The Green Bay Packers exit the 2020 NFL Draft with several question marks on their roster, but they also have several very deep and talented positions. The deepest of these appears to be running back where the team has both talent and depth to spare.
Matt LaFleur wants the Packers to emphasize the run more. We saw the beginning of that last season as the team ran the ball more often than they did under Mike McCarthy. They also ran the ball more in the red zone as evidenced by Aaron Jones’ 16 rushing touchdowns during the regular season.
The Packers will be running the ball more often and throwing play action passes off the running game. They should be using more two-tight end formations so they can run the ball more effectively.
Here is a look at the Packers running back position after the NFL Draft:
1. Aaron Jones
Jones is coming off a career season which saw him gain 1,084 yards, tied for the league lead with 16 rushing touchdowns and catch 49 passes.
Jones was healthy for all 16 games for the first time in his career. The former UTEP star has excellent speed and is a strong, one-cut runner. He has worked hard to improve his pass blocking and receiving and finished second on the team in receptions last year.
The Packers have an interesting decision to make on Jones after the 2020 season. His contract is up and it remains to be seen if GM Brian Gutekunst will look to sign Jones to a new deal or if he will let him walk because of the team’s depth at this position and the way the league generally does not value individual running backs.
If Jones has another monster season, his asking price could become too high for the Packers. If he gets injured, his price could drop. This will be a crucial season for Jones because it will largely determine his future in Green Bay.
2. Jamaal Williams
Jamaal Williams has served as a key backup and change of pace at running back for the Packers over the last three seasons. While Williams is not as dynamic as Jones, he is a steady, smart and hard-working back with a different skill set.
Williams rushed for 460 yards last season and averaged a career-high 4.3 yards per carry. He also finished third on the team with 39 catches and tied for the team lead with five touchdown catches.
While Jones is a speedy, outside runner, Williams is more of a between the tackles runner who seems to play his best on a wet or sloppy field. He is the team’s best pass blocking running back and he’s a reliable receiver.
Like Jones, Williams’ contract is up at the end of the 2020 season. It is unlikely the Packers re-sign both of their top two running backs so how Williams performs this season will be critical to his future.
3. A.J. Dillon
The Packers drafted Dillon in the second round of this year’s NFL draft. Dillon is a big back who stands 6’0” tall and weighs 247 pounds. Some scouts described him as a poor man’s Derrick Henry and Henry was the key to the Titans offense when LaFleur was the offensive coordinator in 2018.
Dillon will run mostly between the tackles. He averaged 5.3 yards per attempt in 318 carries last season and gained 1,685 yards while scoring 14 rushing touchdowns. His receiving skills are not as well known as Dillon caught only 21 total passes in his three seasons at Boston College.
Dillon’s addition may make Jamaal Williams tradeable as he has a similar rushing skill set. It will be interesting to see what kind of role the rookie carves out for himself this season.
4. Tyler Ervin
Ervin joined the Packers for the final four games of the season and made an immediate impact as a return specialist. The Packers also successfully utilized him on gadget running and passing plays out of the backfield which increases his value in LaFleur’s offense.
Ervin has an edge when it comes to earning a roster spot because of his return skills. He may not get more than a couple of touches per game on offense barring injuries, but he will look to make those touches count.
5. Dexter Williams
Dexter Williams was the Packers sixth round pick in the 2019 NFL Draft. The former Notre Dame star showed flashes of solid running ability in the preseason but struggled in blitz pickup and route running. As a result, the rookie played in only four games and carried the ball just five times for 11 yards.
With the addition of Dillon, Williams may not make the roster this season unless he shows significant improvement in pass blocking and route running.
6. Other Candidates
The Packers also have first-year player Damarea Crockett, who finished last season on the Packers practice squad and undrafted free agent Patrick Taylor who showed promise at Memphis before an injury limited him to just six games this past season.
Overall, the Packers have a lot of talent at this position. They have talent, depth and players who can fit different roles in the offense. If the team plans to emphasize the run more as LaFleur installs more of his offense, he certainly appears to have the tools to run that offense on the current roster.
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