The Green Bay Packers know full well how much an effective rushing attack will help the team have success. In the 2010 postseason, quarterback Aaron Rodgers was brilliant, as he threw nine touchdown passes, compared to just two interceptions, for 1.094 yards in four games. That added up to a 109.8 quarterback rating.
That also led to a victory in Super Bowl XLV, where Rodgers was also the game's MVP. Rodgers' success was certainly helped by a strong running attack. Running back James Starks, who had only gained 101 yards in the regular season, became a force in the postseason. Starks led all NFL running backs with 315 yards rushing in the 2010 postseason.
Defensive opponents were always on their heels because of that development. Teams couldn't scheme to just stop Green Bay's potent passing game. Because of the running game threat, Rodgers was able to use a number of play-action pass plays to help freeze the linebackers and the secondary for just a moment, and that certainly helped his success.
In the 2011 regular season, even though the team went 15-1, the rushing attack sputtered as the Packers finished 27th in the NFL in rushing. The result? A shocking playoff loss to the New York Giants at Lambeau Field, as the G-Men were solely focused on stopping the Green Bay passing attack.
In the 2012 regular season, the Packers improved the running game, as Green Bay ended up 20th in the league in rushing. The Packers rushed for 1,702 yards in 2012, which included a 3.9 yard average.
The Packers achieved that with five running backs whom they used during the course of the season. This group included Cedric Benson, Alex Green, James Starks, Ryan Grant and DuJuan Harris.
Green Bay did win a playoff game in the 2012 postseason (versus the Minnesota Vikings at Lambeau Field), but then suffered a 45-31 loss to the San Francisco 49ers at Candlestick Park. In that game, the Packers abandoned the running game in the second half of the contest and became one dimensional.
That's why it's so important that the Packers establish a strong running game in 2013, so it can help the Packers' passing game have the success it has had in the past, most notably in the 2010 postseason.
Because of that, I expect the Packers to select a running back fairly early in the 2013 NFL draft.
The Packers really liked the dimension that Harris brought the team late in the 2012 regular season and in the postseason. The team isn't ready to write off Green and Starks yet either, as both have flashed some real ability, but both need to stay healthy in 2013.
Still, the Packers need to find a back who will make the safeties play up near the line of scrimmage because of the threat of the run. That rarely happened in 2012, when most times the safeties played extremely deep. That scenario definitely affected the Packers' deep passing game.
There are a number of viable candidates in the upcoming draft who can help the Packers. Here are five of them.