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Which potential UDFA running backs could fit the Packers?

The Packers change their criteria a bit when looking at undrafted running backs vs. early draft picks, but we find that they still maintain certain thresholds.

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Yesterday, we examined the Green Bay Packers’ undrafted free agent cornerback signings over the past several years to see how well those players match up with the team’s draft tendencies under Ted Thompson. Today we will try a similar examination, but at the running back position.

First off, click over to CheeseheadTV to read up on Justis Mosqueda’s breakdown of the Packers’ drafting tendencies for runners. We will use some of his conclusions as the basis for our analysis of the Packers’ past undrafted free agent running back signings over the past few years.

Undrafted Signings

As mentioned above, we’ll look at Justis’ draft criteria for running backs. In general, here are the primary items that the Packers tend to look for:

  • Weight > 204 pounds
  • 40-yard dash time < 4.55 seconds
  • 3-cone drill time < 7.00 seconds

However, Justis also notes that the Packers sometimes stray from these numbers when they can find a “big back,” someone who is in the 230-240 pound range. Eddie Lacy and DeShawn Wynn are two such examples.

Now let’s look at the players that the Packers have brought in as undrafted signings immediately or almost immediately after the draft over the past several years at the position. Once again, bold means the player meets the criteria, italics means he is close (within 0.1 second for timed drills) and strikethrough means he is well outside the range. Testing numbers for these players were taken from

  • Brandon Burks (2016): Weight, 40 time (4.56), 3-cone
  • Don Jackson (2016): Weight, 40 time, 3-cone (7.09)
  • John Crockett (2015): Weight, 40 time (4.62), 3-cone (7.15)
  • *Alonzo Harris (2015): Weight, 40 time (4.66), 3-cone (7.18)
  • *Rajion Neal (2014): Weight, 40 time (4.57), 3-cone (7.19)
  • James Sims (2014): Weight, 40 time (4.59), 3-cone (7.21)
  • Angelo Pease (2013): Weight, 40 time, 3-cone (7.08)
  • *Marc Tyler (2012): Weight, 40 time (4.74), 3-cone (7.27)
  • Duane Bennett (2012): Weight, 40 time (4.62), 3-cone
  • *Brandon Saine (2011): Weight, 40 time, 3-cone

Asterisks (*) note that these players weighed 220 pounds or more and might fit the “big back” label. However, the only back who weighed more than 230 was Harris, who was 6’1”, 237. What is interesting is that the Packers only go for a player who runs slower than 4.62 if he is 220 pounds or more.

Saine was the only back who fits all three criteria, and looking back it seems a bit surprising that he lasted into free agency. He was big at 5’11” and 220 pounds, he ran well (4.48 at Combine, 4.38 at Ohio State’s Pro Day) and he met the 3-cone cutoff. However, he was coming off a knee injury at the time.

Otherwise, we can see that the Packers never bring in a running back under 205 pounds, even as a free agent, and they seem to stick to a 40-yard dash cutoff time of around 4.62 seconds instead of their draft cutoff of 4.55. Still, that’s not much of a filter, as only 27% of tested running backs have run slower than 4.62 at the Combine (according to That does allow for a few more players to be considered than the 4.55, which is faster than 54% of all backs.

The 3-cone time is the one that seems to be most frequently thrown away in rookie free agency. Would it be nice to be around 7 seconds? Sure, but that is the time that seems to be adjusted the most.

So let’s revise the criteria for the Packers for undrafted free agency to the following:

  • Weight > 204 (no change)
  • 40-yard dash < 4.63 seconds (for smaller backs)
  • 3-cone time < 7.21 seconds

This actually filters out more players than you might think, so let’s find a few who might fit. Once again, these players are pulled from the database as individuals who are rated as 7th round to free agent or below.

Bigger Backs

First up, let’s cross out a few of the big guys who might be intriguing. Again, we’re primarily looking for players over 225 pounds or so. As it turns out, we have just as many interesting names in this category as we do with backs who are a more conventional size.

Elijah Hood, North Carolina

5116, 232
4.57 40, 7.12 3-cone

Hood ticks off the measurables for a bigger back, and he left Chapel Hill with a year of eligibility remaining. Hood was very good in 2015, picking up 1,463 yards on the ground at a 6.9 yards per carry clip and adding 17 touchdowns. T.J. Logan took a bigger portion of his workload in 2016, however, but Hood expanded his game more as a receiver, catching 25 passes (but for only 142 yards).

William Stanback, Virginia Union

5116, 233
4.55 40, 6.90 3-cone

Stanback is one of the few players who fits the Packers three criteria and also fits the “big back” mold. However, he has a questionable past, as he played at UCF early in his career but was dismissed from the team in 2015, reportedly after multiple failed drug tests. Last season, he picked up 1,299 yards (6.3 YPC) and 18 total touchdowns.

Rushel Shell III, West Virginia

5095, 227
4.69 40 (Pro Day), 7.09 3-cone

Shell, who started out at Pittsburgh, asked to transfer to UCLA after his freshman year but ended up at West Virginia instead after Pitt’s coaching staff would not allow him to return. He was mainly a rotational player the last three years, splitting time with a handful of other backs. In fact, his number of carries and rushing yards decreased each year from 2014 through 2016. Still, he is a shorter, stout runner who might fit as a physical runner.

Joel Bouagnon, Northern Illinois

6012, 230
4.66 40, 6.90 3-cone

This is probably the player who I could most likely see landing in Green Bay. He’s got a nice cone-drill time, especially for his size, and he appears to have no notable off-the field questions. In addition, the Packers reportedly took him out to dinner after NIU’s Pro Day. His best year came as a junior in 2015, when he finished second in the MAC in rushing with 1,285 yrads and added 18 touchdowns.

“Normal” Backs

These players are in the 205-225 range and would be more conventional fits for the Packers.

Dare Ogunbowale, Wisconsin

5106, 213
4.61 40 (Pro Day), 6.99 3-cone (Combine)

Ogunbowale doesn’t quite make it into the Packers’ early-draft criteria in the 40, but he makes it for the free agent criteria and everything else about him screams “Packers target.” He is quick and light on his feet and he is both an excellent receiver and pass-blocker. He also led the Badgers in rushing in 2015 when Corey Clement was out with injury and disciplinary issues.

Joe Williams, Utah

5110, 210
4.41 40 (Combine), 6.94 3-cone (Pro Day)

Williams checks all the boxes for all three measurements, so he’s definitely a possibility as a late-round pick. If he does end up going undrafted, he should have plenty of suitors. He has some odd items in his past, however, as he started at Connecticut before being suspended in 2013 and transferring to Utah. He then retired abruptly after two games as a senior before Utah asked him to come back, and he finished 2016 with 1,407 yards on 210 carries in just 9 games.

Justin Davis, USC

6005, 208
4.62 40, 6.87 3-cone

Davis narrowly squeaks in under our UDFA 40 time, but his 3-cone time puts him squarely in consideration. He was never a full-time starter, but he did start eight and seven games as a junior and senior, respectively. He also brings some kick return experience, and saw some action as a receiving option out of the backfield as well.

Alex Ross, Missouri

6010, 221
4.62 40, 7.12 3-cone

Ross had a decent year at Oklahoma as a backup in 2014, but in 2015 he fell behind Samaje Perine and Joe Mixon on the depth chart and transferred to Missouri. He did not see much action on offense, but was a primary kick returner, a position he also had played for the Sooners. In fact, he averaged over 30 yards per return and had two touchdowns during that 2014 season.