This is the second in a series of stories that's examining the Packers' roster, position by position, leading up to the 2020 NFL Draft. The series continues with the running backs.
GREEN BAY – The Packers have the 1-2 backfield punch they want in Aaron Jones and Jamaal Williams.
The tandem's production and versatility shined through in the first season of Head Coach Matt LaFleur's offense, as Jones topped 1,000 yards rushing for the first time and was among the league leaders in touchdowns (16 rushing, 19 total), while Williams added over 700 combined rushing and receiving yards and tied for the team lead in receiving TDs with five.
But the reality the Packers are facing in 2020 is this could be the last year this dynamic duo from the 2017 draft class will be together.
Jones, a fifth-round pick from Texas-El Paso, and Williams, a fourth-rounder from BYU, are both entering the final year of their rookie contracts. Barring an extension for either before the end of 2020, they'll enter free agency 11 months from now.
It could be financially difficult for the Packers to keep both backs. Jones will command a hefty price tag as one of the top offensive playmakers in the entire NFC, and Williams may be looking for an opportunity that gives him a larger role.
That makes running back a position the Packers are certainly studying in the upcoming draft.
Immediately, they may need one capable of stepping in to handle a significant workload if either Jones or Williams were to get injured. In the bigger picture, they may need another No. 1 or 2 back – both prominent positions in LaFleur's scheme – if Jones and/or Williams isn't re-signed beyond this season.
The Packers drafted a third option a year ago in the sixth round, Notre Dame's Dexter Williams, but he didn't emerge as a regular contributor as a rookie. His pass catching and blitz pick-up were works in progress in 2019, and he was active for only four games. He carried the ball five times for 11 yards and played less than two dozen snaps on special teams.
The Packers will give the younger Williams the opportunity to make major strides in his second season, but that would be a lot to bank on without hedging that bet with another draft pick.
Green Bay did re-sign running back Tyler Ervin for 2020 after the late arrival in 2019 revived the Packers' return game and found a niche role on offense with his speed. If the Packers have anyone who would fall into the gadget category on offense, it's the 5-10, 192-pound Ervin.
Take a look at photos of Packers RB Tyler Ervin from the 2019 season.
The only other true running back on the roster is Damarea Crockett, a rookie from Missouri last year whom the Packers signed to their practice squad in mid-October. He had previously spent time with the Texans and Raiders before coming to Green Bay but has never been on a regular-season active roster.
Elijah Wellman is the lone fullback currently on the team after the Packers lost Danny Vitale in free agency and did not tender a contract to restricted free agent Malcolm Johnson. The Packers signed Wellman, a West Virginia product, in January after spending parts of the last two years with Washington.
With that as the whole picture, additions to the position group are rather likely in the coming weeks.
An early or mid-round draft pick would guard against injury and help with future planning at running back, while a late-round selection and/or undrafted signing at fullback would give the Packers options for replacing Vitale.