It's time for another edition of "let's laugh at the APC staff for being morons and grading positions before training camp starts"! Kevin addressed the Quarterbacks a while back, so it's my turn to examine the running backs.
A reminder: this is our attempt to address our confidence in the Packers' personnel at a given position as we move into training camp, all the way down the depth chart. I tried to express our confidence in each player at their role; in other words, confidence in the starter as a starter, confidence in a backup as a backup, and so on.
Starter: James Starks
Backup: Alex Green
Third-String: Brandon Saine
Fourth-String or below: Marc Tyler, Duane Bennett
Confidence in starter - Average: Starks has shown himself to be an explosive and talented runner when he's decisive and healthy; the playoff run in 2010 showcased Starks at his best. However, he disappeared a bit towards the end of the 2011 season, recording only 13 carries for 37 yards in Weeks 14-16. We feel that while his talent level is high, he needs to live up to it fully, and has not shown it yet.
Confidence in backup - Below average: Green is returning from a torn ACL. Because of this, there's almost no way to say our confidence is above average. Add in the fact that Green didn't look all that impressive in the four games he played in 2011, and you can see why we're hedging our bets here. Green may turn out to be an effective third-down back and a solid backup, but his rehab is still a major question mark.
Confidence in third-string - Above average: Personally, I think Saine can be a good backup running back in this league and a decent change of pace. Skill players from Ohio State under the Tressel regime have tended to come out raw and not ready for the NFL; the fact that Saine worked his way onto the roster and played fairly well in both the rushing and passing game in limited action gives me some hope that he can be a solid backup RB in the future. As a third-stringer, I'd gladly take him over the Kregg Lumpkins and DeShawn Wynns of the past.
Confidence in depth - Above average: I am completely confident that Tyler will either spend this season on the Packers' practice squad or on another team's active roster. Bennett has a chance to do the same.
Final grade - C-: Sorry, all; I assure you that it will go up from here. We just can't overlook the facts that Starks hasn't established himself as a bona fide #1 running back yet, Green's injury leaves him a question mark, and Saine is just a second-year pro himself. Let's just all breathe a big sigh of relief that the running game is not the focal point of the Packers' offense.