2012 NFL Draft: Running Back Must Be Mid-Round Priority for Green Bay Packers

Bleacher ReportCorrespondent IMarch 2, 2012

COLLEGE PARK, MD - SEPTEMBER 24:  Running back Bernard Pierce #30 of the Temple Owls outruns the Maryland Terrapins defense for a second quarter touchdown at Byrd Stadium on September 24, 2011 in College Park, Maryland.  (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)
Rob Carr/Getty Images

Because the Green Bay Packers don't have a balanced attack, the New York Giants ate up Aaron Rodgers in their NFC playoff matchup, hitting him numerous times and producing four sacks.  In that game, Rodgers threw 20 incomplete passes, which is more than he'd thrown in a game since a game against the Pittsburgh Steelers on December 20, 2009.

So what should the Packers do to fix this problem of not having a running game?

Green Bay needs to get a back who is comfortable catching the ball out of the backfield, is good in pass-blocking and forces defenses to respect his running abilities.

Ryan Grant might be gone from Green Bay for the 2012 season, leaving the Packers with James Starks, Alex Green and Brandon Saine to choose from in the backfield.

Starks, a 2010 sixth-round pick by the Packers, made the scene early in December of 2010.  The rookie back was injured in training camp and finally got off of the Physically Unable to Perform (PUP) list in time to get carries against the San Francisco 49ers.

Starks had 18 carries for 73 yards in that game.

In his first postseason appearance, one month later against the Philadelphia Eagles, Starks gained 123 yards on 23 carries and helped Green Bay to a 21-16 win.  This was the Packers' rookie record for most rushing yards gained in a postseason game.

In Super Bowl XLV, Starks had 11 carries for 52 yards in the Packers' win.

However, this past season was one of confusion in the backfield for Green Bay. Despite going 15-1 in the regular season, the Packers ranked 27th in the run. Grant had 134 carries and Starks had 133.

Starks could have gotten the majority of the carries if he'd been healthy, but he was slowed by an injury in December that took some carries away from him.

This said, clearly Starks is not a durable, consistent running back that the Packers can rely on to help them make another postseason run.  He has been injured in both of his NFL seasons so far and only has one touchdown in his career.

He catches the ball well out of the backfield occasionally, and had 29 catches this past season. However, with the two drops he had against the New York Giants in the divisional round of the playoffs, he's proved that even that part of his game isn't quite up to par.

As far as blocking goes, the Packers have been much better when Grant is lined up in the backfield.  He is a little thicker and is quicker to pick up the blitz.

So with Grant gone and Starks not providing the Packers with what they need out of a running back, what should the Packers do to make sure that this part of their game serves them well in the upcoming season?

Alex Green and Brandon Saine are not the answers.

They must look to the middle rounds of the draft.

Some options are Bernard Pierce of Temple, Chris Rainey of Florida and Ronnie Hillman of San Diego State.

Any one of these guys could add a new element to the Packers offense.