Johnathan Franklin to Packers: How Does RB Fit with Green Bay?

Zach KruseSenior Analyst IApril 27, 2013

TUCSON, AZ - OCTOBER 20:  Runningback Johnathan Franklin #23 of the UCLA Bruins rushes the football against the Arizona Wildcats during the college football game at Arizona Stadium on October 20, 2011 in Tucson, Arizona.  (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
Christian Petersen/Getty Images

The Green Bay Packers have officially gotten serious about fixing their running back position.

After taking a battering-ram option in Alabama's Eddie Lacy in the second round, the Packers moved back into the fourth round to select UCLA's dynamo back Johnathan Franklin with the 125th overall pick.

Not only did the Packers add impressive talent, but they did so at commendable value. 

One could realistically argue that Lacy and Franklin represented the top two running backs in the 2013 class, with many mock drafts having both come off the board during the first 50 picks. The Packers only had to use a second- and fourth-round pick to bring them to Green Bay, with both selections coming outside the top 50. 

Now, for a team that didn't have a rusher break 500 yards last season, the Packers suddenly look stacked at running back. 

Here's how Franklin fits with the Packers. 


Role: Talented complement to Eddie Lacy

By taking Lacy in the second round, the Packers clearly have expectations for him to be a starting-caliber back with three-down potential. While he'll have to earn that role, Lacy should be expected to see a majority of the snaps at running back next season. 

That said, Franklin has the kind of skill set that should set up well as a complement for a bruising back like Lacy.

At times, his game screams Frank Gore.

A one-cut runner with impressive short-area and straight-line (4.49 seconds in 40-yard dash) explosiveness, Franklin can certainly handle the duties of early-down situations. While not a 231-pound back like Lacy, Franklin plays much bigger than his 210-pound frame would suggest and was a difficult back to get on the ground in the Pac-12. 

Playing in a pro-style offense at UCLA, Franklin rushed for over 1,700 yards on 282 carries in his final collegiate season.

However, Franklin's biggest contributions could come as a third-down type back in the Packers high-volume passing offense.

As a senior at UCLA, Franklin caught 33 passes out of the backfield and proved capable of handling pass protection duties. His slippery nature appeals to a wide-open game that rewards players who can get the football in space and make defenders miss. A willingness to stick his body in front of blitzers will also appeal to head coach Mike McCarthy.

Considering how often the Packers throw the football, Franklin should be able to carve out a very defined role next season. 

The Packers will have to be wary about Franklin's former habit of putting the football on the ground, but he had just one fumble in his final season. It's reasonable to think the problem is behind him. Keep in mind, McCarthy values ball protection in a running back as much as pure running talent. 

But if Franklin's fumbling woes are in the past, Green Bay just added more talent at the running back position than any other team in the 2013 NFL draft.

Lacy and Franklin represent two of the top backs in this class, with both possessing the ability to play all three downs and contribute to a pass-heavy offense. Green Bay now has a very attractive trio of Lacy, Franklin and DuJuan Harris to call on behind Aaron Rodgers next season.

The Packers might have to get creative to find an appropriate amount of snaps for each, but considering their running back issues from a season ago, that's a welcomed problem for the Green Bay offense.