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NFL draft questions: Green Bay Packers eyeing RB?

With the 2013 NFL Draft approaching, Around The League will examine one big question facing all 32 teams. Next up: The Green Bay Packers.

Will the Packers target an early round running back?


The Green Bay Packers went out and drafted linebacker Nick Perry in the first round last year to complement Clay Matthews. Maybe this time general manager Ted Thompson will finally get a running mate for Aaron Rodgers.

The Packers haven't had a 1,000-yard rusher since Ryan Grant strung together a pair of 1,200-yard seasons in 2008 and 2009. The offense has since plugged the hole with Brandon Jackson, James Starks, John Kuhn, then Grant again followed by Brandon Saine, Alex Green, DuJuan Harris and Cedric Benson. Thompson made the rare free-agent acquisition in Benson last offseason, but he lasted only five games before a lisfranc sprain ended his season. Benson's now a 30-year-old unsigned, unrestricted free agent.

Coach Mike McCarthy has been adamant over the years that the offense doesn't need a single elite running back, but Rodgers and the unit certainly would benefit. Teams don't respect the run, making Rodgers' job that much more difficult with defenders dropping in coverage.

Alabama running back Eddie Lacy is the class of the backs after rushing for 1,322 yards, and 17 touchdowns last year. He might be available at No. 26, but he likely won't be around for the Packers' second-round pick at No. 55 overall. Lacy is the most complete option and is the next in the Crimson Tide lineage of first rounders Mark Ingram and Trent Richardson.

North Carolina's Giovani Bernard, Clemson's Andre Ellington and UCLA's Johnathan Franklin could all be second-round selections for teams that miss out on Lacy. The St. Louis Rams, New York Jets, Pittsburgh Steelers and Denver Broncos all are in the market for a back early in the draft.

South Carolina's Marcus Lattimore and Wisconsin's Montee Ball could provide good value after the first two rounds. Lattimore was a star before blowing out his knees the last two seasons, so his recovery is a concern. His running style, though, does fit the Packers' zone-blocking scheme. Ball was a Heisman Trophy finalist as a junior and rushed for a combined 3,753 yards and 55 touchdowns his last two seasons. He could go as early as the third round.

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The Packers are sound at most of the other positions, so this could be the year to think running back in the early rounds despite Thompson's best-available philosophy. An offensive tackle is an option with the inconsistency of Marshall Newhouse and the injury issue with Derek Sherrod. Another safety to line up with Morgan Burnett is a need, but that's not an early-round must.

Rodgers has had few issues carrying a heavy load with a minimal run game, but a talented back would help make life easier.

Follow Kareem Copeland on Twitter @kareemcopeland.

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