Crockett Gives Packers Value At Running Back

The Green Bay Packers entered the offseason with quite a bit of uncertainty at the running back position.  Eddie Lacy had a down season in 2015 due to health and discipline issues.  He was so disappointing that some were calling for the Packers to sign a free agent back or draft one early in preparation of Lacy's departure after the 2016 season when his rookie deal expires.  Prior to his signing with the New York Jets, there was some talk that former Chicago Bears running back Matt Forte might be a target of the Packers in free agency.  

Instead of opting for the more expensive but effective Forte, the Packers opted to re-signed James Starks, who had spent his first five seasons with the team and helped them win a Super Bowl in 2010.  There were questions about whether Starks would be back after his major issues with ball security at the end of 2015 coupled with his turning 30 years old but alas, the team chose to stick with the guy they knew and brought Starks back.

In last week's NFL draft, the Packers were a prime candidate to add a running back to their roster, perhaps late in the draft.  A smaller, shifty back who can catch the ball out of the backfield.  Running backs who can do that effectively don't grow on trees and they also aren't very common in the later rounds of the draft.  When the dust settled, there were no running backs among the team's six picks.  They did add undrafted free agent Don Jackson out of Nevada, but besides Lacy and Starks, the only name left on the running back depth chart was John Crockett.

Crockett was an undrafted free agent signed last year and suffered a sprained ankle during a spring mini camp.  It cost him some valuable time, as he was in a battle with Alonzo Harris, another undrafted free agent, for the team's third running back spot.  Both backs generated a lot of buzz and many preferred Crockett for his shiftier running style and his fiery demeanor on the field.  The Packers went with Harris and tucked Crockett away on the practice squad.  During the week leading up to the Packers game against the Detroit Lions in Detroit, Lacy missed team curfew the night before the game and was benched to start the game.  Lacy was with Harris at the team hotel when he was not where he was supposed to be and Harris was promptly released after the game.  

Crockett was promoted and there was much anticipation over what he might add to a Packers offense that had been struggling most of the season and especially at that time.  Crockett was only given nine carries the rest of the season.  His spot on the roster was anything but certain heading into this offseason but the Packers clearly like him and, barring injury or an unforeseen transaction prior to the start of the season, Crockett has a leg up on being the team's third back again.

As an undrafted player, Crockett is on a very team-friendly contract.  He's scheduled to count $525,000 towards the team's salary cap this year, which is at the bottom of roster scale.  His pay is just $75,000 more than the base salaries of the team's later-round draft picks this year.  With Lacy and Starks having carried most of the load last season and with the team having reached the divisional round of the playoffs despite a down year from Lacy and Starks putting the ball on the ground often, the third back spot didn't seem as critical.  But both Lacy and Starks have a history of getting dinged up and missing some time and, assuming Jackson doesn't beat Crockett out for a roster spot, Crockett should see an increase in opportunities this season.  Potential can't buy anyone a cup of coffee, but if Crockett can take a step forward and add more to the offense in 2016, he may become one of the best values on the roster.  

One question about Crockett that lingers is how good of a pass-catching back he can be.  This is an area of the offense that the Packers didn't have much of last season and is a wrinkle that helps any offense, especially the Packers who like to get the ball into the hands of their quicker players in space.  Crockett has been reported as having run his 40 as fast as 4.46 and with his higher time being 4.67.  Depending on where he falls in that spectrum, Crockett seems to possess the ability to out-maneuver defenders.  I mentioned his intensity on the field so there's no shortage of desire and drive with Crockett.

In keeping Crockett, the Packers are sticking with their "formula" of deferring to players they know and who have room to grown and reach their potential.  Some say low risk-high reward, but the Packers are just one injury from having to count on Crockett for a lot more than they probably want to at this point.  There is quite a bit of risk there, but he should be another year wiser and now knows the offensive system so he can use this offseason to showcase his maturity and development.  Crockett is another in a long line of players who the Packers hope can pan out and outperform their contract before the team has to invest more heavily to keep them.  Much has been made about the jump that many of the Packers' young players need to make from year one to year two and, in terms of importance, Crockett appears to be much closer to the top of that list than the bottom. 

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Jason is a freelance writer on staff since 2012 and also co-hosts Cheesehead TV Live, Pulse of the Pack and Pack A Day podcasts.  You can follow him on Twitter here

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Comments (36)

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croatpackfan's picture

May 09, 2016 at 05:53 am

I liked what John Crockett showed last season in really limited number of snaps. Alonso Harris was surprise pick for me, but lately comes explanation. He was much better blocker than Crockett. Hopefully, John improved his blocking abilities, so, he would blosson...
Let's hope that will occur, Jasone...

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NickPerry's picture

May 09, 2016 at 06:02 am

It seemed he was a high priority UDFA signing last season so even though I was surprised a RB wasn't drafted, I'm not completely shocked either. In the first "Hail Mary Game" against Detroit he added a few runs and seemed to add a little spark to the offense.

Last season RC and I both thought the guy that would carry the ball a few times a game and be used a lot out of the Backfield was Montgomery. Monty is as big as several RB who are that "Change of Pace Back" in todays NFL so as long as it's kept to say 5 or so carries a game I think he would hold up just fine. I still think MM is going to use him in that capacity.

At the end of the day I'd bet TT picks up a Rookie who was cut, an UDFA who was signed before Ted could sign him, someone will be signed to the practice squad before week one.

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RCPackerFan's picture

May 09, 2016 at 06:28 am

And I still think Montgomery is their change of pace RB.

The only question with him is his injury.

What really derailed Montgomery from being that change of pace RB early last year was the amount of injuries to the WR position. They really didn't get to use Mongtomery that way as much as I believe they wanted to because at the beginning of the year Nelson was out, Cobb was hurt, Adams was hurt. They simply weren't healthy enough at WR to use Mongtomery at RB as much. They had to use him at WR.

And finally when they started getting him more involved at RB, is when he got hurt against San Diego and was done for the year.

I hope to see all of our WR's fully healthy so we can see how they plan on using Ty. He brings a lot of versatility to the offense as well as allows McCarthy to be more creative.

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NickPerry's picture

May 09, 2016 at 06:36 am

You know I agree. Remember when the Packers Passing Offense"LOOKED" like the Packers Passing Offense, at least a little was when Cobb was in the backfield. I still believe we didn't see quite a bit of the offense MM had in mind with Nelson, Cobb, Adams, and Montgomery. Now imagine that with Cook at TE and/or Janis/Abby/Davis (Fill in the black) in for Adams at times. There's not many NFL teams THAT deep at CB who are going to be able to cover those groupings.

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RCPackerFan's picture

May 09, 2016 at 07:16 am

And you know I agree...

With everyone fully healthy, this offense is limitless in what they can do. Just the formations and personnel groupings they can do with it, is crazy.

I agree to that we didn't see a lot of what MM had planned. Losing Nelson really hurt, but then compounding that with injuries to Cobb and Adams early really forced him to simplify the offense. Not to forget to mention that Janis really had a bad preseason, and Abbrederis nearly missed the entire training camp.

Looking ahead to this year, I'm more excited about our offense then i was last year. (and I was very, very excited about the offense last year) Getting Nelson back will greatly improve the offense alone. I was watching NFL live one day last week and they said that Nelson was one of the top 3 WR's in the league. Getting that back changes our offense.
Then add in, getting back Montgomery who we barely got to see gives us that X factor. Now add in Trevor Davis who has tremendous speed and great hands. Don't sleep on Davis in this offense. He could become a home run threat. And possibly the biggest addition to our offense besides getting Nelson back is adding Cook.
Cook gives us the Finley presence in the middle of the field that we haven't had. Cook won't be the primary target in our offense, but he is a guy that can give us a downfield threat that teams will now have to pay attention to. His size and speed will open up routes for the RB's and WR's to work underneath.

Just thinking about the possible options they have now on offense makes this offense the most dangerous in the league. Nelson, Janis outside, Cobb, Cook in the slot, Montgomery in the backfield. or how about Janis, Adams outside, Nelson, Cobb in the Slot, Montgomery in the backfield. or how about Janis, Adams outside, Nelson, Cook in the Slot, Cobb in the backfield. If they want to go big, they can do Nelson, Janis outside, Cook and Rodgers inside and Lacy in the backfield. If they want to go smaller/faster, how about Nelson and Davis outside, Abbrederis, Cobb in the slot and Montgomery in the backfield.
There are so many options for this offense. While it won't be completely unstoppable, it is going to be very tough to slow down.

The key to it all, is everyone has to stay healthy.

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Bearmeat's picture

May 09, 2016 at 08:35 am

Or at least most of them and we can't lose any blue-chip prospects again.

That said, with Cook and Spriggs, I do think the offense is in better position this year than it has been since 2011 - and it looked great going into last year. Keep ARod/Jordy/Eddie upright and this offense is going to score 550.

This is why I'm not worried about winning the division, despite Vikings and Bears teams that look improved and despite a front 7 that looks slightly thin at talent at LB.

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DrealynWilliams's picture

May 09, 2016 at 09:47 am

Any news on Ty's ankle situation? The last I read/heard was that he was off crutches.

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RCPackerFan's picture

May 09, 2016 at 03:28 pm

I haven't heard anything new. The last I have heard is he should be ready for training camp.

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GB Jacker's picture

May 09, 2016 at 07:04 am

Both Cobb and Monty are versatile players. It was exciting to see them both lined up in the backfield a bit last season - will cause DC's a huge headache to plan against. If Lacy comes back to some form and keeps his weight down we will have an offense with excellent diversity. I personally like the idea of a speed based package with Cobb, Monty, Janis, Jordy and Davis - this could give defences fits.

Will be interesting to see how effective Monty can be out of the backfield as a runner. If he's at least as effective as Cobb has been then it's a real bonus and an exciting wrinkle in game plans.

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DrealynWilliams's picture

May 09, 2016 at 09:55 am

You have Abby getting cut?

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Hematite's picture

May 09, 2016 at 06:03 am

I like this Crockett kid and look forward to what he can do with more playing time.
I'm not a big fan of giving Lacy a second contract unless he suddenly turns into another Adrian Peterson or Gayle Sayers or even a John Brockington.

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holmesmd's picture

May 09, 2016 at 04:40 pm

Starks is on a 2 year deal and you've already decided that Lacy has to be AP to get a second contract?! Wow, setting the bar pretty high aren't you? Crocket is intriguing but if you think he could survive a fraction of the punishment Lacy can both give and receive, you are mistaken. Lacy will have a big year and I predict will be the bell cow RB for another contract. When is the last time TT bailed on one of his 2nd round draft picks after a rookie contract? If it's happened, it hasn't been more that once or twice. My guess would be never.

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dobber's picture

May 09, 2016 at 07:49 pm

"Every NFL camp has at least 3 "Crocketts". He's a non-factor. Roster filler. Who cares?"

Pretty much. I thought a better title for the article was: Crockett Gives Packers Live Bodies at Running Back. Depth player.

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RCPackerFan's picture

May 09, 2016 at 06:54 am

I really like Crockett. I wish we could have seen him used more last year. Against Detroit he brought so much energy and he definitely created a spark in the offense. It was clear though that he didn't completely know the offense which is probably why he didn't get more snaps as the season wore on.

Hopefully with a full offseason under his belt, a new RB coach (who has had big success taking lesser known RB's and making them really good), and fully learning the playbook Crockett will be completely ready to compete for playing time.

Even though I like Crockett I really thought they would look at add a RB in the draft. At the end of the 4th round I thought for sure they were going to take Paul Perkins. With both Lacy entering his final year of his deal, and Starks just signing a 1 year deal, there will be questions at RB after the season.

Like Nick Stated above Montgomery probably will be our change of pace RB, same with Cobb. But I do think they will find a way to use all 3 RB's this year.

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EdsLaces's picture

May 09, 2016 at 07:11 am

It's so hard for me to wrap my head around 525,000 being chump change.....I wish I ran a faster 40 lol.

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Razer's picture

May 09, 2016 at 07:51 am

Would love to see Crockett add a new dimension to this offense. Reality is that we still don't value or invest in this position so we shouldn't really expect much from the backfield. What does it tell you when Crockett didn't get any playing time last year even though Lacy was fat, Starks couldn't hold onto the ball and the offense was horrible. Like most of you, I am pulling for the underdog but I am not holding my breath any more.

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RCPackerFan's picture

May 09, 2016 at 08:02 am

I get where your coming from.

I think the biggest reason why Crockett wasn't used was because he didn't know the playbook enough. In the good game against Detroit he seemed to go the wrong way a couple of times.

I think there was a good reason why they let go of their RB coach in the offseason. Because he didn't get his RB's prepared enough.

With a new RB coach, I think we will see a big improvement from both Crockett and Ripkowski.

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Razer's picture

May 09, 2016 at 08:19 am

Good points on both fronts. Crockett was not assignment sure and it showed. In a system where protecting Rodgers is paramount, you can't have big mental mistakes.

Your point about the RB coach is also spot on. The group as a whole took a step back. Let's hope the new guy from St. Louis gets the most from these guys.

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WKUPackFan's picture

May 09, 2016 at 08:30 am

Respectfully disagree that GB does not value the RB position. Second and fourth round picks were expended for Lacy and The Mayor. It's pretty obvious Starks is valued, he's been kept around a long time now.

If Jonathan Franklin had not suffered his catastrophic injury GB might have that 3rd down guy everyone is hoping for.

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Since'61's picture

May 09, 2016 at 08:02 am

When everyone is healthy in our offense, there really is not a lot of room for Crockett. In spite of that I would like to see him get more snaps just to see what we have there. I think that Crockett could be developed into a receiving back especially on screen passes, just give him a couple of blocks and let him go. However, we have Ty Montgomery for that role as well. As Nick and R C have already covered correctly, if this offense stays healthy they can come at any defense with a variety of formations and weapons that will be very difficult to stop. In which case it will be even more difficult for Crockett to see additional snaps. Thanks, Since '61

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lucky953's picture

May 11, 2016 at 07:49 am

Agree. Lacy's in a contract year and apparently trimmed down. If healthy, he's their best back by a mile (or two). He even catches the ball better than Crockett. Crockett is for emergency use only.

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mrtundra's picture

May 09, 2016 at 08:18 am

Any RB we use must protect the ball. Every team, at least every team in the NFC North, will try to strip the ball from the ball carriers arms. I'm interested to see the slimmed down Lacy carry the ball. I hope Crockett can be the back up RB we need, after Starks, but I see a limited amount of playing time in Crocket's immediate future.

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WinUSA's picture

May 09, 2016 at 11:05 am

Rocket Crocket is the real deal. He will have smoke coming off is sneakers this season.... talk about a "value".... he is going to surprise to a lot of people.

Mark my words...this guy an undrafted free agent has a chip on his shoulders...with the addition meat on the front line....just a crease of an opening and this guy is gone!!!!!!!!!!!

GO PACK!

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Evan's picture

May 09, 2016 at 01:39 pm

Interesting nickname for a guy who ran a 4.62.

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DrealynWilliams's picture

May 09, 2016 at 02:38 pm

Ha!

I remember watching his college tape last season and he showed some getaway speed. I think nerves and bad technique can sometimes throw off players 40-time. I KNOW he's faster than Lacy (any year). Lol

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Evan's picture

May 09, 2016 at 02:42 pm

Oh - he's definitely faster than Lacy. A whopping .02 seconds...

I have no real idea how fast Crockett is - I just know what his NFL combine number was, for whatever that's worth. I was surprised by how slow it was because he runs with so much energy. Very frenetic.

I miss DuJuan Harris.

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DrealynWilliams's picture

May 09, 2016 at 02:45 pm

The RB...not the KR

I do too.

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RCPackerFan's picture

May 09, 2016 at 02:48 pm

I miss Jonathan Franklin.

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DrealynWilliams's picture

May 09, 2016 at 02:55 pm

This might be unpopular but I wouldn't be me if I didn't go against the grain -- I liked Harris more than Franklin.

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RCPackerFan's picture

May 09, 2016 at 03:14 pm

I know a quite a few people weren't happy with him with the few fumbles he had.

I just was really high on him coming out of college. I would have loved to have seen where the combination of him and Lacy would have been now.

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DrealynWilliams's picture

May 09, 2016 at 03:44 pm

It wasn't so much what Franklin did or didn't do for me. I was just so impressed with how Harris looked the moment he was given the chance to make an impact. His Playoff game against the 49ers (during the time where running against them didn't produce much favorable outcomes) stands out. He was never given enough carries

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RCPackerFan's picture

May 10, 2016 at 06:23 am

Yeah, i did like Harris also. That 49ers game, ughh. Another one of those games in which McCarthy didn't play his players to their strengths or use players enough. Yeah, that game he gave them a spark and they didn't use that enough.

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lucky953's picture

May 11, 2016 at 07:50 am

Sarcasm.

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al bundy's picture

May 09, 2016 at 02:49 pm

I watch the games and I don't see how crockett or any third string back gets playing time.
Ted drafted lacy big time, mike wants a power back not a speed back and ergo it will be lacy left lacy right with Starks coming in for relief a few plays a game. So why are we talking Crokett. Probably will never know how good he could be?

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ballark's picture

May 09, 2016 at 04:52 pm

As this article points out, Crockett was competing last camp with another UDFA, Alonzo Harris. And this year (also mentioned in the article), the Pack signed another UDFA, Don Jackson.

DuJuan Harris was also UDFA, so was Ryan Grant, and going back further, so was the legend Samkon Gado! Point being, the Pack have done really well finding guys at the RB position. I like Crockett, but I also really like the tape I've seen on Jackson, so I hardly think Crockett is a shoe in for that #3 spot. But whatever happens, I think the Packers have made all the right decisions here- motivating Lacy, bringing Starks back, passing in the draft, and then grabbing Jackson. I like all of it...

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PackEyedOptimist's picture

May 15, 2016 at 06:55 am

I liked Crockett last year, but the reality is that the third running back position is likely to go to the best special teams performer. By the way, don't count out Don Jackson; his highlight video on Youtube is pretty impressive. I'm predicting Jackson is our #3 this year.

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