Then, it was Aaron Jones of UTEP and Devante Mays of Utah State.

When looking at the projecting 53-man roster, it’s possible that all five backs make it. Montgomery and Ripkowski certainly seem to be locks. From there it’s pretty wide open.

Williams, as a fourth-round pick, seems like a good bet to make the team. His running style reminds of Ryan Grant, and he probably has the best chance of all the rookies to contribute from day one.

Yet, even with Williams, nothing is guaranteed. Jones, who has a knack for catching the football, brings a different element to the backfield. He caught 71 passes and had seven touchdowns as a receiver in college, in addition 4,114 rushing yards, with an average 6.3 a carry.

Mays is another intriguing prospect. He’s also very raw. He played just 14 games in two seasons at Utah State, but rushed for more than 1,200 yards. At 5-11, 230 pounds, he has the chance to be a bruising, explosive back.

Between all three rookies, some hard choices might have to be made. Another contender in the backfield is going to be fullback Joe Kerridge, who finished the season on the active roster and was a regular on the 46-man roster.

Mike McCarthy has always been fond of fullbacks and has kept multiple on the roster on more than one occasion. If Kerridge can earn a spot as a core special teamer, it’s not out of the question for him to earn a spot on the final roster.

If that happens, then there is no way Green Bay keeps more than three running backs. In all, I can’t see the Packers keeping more than five in the backfield, so either four running backs and one fullback or two fullbacks and three running backs.

However, with the possibility of keeping six or seven wide receivers, along with three quarterbacks, Green Bay may have to stick with just four.

If that’s the case, then the Packers will likely try to stash one of their rookies on the practice squad. Mays could be the choice there, but depending on how he does in the preseason, I’d say it’s iffy that he makes it through.

Injuries can always change things, but after what happened a year ago, it’s hard to see the Packers leaving themselves thin at running back again. That’s why, if all produce at a high level in the preseason and training camp, I see all three rookies making it, along with Montgomery and Ripkowski.

Whether there are four or five backs kept, it should be an interesting battle to watch and also one the Packers should be watching very closely.

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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 (25)

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Packer_Fan's picture

July 20, 2017 at 12:25 pm

Keep 5. 4 RB and 1 FB. Keep the three draft picks. If they can't keep 5, then stash a draft pick on practice squad. But only one FB. This is where McCarthy has to change. Fully utilize the new tight ends and the resulting favorable mismatches. Copy New England. Use the RB for swing passes out of the backfield and run to keep the defense honest. To focus on power running when there is so much abilities for passing doesn't make sense to me.

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Packmaniac's picture

July 20, 2017 at 12:27 pm

My guess is Montgomery, Jones, Williams, Ripkowski; Mays to practice squad.

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croatpackfan's picture

July 20, 2017 at 03:10 pm

My guess Ty, Jones, Mays, Rip & Joe K. Williams on PS.

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holmesmd's picture

July 20, 2017 at 10:43 pm

K Williams is probably the most NFL READY back of the rookies! Huh?

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croatpackfan's picture

July 21, 2017 at 02:49 am

You probably underestimate hunger for success from young player who had lot of unlucky moments in his career. But, in abouth one month we will know the answer!
He rushed more than 1200 yards in only 14 games!

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Mojo's picture

July 20, 2017 at 03:34 pm

I see it like Packmaniac, although I'd add Kerridge to the PS at a minimum (the Pack like him). The Packers also have a FA who's measurables appear similar to Mays in Stanback. Perhaps the Packers devote three of their ten PS spots to RB's.

There is a chance the Pack takes Mays over Jones if they want a powerful athletic type as their third. It could also boil down to who they feel they can get to the practice squad and who's the better pass blocker.

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Handsback's picture

July 20, 2017 at 01:45 pm

We will see what those guys look like with pads on and getting hit in the mouth.

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Turophile's picture

July 21, 2017 at 03:00 am

Contact will tell you plenty, given RB is a seriously physical position. I'd guess that after the 2xRB, 1xFB debacle of last year, they go four RBs this year, plus the one FB, like last year.

They do have some chunky RBs (Mays, Stanback, both 230lbs) who have the bulk to play some FB in a pinch, as long as they show some ability to do that, which makes it that much tougher for FB Kerridge to make the roster.

Also, as dobber notes further down, after Montgomery and probably Williams, the others ST ability will also count for a lot in determining the keepers.

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Andrew Lloyd Peth's picture

July 21, 2017 at 07:36 am

Kendricks cam play fullback, and if we're smart enough to cut Richard Rodgers and keep Beau Sandland, he can play FB too.

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dobber's picture

July 20, 2017 at 01:48 pm

It will depend on who can contribute to ST. I could see all 3 draft picks, Monty and even 2 FBs (Rip and Kerridge) if enough of them can contribute strongly to ST.

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GatorJason's picture

July 20, 2017 at 02:54 pm

Packers will likely carry 3 TB (Montgomery, Williams, Jones) and 1 FB (Ripkowski) for the opening 53. Devonte Mays will be on the Practice Squad and a likely call up in the late fall as a fresh hammer to beat up the defenses and give our lead RBs some time to heal up.

How many times have we seen a fresh, young RB tear it up in the playoffs and be invisible during the rest of the season. Mays fits that mold of guy who may not have a long-term career (injury prone) but shines brightly in relief.

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Andrew Lloyd Peth's picture

July 21, 2017 at 07:33 am

That's ideal, but it presumes no other team will snatch Mays when they lose a running back to injury. Personally, I don't think we could stash him for long.

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Bill Clinton's picture

July 20, 2017 at 02:52 pm

What about all drafted running backs and wide receivers making the roster, including Davis and Janis, with a few heading to IR with legitimate or mysterious preseason injuries? Then you put Kerridge and the big WR (Clark?) on PS. This all assuming they live up to any hype they're getting before pads (and that said pads are at the appropriate McCarthy-approved level).

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Chris Scoggins's picture

July 20, 2017 at 02:54 pm

With Montgomery able to fill a slot at both RB and WR I think 5 RBs on the final roster and going 6 at WR pretty close to a sure thing.

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PackEyedOptimist's picture

July 20, 2017 at 03:12 pm

I think it will be Ripkowski at FB, Montgomery, Williams, and Jones at RB, and Mays will train as a swing back while focusing on Special Teams. Mays is the guy that I think will replace Janis as a ST gunner; at 230# with 4.5 speed and a 400# bench, he should be a wrecking ball. All of the RBs above have had injuries, and I expect that to continue, as they are all tenacious battlers, and that makes you susceptible. I'm glad we have an actual "stable" this year!

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Andrew Lloyd Peth's picture

July 21, 2017 at 07:31 am

I agree on Mays, but as bad as our Special Teams are--especially blocking for returns--I wish we could keep Janis as well.

But we may be too deep at WR to keep Janis.

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Handsback's picture

July 20, 2017 at 03:54 pm

Generally speaking, I don't see the Packers keeping two FB on their roster. Maybe use Kendricks as a H-back if anything happens to Rip. If that's the case, then expect all the drafted RBs to make the team. Heck, the way Mays hits...make him a FB. Again, we won't know until pads, but as much as I've seen and heard about Mays, that UDFA Stanback seems like the real McCoy as well. To me this position is the most exciting part of camp.

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Colin_C's picture

July 20, 2017 at 04:20 pm

Agreed! Stanback had a great 3 cone time. Not quite as fast as mays, but far more agile. Runs like a slim Lacy. He's my dark horse for the 53.

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PackEyedOptimist's picture

July 20, 2017 at 09:49 pm

I've said the exact same thing. It's hard to imagine an undrafted RB making the 53, unless a lot of injuries occur, but I like Stanback's chances at the PS.

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cuervo's picture

July 20, 2017 at 04:00 pm

While I personally would like to see Jones be utilized because of his skillset along with Monty, McCarthy has shown year after year that he really has no idea how to use a "3rd down back" with elusive skills and explosion.

Since Monty is the starter now, my hope is that he's forced to change...but he has a penchant for plodders that turn a 60 yard scamper into a 15 yard cloud of dust.

One or more of these guys will get hurt and that alone will make the decision easier. It is nice to to have so many that seem to actually have some NFL talent.

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Bear's picture

July 20, 2017 at 11:13 pm

Doesn't make much difference on talent with our run formations. Starting the running back next to the QB standing flat footed is a recipe for disaster. Until that changes you can forget about the running game. Need more of the QB under center giving the RB a chance to hit the line with speed.

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Lphill's picture

July 21, 2017 at 06:22 am

Jamal Williams might someday be the number 1 back , he has the potential . Watch his film as I'm sure most of us have , he is a true running back some nice cut moves I am excited for him .

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Andrew Lloyd Peth's picture

July 21, 2017 at 07:26 am

Yet another reason to keep Beau Sandland over Richard Rodgers.

Rodgers, in addition to being worthless on Special Teams, run-blocking, and stretching the field, is also lousy at fullback.

Sandland can do all these things, and by helping at fullback (like Kendricks), he saves a roster spot.

CUT. RICHARD. RODGERS.

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ThxJackVainisi's picture

July 21, 2017 at 01:16 pm

According to jsonline's Cohen, they gave Sandland a "modest salary bump late last season to reflect their interest in his long-term ability", so they like him. Angelichio said now that he should know the offense, TC will be big for him. He has good "measurables" and is faster than Rodgers (not a high bar). But I don't want them to summarily cut Rodgers. I want them to let the two compete without regard to Rodgers' draft status.

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Ferrari Driver's picture

July 21, 2017 at 07:31 pm

Keep either 3 or 4RBs and 1 fullback or either 5 or 6 receivers based upon the talent displayed during training camp.

It seems that back up wide receivers tend to provide more value to special teams than back up running backs. That should be a consideration in the decision.

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