Green Bay Packers general manager Ted Thompson learned from one of the big mistakes he made last season. When the Packers broke from training camp, they kept only two true running backs on the roster. It left them thin at a position that, while devalued in the NFL, is still important in coach Mike McCarthy’s offense.
James Starks and Eddie Lacy combined for what should have been a solid 1-2 punch, giving the Packers balance in a traditionally pass-happy offense. Aaron Ripkowski was kept as a fullback to be used potentially in short yardage situations.
The strategy blew up in the Packers’ face quickly. Starks was injured early in the season. Lacy played on an injured ankle that was aggravated while he played on it. That injury cost Lacy his season.
The rash of injuries forced the Packers to call on the likes of Don Jackson and Knile Davis while they converted Ty Montgomery from wide receiver to running back. It appears that Montgomery has some real potential in the backfield. He’s certainly not a scat back that some experts seem to have pegged him for. He’s big, and capable of carrying the ball 20 times a game.
While Montgomery is capable of that, the Packers needed more depth in their backfield. They knew this because of what happened the previous season. That’s a big reason why they selected three running backs in this year’s draft.
Jamaal Williams out of BYU was the first of the three. They took him with their second fourth-round pick. Williams is an intriguing prospect because of his running style. He rarely goes down on first contact. Arm tackles are often met with a spot on Williams’ highlight reel. He falls forward on nearly every run.
He is a one-cut type of running back that fits well in their zone blocking scheme.
Perhaps the best part about Williams is that the Packers were able to get good value for him outside of the top 100 picks. They were able to select four defensive players who may be able to make an impact on the 2017 team instead of taking a running back in the first two rounds, as many draft experts had them pegged to do.
Williams will find stiff competition coming into camp. McCarthy has already said that Montgomery will remain the team’s starting running back. That means that Williams, Aaron Jones and Devante Mays are fighting to be the second back.
Montgomery has a skill set that is conducive to playing on all three downs. He’s a capable runner between the tackles and a good pass catcher because of his background as a wide receiver. The biggest area of improvement needed in his game is in pass protection.
That’s likely the quickest path to the field for any of the rookie running backs.
While Williams did not have a lot of opportunities to pass block at BYU, he did a good job in his limited opportunities. The biggest flaw you can find in any potential pass blocker is if he ducks his head. Williams does not have this habit. He’s willing to stick his face into a free rusher.
Williams offers a nice change of pace from Montgomery because of his ability to punish opposing defenders. Montgomery is a bigger back, but does not run like a bruiser.
Williams runs through contact and is willing to punish defenders when he finishes runs. He could be the running back that closes out games when the Packers are ahead because his style could be a more favorable matchup against a tired defense.
Williams is unlikely to become the starter unless Montgomery suffers an injury. McCarthy does like to rotate his running backs. That gives Williams a golden opportunity to get on the field early.
McCarthy also likes to ride the hot hand when it comes to his running backs. If Williams is the back who gets hot through the course of a game, there’s a chance he could stay on the field.
Ultimately, Williams will not garner the same kind of flash that Dalvin Cook would have. He is, however, a solid pick who will give the Packers a nice option behind Montgomery.