The Green Bay Packers have a dynamic duo at the running back position in former ROY Eddie Lacy and hard running complimentary back James Starks. Behind them however is an empty bench.
The running position this year is one of the deepest positions in the draft with 15 solid prospects who will likely contribute this coming season. It is a safe bet that one of the Packers nine picks will be spent at this position of need.
It is highly unlikely that the Packers would select a back in round one, but from round two on all bets are off. For the Packers it would make perfect sense, if not imperative, to add an elusive runner who is an effective 3rd down receiving option as well as a home-run threat on kickoff returns and perhaps even punts.
Today we preview a highly regarded running back who would be a great fit for the green-and-gold.
Packers Prospect Profile: Duke Johnson
Player information: 5’ 8”, 206 lbs. Junior, University of Miami (FL)
Hometown: Miami, Florida
NFL Combine Stats:
40 Yard Dash: 4.54 Seconds
Vertical Jump: 35.5”
Broad Jump: 121”
225# Bench: (no combine stat available)
Compares to pros: CJ Spiller, LeSean McCoy
Projected Draft Position: Anywhere from the second round to the fourth.
Strengths: Impressive acceleration. Displays burst, agility and nimble enough to slip through tackles and ability to stiff-arm and elude oncoming tacklers. Patient yet decisive runner willing to stretch plays and then accelerate hard through the hole. Fluid in his cuts. Despite small stature, fights hard every play and shows highly competitive juices for this hard-worker. Good hands out of the backfield, with the ability to adjust to the ball on wheel-routes or split out wide in some formations creating mismatches for opposing linebackers.
Weaknesses: Lacks ideal size for a three-down back in the NFL and likely will platoon as a third down back initially. Not a proven commodity as an inside runner. Size also an issue in pass protection where his technique needs improvement. Injuries are a concern. Suffered a broken ankle in 2013. Returned to full strength in 2014 however had his share of minor dings including a concussion along the way.
Johnson is smallish at 5’09” and 206 lbs. but has good speed at 4.54 seconds in the 40 yard dash, and averaged an impressive 6.8 yards per carry while scoring 10 touchdowns in his senior at “The U”. A fearless runner who has shown explosiveness plus an impressive burst once he creases the line of scrimmage. A threat to go all-the-way any time he touches the ball. In addition he might be the best receiver of all of the running backs available this year.
What they are saying: Matt Miller of Bleacher Report has even gone so far to say that Johnson is better than Gurley and Gordon and could indeed be a first round selection. His latest mock draft has Johnson going to the Colts in round one.
What the Packers see: Although he was not the kickoff return man at Miami, with his combination of vision, balance, cutting ability and acceleration he projects as a capable return man at the next level. Coaching can correct his deficient pass blocking technique. Johnson would also be a welcome change-of-pace to the bruising running styles of Lacy and Starks.——————
Jeff Albrecht grew up just north of Green Bay and was lucky enough to attend some of the Lombardi Era classic games, like the 1962 championship and the Ice Bowl. Jeff went on to play HS football in the Green Bay area and College ball at UW - Stevens Point. Jeff is retired but still does some writing for his local paper. Jeff is a writer with AllGreenBayPackers.com and you can follow him on twitter at @pointerjeff .