Sep. 23, 2016
Packers' Player Grades and Future: Offensive Backfield
Today, I will be doing a grading of each member of the Packers' offensive backfield, running backs and fullbacks, along with an analysis of the future of the position in Titletown. There are numerous avenues the Packers can go down this offseason, from Eddie Lacy to Ty Montgomery to something brand new altogether. Instead of giving an opinion on what they should do, I will be laying out options. So, here are the player grades to start.
Eddie Lacy: C+
It's tough to give too much thought into Eddie Lacy's season outside of this: he was hurt yet again and went on IR right before his contract expired. And the year before, he had weight issues. Not a good way to go into your next contract, but prior to that he had a decent season. In the five games he participated in (and some games were not at full strength) he did rush for 5.1 yards per carry, so that's an encouraging sign. He had no touchdowns and 72 yards per game though, so that's why he only gets a C+.
Ty Montgomery: A-
I'm classifying Montgomery as a running back just because we have too many wide receivers to grade, and because he was more effective as a running back. He led the team in rushing yards with 457 to go with three touchdowns, and had 348 receiving yards to go along with that. His playoff game against Dallas was also successful, as he rushed for an additional two touchdowns and had a couple of big receptions out of the backfield. He has shown his value to this roster.
James Starks: D-
Starks is the only true "running back" with time left on his contract, but he is the one I feel the Packers are least likely to keep. After a long, successful run in Green Bay as a backup running back, Starks battled injuries and just never recovered enough to have a productive season. He was more productive as a receiver out of the backfield and had two touchdown receptions, but his rushing number were 145 yards with no touchdowns. Even without the injuries he still underachieved.
Christine Michael: C
With the little playing time he did get, he showed flashes of potential. That is why he has been on so many teams, though, and why he always seems to get cut: he is only potential. If this was Seattle's grades, he would get an A, but with the Packers he was not super effective. Even in the limited time he was with the team, though, he was still more productive than James Starks, and had a few flashes of brilliance in the playoffs as well.
John Crockett, Knile Davis and Don Jackson: Incomplete
These guys didn't earn much more than a sentence, as they combined for a total of 15 carries and two ended up on IR pretty early. Knile Davis was acquired in a trade and released just after, and I believe the Packers were able to keep the draft pick they sent to the Chiefs for him.
Aaron Ripkowski: B+
I'm not grading only NFC Championship fumbles, but that may have pushed him down from an A-. Three total touchdowns this year prior to the postseason makes him the clear-cut fullback of the future, and he made a good portion of Packer fans forget John Kuhn prior to that fumble (and then everybody wished he was there instead). Either way, "Rip" is likely to be around for a while, and he earned the right to do so this season.
Joe Kerridge: Incomplete
When I would tell people the Packers had two fullbacks on the roster, they would say who's the second? Well, it was Joe Kerridge, and his one carry for zero yards should tell you why the average fan didn't know about him. He was active for eight games, and most of his impacts were on special teams. I don't think he makes the roster, but expect him to be around for training camp.
I listed the free agents below, but it is headed by Lacy and Michael, and both of whom could be back or not. To start off with simple matters, expect Kerridge and either Jackson or Crockett (maybe both) to be in camp in July. As far as the rest of the backfield is concerned, Ripkowski and Montgomery are the only viable options left as Starks has nothing in the tank. If we were looking to have a "three-headed monster" in the backfield, with Ripkowski as the big back and Montgomery as a third down back, it may be time to give Lacy and/or Michael another shot. Maybe Lacy doesn't have to be a "bell cow" by only carrying it two to four times a drive at most, and that would preserve his health and increase his effectiveness.
As far as outside options and the draft is concerned, I sincerely hope that the Packers don't waste a first or second round pick on a running back. If they do, it would likely be Christian McCaffrey or Joe Mixon. I think the Packers should use one of their mid-round selections and take a Wayne Gallman out of Clemson or a Samaje Perine out of Oklahoma, instead of drafting high on a running back when there are so many defensive needs. As far as free agency goes, Pittsburgh back Le'Veon Bell is the only one worth going for outside of Lacy, and I know Ted Thompson won't spend that money. Mike Gillislee of Buffalo, Darren McFadden of Dallas and Andre Ellington of Arizona are some low cost options that could be intriguing, but they don't really wow you into a need to have them.
FREE AGENTS: Eddie Lacy, Christine Michael, Joe Kerridge, Don Jackson, John Crockett (Knile Davis was cut already)