One painfully clear fact about the Packers right now is that an upgrade to the running game is needed, and a large part of upgrading the running game will come with upgrading the running back position. Unfortunately 2013 is not looking like a very good year for running back prospects in the draft. There is also the fact that Ted Thompson does not have a great track record when it comes to drafting running backs. Considering these factors, as well as questionable talent the Packers currently have on the roster, it may be a good idea to dip into the free agent pool instead.
If the Packers go into the free agent market for a running back there are three names that are most likely to surface: Steven Jackson, Ahmad Bradshaw, and Cedric Benson. Each of these three players is fairly known commodities and each brings some distinct pros and cons…..
Jackson is the type of legitimate threat that can take pressure off of Aaron Rodgers right away. He is used to have a high volume of carries. Better yet, he has shown he can be productive with those carries as well, gaining 1,000 every year since 2005. Typically he has done this with an offensive line as bad (or worse) than the one we currently have in Green Bay. Jackson also is a big and strong back who is able to run between the tackles and take advantage of fewer defenders in the box in order to better protect against the Packers’ passing attack.
How much tread is left on his tires? Jackson is well over the 2,000 carry mark and will be 30 by the time next season kicks off. This is way past the time when the wheels fall for a running back. Many scouts and personnel people think that he still has a year or two left in the tank, but that’s what we heard last year about Jeff Saturday and you know how that turned out.
Bradshaw brings a toughness that many of the current Packer running backs lack. He is a hard runner who is able to bring the fight to the defense. Bradshaw also has the experience working in a running back by committee approach. So unlike Benson or Jackson, who may need 10 touches or so just to get a feel for the defense, Bradshaw can produce at any point in the game.
Bradshaw's main problem is injuries. Bradshaw has only put together one full 16 game season in his five year career. He is coming off a Lisfranc injury to his foot that required surgery (never a good sign for the long term health of a running back). There is also a good chance that enough teams will be interested in Bradshaw that a bidding war will arise for his services.
Benson knows the offense and the quarterback has a feel for him already. He has shown he can be adequately productive in this offense and with this offensive line. There is also a very good chance that he will come cheaper than the other two backs.
Benson seems like the perfect storm of cons from the other two. Like Bradshaw he is coming off Lisfranc surgery. Like Jackson he is on the wrong side of 28 and has had high number of carries. Together it suggests a drop off is coming soon if it hasn’t hit already.
Each of these three running backs makes a certain amount of sense for the Packers. Any one of them could be just what the Packers offense needs. Then again, running back is a young man’s position and a team is just as likely to strike gold with a mid to low round picks as they are with a high pick or pricey free agent. So if you were Ted Thompson which route would you go in order to upgrade the running back position for the Packers?