2010 NFL Draft: Green Bay Packers Hunting for Running Back, Kick Returner

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2010 NFL Draft: Green Bay Packers Hunting for Running Back, Kick Returner
Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images
My final article on Packers draft needs shifts back to the offensive side of the ball with a look at some of the running backs, as well as kick returners who will be available in the upcoming draft.
The Packers will almost certainly draft a running back this year, but in what round and to fill what role is the question.
Will they take a smaller speedy back who would be a change of pace behind Ryan Grant, or will they take someone they think will be the eventual successor to Grant?
An undrafted free agent acquired from a trade with the New York Giants, Ryan Grant has been the Packers featured back since mid-season 2007. Grant has a nice combination of size, speed and vision.
The biggest knock on Grant is that he does not have great hands and he is fairly ineffective catching the ball out of the backfield.
Grant is coming off another solid year compiling over 1,400 total yards and 11 touchdowns. Unfortunately, Grant's statistics could be a road block from the Packers keeping him beyond 2010.
If Grant puts up similar numbers next year he will be due about $9 million in base salary and roster bonuses in 2011, which may cause the Packers to release him if a restructuring of his contract cannot be worked out.
Brandon Jackson was a second-round pick in 2007, but does not appear to be the long-term answer after Grant. Jackson has good hands and is adept at picking up blitzes which makes him an ideal third-down back.
Ahman Green was brought back last season after Deshawn Wynn was placed on injured reserve.
Green became the Packers all-time leading rusher, but at the age of 33 and having a pretty substantial injury history, he probably does not have too much left in the tank.
 
Anyone who watched the Packers last year would probably agree they need to upgrade their kickoff and punt return game. This upgrade could come from a running back, wide receiver or a cornerback.
 
Will Blackmon has shown some promise in the return game, but in his four-year career, he has missed more games with injury than he has actually played.
 
Jordy Nelson just does not have the explosiveness and or elusiveness to be considered a threat in the return game.
 
Pat Lee has kickoff return experience, but was injured returning a kick in preseason, and with his injury history the Packers will probably be hesitant to put him in that situation unless absolutely necessary.
 
So who may the Packers be looking at in the upcoming draft?
 
Round 1
Ryan Matthews (Fresno State) - A well-rounded back. Matthews' stock has risen after a strong pro day and combine showings. Might be the second back drafted.
Jahvid Best (California) - An explosive back who could also contribute in the return game. Could be a Chris Johnson-type back, but he is fairly small and has had concussion and injury issues.


Round 2
Dexter McCluster (Ole Miss) - His small size will most likely prevent him from being an every-down back, but he is explosive in the open field and also could be used as a receiver. A slower than expected 40 time at the combine may have hurt his draft stock.
Ben Tate (Auburn) - Excellent speed for someone his size. A great combine showing has him moving up some draft boards.
Jonathan Dwyer (Georgia Tech) - A slow 40 time at the combine may have dropped his draft stock a bit, but he is a powerful runner who is hard to bring down.
 
Round 3
Tony Gerhart (Stanford) - A power back who put up a surprisingly fast 40 time at the combine. A Heisman finalist last year.
Montario Hardesty (Tennessee) - Hardesty has good size and speed and also catches the ball as well as any running back in the draft.
 
Round 4
LeGarrette Blount (Oregon) - A powerful runner whose stock would be much higher if it were not for character concerns.
Deji Karim (Southern Illinois) A small-school prospect who put up impressive numbers at his pro day that would of ranked him with the top running backs at the combine.
Only 5'9" but at 210 pounds he has the strength to run between the tackles.
 
Later Round Return Specialists
Trindon Holiday (LSU) - Only 5'5" and 161 pounds, but he has blazing speed and
would be a threat on kick returns.
Brandon Banks (Kansas State) Even more diminutive than Holiday at 149 pounds, but he is a dangerous kick returner.
So Packer fans, who would you want in the green and gold next year?
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