Reminder: Don’t sleep on Johnathan Franklin

ALLGBP.com All Green Bay Packers All the Time
Packers RB Johnathan Franklin
Packers RB Johnathan Franklin

Much has been made over the Packers’ running game in recent years, and this year’s draft class proves that upgrading the ground game is a top priority headed into 2013.

No, the Packers may not have landed the No. 1 running back in the draft — last Giovani Bernard mention — but they may have gotten Nos. 2 and 3.

Bernard was the first back off the board, going to the Cincinnati Bengals with the 37th pick. Former Michigan State power back Le’Veon Bell went to the Steelers at No. 48, and the Denver Broncos drafted Montee Ball ten picks later.

Prior to the draft, Eddie Lacy was expected by most to be the first back off the board. NFL Network draft analyst Mike Mayock had Lacy as the 18th-best player in the draft.

But then draft day happened, and the Packers grabbed him with the second-to-last pick in round two.

As Bob McGinn put it, the Packers almost reluctantly turn in the card for the former Alabama standout when he was still on the board at No. 61. Most draft analysts loved the pick. Everyone (Mayock, Mel Kiper, Todd McShay, Matt Miller) had Lacy as the top running back in the draft, and the Packers — a team that lacked a running game — stole him with a late second-rond pick.

With a potential three-down back (Lacy) already in the fold, the Packers focused on the offensive line. After selecting linemen David Bakhtiari and J.C. Tretter early on Day 3, Thompson made a trade for a third fourth-round pick. They had their running back in Lacy, but Franklin was still sitting on the board.

“I’ve watched Ted Thompson enough times in the draft room that when he goes up, it’s going up for something and it’s really good and that was definitely the case,” head coach Mike McCarthy said in a post-draft press conference. “Very dynamic player, I’m excited to work with him.”

It probably means nothing, but whereas the Packers moved down and took Lacy, they felt strongly enough about Franklin to trade up for him in the fourth round.

Both players should see carries next season along with DuJuan Harris. Which isn’t bad for a team that relied almost solely on Harris as its starting running back into last year’s playoffs. It’s pretty safe to say the days of almost-desperate Ryan Grant signings are over.

The past few years, the Packers have struggled mightily in short-yardage situations. Lacy should help in that aspect. According to ESPN Stats & Information, Lacy averaged 7.6 yards per carry between the tackles last season at Alabama. When the defense went with seven or fewer defenders in the box, Lacy’s per-carry average spiked to 8.7.

Packers fans have every reason to be excited about Lacy in Green Bay, but Franklin is a promising player in his own right. The Packers drafted Lacy two rounds before Franklin, but that doesn’t mean they thought Franklin was a fourth-round prospect.

Lacy is bigger and stronger than Franklin, but Franklin is more explosive and quicker to the perimeter than Lacy.

Franklin (5-10 205) isn’t known as a power back, but his frame certainly doesn’t prevent him from inviting collisions. As a senior, Franklin showed what he could do between-the-tackles and catching passes at UCLA, totaling over 2,000 yards from scrimmage and 15 touchdowns.

My early draft rankings had Lacy at No. 2, and Franklin at No. 5, but on my final pre-draft positional rankings, I had Franklin at No. 2 and Lacy at No. 3. Whether it’s Franklin or Lacy, the Packers’ personnel in the backfield has much more potential than in years past.

Lacy has had his share of injury issues, and at least one NFL team was turned off by his medical report. Clearly, the Packers medical staff was confident in Lacy’s health, but if he can’t hold up, Franklin may have an opportunity to be the guy. If he doesn’t earn that opportunity even sooner.

Franklin can run between the tackles, make plays on the outside and catch the ball out of the backfield. Perhaps most importantly, he excels in pass protection.

“He does a really nice job of using his hands and his feet to block,” a team scout told CBS Sports. “He’s got good speed and is just big enough to handle pass protection. We’ve had our eyes on him for some time.”

If the Packers had selected Franklin in the second round, most fans would be extremely excited — and rightfully so — but fans should be even more excited that the team was able to steal him in Round 4 after already selecting Lacy in Round 2. They’re both really good players, and the Packers needed help at the position.

Fans should be excited about Lacy and optimistic about the team’s running game. But before you buy your No. 27 Lacy jersey, keep an eye on No. 23.

——————

Follow @MJEversoll

Marques is a Journalism student, serving as the Sports Editor of UW-Green Bay\'s campus newspaper The Fourth Estate and a Packers writer at Jersey Al\'s AllGBP.com. Follow Marques on Twitter @MJEversoll.

——————

  • Dobber

    Firmly believe that when we look at total plays from scrimmage in 2013, he’ll beat Lacy–injuries aside.

    • Lucas

      I don’t care who beats whom…as long as it’s the opponent’s defense that is beaten.

    • Stroh

      I don’t see Franklin being a FT RB. His size is very much the same as Harris if not slightly smaller. Lacy will be the bell cow RB assuming he’s healthy and carry the load and be a true #1 RB. Franklin and Harris will get limited snaps unless Lacy is unjured and then they would probably share the snaps equally.

    • Savage57

      Much of what is going to determine who gets the rock more is who they’re playing. Nice to know though that if the Pack is lining up against a speed secondary that can pursue, send Lacy after them to give them nigthmares of kneecaps. If they’re bangers, send Franklin to juke and burst.

      I can’t wait to see what happens with this. And just as a kicker, Reggie Cobb is going to own the middle where opposing safety’s used to sit and wait.

      • Dobber

        Reggie Cobb’s been retired for ages, and even if he wanted to come back I’m guessing is 40 time isn’t too impressive at this point.

  • lebowski

    sheesh, Nebraska tackles like the Packers.

    • Dobber

      The Badgers showed that…

  • aaronqb

    Wonder if the days of KUUUUUUHN are over?

  • Chad Toporski

    Lousy tackling aside, I did enjoy seeing his persistence and yards after contact.

    Let’s see how he holds up against the pros.

  • http://googlechrome madtowne

    Can you imagine the Packers lining up in
    a two back set with Lacy & Franklin… then putting Franklin in motion…MM is
    going to have some fun adding these guys
    to the mix!

    GO PACK!

  • lambeauleaper

    Imagine Franklin in the backfield with Lacy in the deep I,with Jordy and Jones wide,with Cobb in the slot.Before the snap Franklin motions to the slot on the other side.This formation has to bring the safties up,and should allow for a pass deep or even a run!

    • Oppy

      I was just going to say the same thing, beat me to the punch.

  • Brian

    I am as excited to see these two backs play as others here. I want to know how our run blocking will improve? The only guy I can recall that was superb with a crappy o-line was Barry Sanders. Maybe some of you can remember other backs that could do it on their own, too.

    • Dobber

      Their best “blocker” will be Aaron Rodgers. I think it will be a long time before these backs see 8 men in the box on a regular basis.

    • PatMc

      Adrian Peterson…The past three years his O line is fat and slow. They moved their LT to LG and he still sucks.

  • Big T

    Just hope these guys can run wild without blocking because everyone knows how god aweful the Packers O-line is at blocking.

    • Lucas

      Not awful, average. Bulaga-above average, Sitton-well above average, EDS-below average, Lang-average, Newhouse-below to well below average.

      Thoughts?

      • Oppy

        Agree, but I think Lang is a better than average run blocker. He was awfully nicked up last year, and he is still young and developing. I don’t get why so many fans want Lang traded or are constantly looking to have him replaced. I like the kid, he’s scrappy and improving, good punch.

        BTW, We’re talking about strictly run blocking, right?

        • Lucas

          The ratings aren’t exactly too far off from each other run/pass blocking IMHO. I guess I was assessing in general…then looked and thought they were better fit for run blocking. What would you change for pass blocking? Newhouse-needs constant help?

          • Oppy

            Newhouse actually isn’t all that bad at pass pro. He sucks at run blocking though.

        • http://allpackers.com Nick Perry

          Because he was responsible for 12 sacks last year!!!!!

          • Oppy

            Again, he was playing banged up all season, too.

      • Dobber

        Is “aweful” good? I know “awful” is bad… ;)

  • Sven

    The more I study Eddie Lacy the more I believe that he truly was the drafts top back. I suspect that TT dropped a comment or two about the fused toe to scare off would be takers of Lacy. Just Kidding…I think.

    What I find astounding about the critics of Lacy is that they point to his poor 40 time. But it really wasn’t that poor for a power back, and he was said to be still in the recovery process from his hamstring injury. So I think that it is abit over blown.

    What is not overblown, IMO, is the way he finished his college career vs. Georgia and Norte Dame. Two very good programs by all accounts which he dominated. and when it came down to him vs. highest rated LB in the Draft, he left the guy grabbing at air.

    I have High expectations for Lacy and for Franklin. They were excellent choices, and if I am wrong it will suck weather I doubted or believed in them.

    • http://allgbp.com/category/authors/jason-perone/ Jason Perone

      What’s interesting about Lacy and the toe situation is that I feel like GB’s medical staff will fail a guy on a physical for a paper cut. . yet they have no concerns about this foot injury. I’m not saying they should, but seems like exactly the type of situation where they would err on the side of caution. There was just too much value late in 2 to pass on him. Still, I have no trouble seeing Franklin shoot ahead on the depth chart. He’s a smart kid.

  • Nopainnogain

    only question about lacy imo is how much his dominant alabama o-line had to do w/ his college success.

    • FireMMNow

      agreed. every player on that line will eventually be playing in the nfl. but make no mistake, it is hard to average over 6 YPC in the SEC no matter who is blocking for you.

      • Nopainnogain

        yea it is more comforting to know that they achieved that in the SEC. still, I remember watching plenty of plays where he went 5 yards before anyone even got near him him. I don’t expect he’ll get blocking like that nearly as much in the GB. he’s gonna have to get used to finding holes when they’re not apparent and run through Dlinemen instead of DB’s. still a good value where he was drafted.

        • Scott1956

          He was getting the first hit, on average, 5 yards downfield. When you take that into account, his numbers don’t look that impressive. And his college O-Line is much better at run blocking than his current line!

  • Batavia Greg

    Prediction: Franklin will get more playing time this year than Lacy. There are medical reasons why the Steelers didn’t pick Lacy. Maybe Cedric Benson stays after all. Too bad TT didn’t sign as an undrafted free agent another “big” back, TCU’s Matthew Tucker, as insurance.

  • Brooklyn81

    This is gonna be tge best RB tandem in the nfl. Our run blocking is going to vastly improve. hopefully we can finally get something outta sherrod and plug hima at right, bulaga at left, barclay to left guard, lang to center, and sitton just where he is. I know ppl are gonna say that Lang makes too much money to play C, but we need not worry about who makes what money we need our best players on the field period

  • BradHTX

    I disagree with your assessment slightly, Lucas. It depends, are you talking general ratings, or strictly run blocking (since this is an article about RBs, after all)?

    I agree that Bulaga is above average, Sitton is very good, and Lang average (though I think he’s better when he’s allowed to stay at his natural guard position rather than being shuffled all over the line). Bulaga can be very good too, a few hiccups like the Seattle game aside.

    Where I disagree is on EDS. I don’t think we can offer a truly accurate opinion of him yet because he’s only been the starting center for a short time. He had up games and down games, but overall I think he brought attitude to the job and was certainly an upgrade from Saturday. I would give him an “average” grade now with the potential to be above average this season (and below as well). The jury is still out, but I think TT agrees that he showed enough last year to warrant a short at being The Guy this year.

    And then there is Newhouse. Yes, his run blocking is well below average, but he has improved his pass blocking to the point where PFF graded him the 5th best last year. That’s pretty impressive, and on balance I think he grades out as average. I would certainly like to see Sherrod come back and displace him this season of course, but if he doesn’t Newhouse is still someone we can live with until one of Datko/Barclay/Bakhtiari steps up.

    • Oppy

      This

    • Barutan Seijin

      I doubt that we’ll ever see much of Sherrod. He didn’t show much his first year. Maybe it was his fault, maybe not, but still, not much to put in his portfolio. Didn’t get much on the job training, either. Then he got hurt. Surgery, another surgery. He’s going to have prove that he’s worth keeping on the roster.

      • Batavia Greg

        TT took a gamble that Lacy, with his history of injuries and surgeries, doesn’t suffer the same fate.

    • Lucas

      I can agree with EDS. See my response above. I guess I erred on the side of “lease expectations”? If I included Saturday in the run blocking…yeah…very poor, and then compared EDS to him…sure… But my thoughts were really in terms of the league.

  • FITZCORE1252

    Going to go out on a limb and say, Franklin will be the better pro. That’s not saying I think Lacy will bust, just that I think Franklin is going to be phenomenal… More tools in his toolbox imo.

    Lucas, I think it’s too early to pencil EDS in as below average. Let’s give the kid a full season as ‘the guy’ before we label him, good or bad.

    • Lucas

      No problem…look above… I was thinking more in terms of “least expectations”…despite how I spelled “least” above.

  • Turophile

    If you have heard what his college coach (Jim Mora) had to say about Franklin, it will come as no surprise that TT ‘double-dipped at RB.

    He flat out raved about him, what a terrific football player and person he was. A real locker room leader and a runner that ‘gets it’.

    • Tarynfor12

      AAH….Jim Mora,the ‘E.F.Hutton’ of College Football.

      • Oppy

        Too funny! Do sub-35 year olds even get this?

        • Lucas

          Nope. Had to take the chance to feel young at 34.

      • Savage57

        After hearing Sr.’s crazy rant about the playoffs, I always wondered what it must have been like for little Jim when he asked Dad about:
        Christmas
        Birthdays
        Borrowing the Car
        Sex

        You get the idea.

  • Brandon

    I’m hoping someone here can answer a question for me. Is there any possibility of moving Lang to center and playing David Bakhtiari at left guard? Please share your opinions.

    • Oppy

      Just commented on this.

      Leave Lang alone at LG. He’s a good guard. Why move him?

      BTW, some have suggested that our Cornell lineman pick is destined to be converted to center- he’s supposed to be very tough and extremely smart.

    • Stroh

      Why is it everyone seems to want Lang at Center? I don’t get it… He’s been an OT and OG for his entire career and the Packers have never even hinted that they give him reps as an emergency Center.

      Lang needs to be left at LG and only LG. I don’t even want to see him having to take snaps at another position. That’s what the backups are for. To be versatile enough to fill in at a couple positions. Leave the starters alone if at all possible.

      • PatMc

        I agree with STROH. Lang was doing just fine helping out both Saturday and Newhouse…Then he was moved to RT and got hurt. He struggled after that.

  • Oppy

    A game of best case, worst case:

    Lacy-

    Best Case: Jerome Bettis
    Worst Case: Ron Dayne

    Franklin-
    ….?

  • Stroh

    I’m looking forward to McCarthy showing a real commitment to the running game for a change. I really think that will happen! And due to it you’ll see it show up in practice to help get the OL ready for some real run blocking. Its hard to run block well when you don’t even work on it regularly. The best most consistent RB he’s had was Grant for a couple years and he showed some commitment then, even w/ an ordinary RB. I really think Lacy will provide the impetus for McCarthy to commit to the running game in a tangible sense, not just to try to keep teams honest. I think Lacy will likely run for over 1000 yds and I can see even 1200 yds. IMO, this will only happen w/ Lacy as the true #1 RB tho, if he misses time, then Franklin and Harris will split time evenly and McCarthy will lean heavily on the passing game again.

    Lacy is the kind of power RB we need late in the year in GB or late season road games in bad weather.

  • Brandon

    I love that there’s a place I can go and listen/talk to knowledgeable packer fans!

  • Spiderpack

    Great comments everyone! Franklin is definitely not “even smaller than D. Harris.” 5’10” 210#(and will of course gain weight) vs 5’9″ 208# for Harris. Franklin is a bigger Randall Cobb with nearly all his attributes, in our backfield. The offense will be wicked.

    • Stroh

      Harris was listed at his Pro Day as being less than 5’8, not 5’9. So more like 2 in shorter and a heavier. So in a real way Franklin is smaller, not by much but he is.. That’s assuming that Harris’ 208 is correct, even tho his ht isn’t. And Franklin is 205 not 210. That’s listed in the article…