Camp Battles: Green Bay RB
Weak batch of backs fight for Packers starting job
From 2000-06, Ahman Green was the driving force in the Packers backfield, rushing for 8,162 yards and 67 touchdowns. But Green's departure to Houston this offseason has left the team with two unproven players -- Vernand Morency and Noah Herron -- and a rookie (Brandon Jackson) who played little at Nebraska. Still, Green Bay has a solid line and the offense is bound to create opportunities for the running game. Fantasy owners are watching this camp battle closely.
Why Morency will win the job: The one-time Texan averaged 4.6 yards per carry in limited action for Green Bay last season. Morency had a few big games in relief of Green, and his explosive running style helped the Packers make the decision not to re-sign the aging veteran. Morency is probably a better every-down back than Herron, and he has more NFL experience than Jackson. Whereas Jackson is likely to suffer a dropoff in production at the midway point as most rookies do, Morency has gotten past that point in his career, and has the proper conditioning to last a full season. The Packers have all but said it is Morency's job to lose, but a knee injury suffered on the first day of training camp has kept him at bay for time being.
Why Herron will win it: Herron collected 29 catches (fourth most on the team) and gained 150 yards on 37 carries in his second season for the team last year. Considered to be a perfect change-of-pace back, Herron might just be the best 'system' back and his success at Northwestern suggests he can pile up big numbers if given the chance. Another notch for Herron -- he is the biggest of the three backs.
Why Jackson will win it: At Nebraska, Jackson piled up 989 yards on just 188 carries (5.3 yard average) in 2006, his best day coming against Oklahoma State (182 yards, two scores). Jackson was considered a good fit for Green Bay's zone scheme, but a bit of a reach at the end of round two. So far in camp, though, Jackson has earned praise. On Saturday, Jackson got his first taste of NFL life with 16 carries for 57 yards against Pittsburgh (with a long run of 15 yards). He does have a history of shoulder trouble, but other than that, he has in good health. The team has more invested in him than Morency or Herron, and even though Jackson is the newcomer he is not too far behind his competition. Morency has missed a great deal of camp and that only helps Jackson gain a bigger lead for the starting job on opening day.
Who fantasy owners should pull for: Jackson
Herron is multi-dimensional and likely to be the team's third-down back, while Morency has never proven he can handle a full workload. Morency probably could only compete for a starting job in Green Bay and may never be anything beyond a second-string back. Although not a strong receiver, Jackson could comfortably handle 15-20 carries per game should he win the job. As for the "rookie wall" ... well, that is always a factor when considering first-year backs, but Jackson's upside makes him a bit more alluring than Morency or Herron.
Mike Beacom is the senior editor of Pro Fantasy Sports.