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Rookie Runner Could Surprise

I‘ve given you a sleeper to watch in training camp for each of the past three years. In 2014, it was linebacker Joe Thomas. In 2015, it was tight end Mitchell Henry. In 2016, it was nose tackle Brian Price. All three long shot rookies wound up spending time on either the Packers’ 53-man roster or the practice squad. With the first practice less than 24 hours away, it’s time for this year’s pick.

Even though a number of undrafted free agent running backs have spent time on the active roster in recent years, I never saw Alonzo Harris, John Crockett or Don Jackson as anything more than camp fodder. That’s because none of the three possessed any one particular attribute as a runner to make you think they could gain yards against NFL defenses.

William Stanback is different. The former Virginia Union star moves laterally like a much smaller back. That, along with excellent size (6’0, 233) and deceptive speed, gives him a legit chance at the next level. In the video below – while playing for Central Florida against Louisville in 2013 – watch how Stanback uses his quick feet to make tacklers miss around the line of scrimmage and then breaks away into the open field.

Stanback wasn’t used much in the passing game at UCF, but he did show soft hands in limited opportunities. And while he’s not going to make plays down the field, much like Eddie Lacy, he won’t drop dump-offs and screens. And as the video below shows, throwing dump-offs and screens to Stanback isn’t a bad idea.

And the Long Island native didn’t just dish out punishment with the ball in his hands. As the video below shows, he was also a violent hitter on special teams (think Ron Zook’s eyes didn’t light up when he saw this?)

Green Bay selected running backs Jamaal Williams, Aaron Jones and Devante Mays on day 3 of April’s draft, and while all are much different in style than Stanback, none were any more impressive on tape. So why was only one of the four passed over 253 times? Probably because of where he finished his college career and why.

After a solid sophomore year at UCF, Stanback was kicked off the team for what school officials described as a “failure to comply with athletic policy and rules.” That led him to enroll at Virginia Union, where he put up huge numbers against Division II players who are currently installing drywall. And while the combination of questionable character and even more questionable competition made Stanback a gamble no GM was willing to take in the draft, he signed with Green Bay after a tryout at the team’s rookie camp.

The idea of competing for a roster spot against fellow first-year players has to be very appealing, and while he’s still a long shot to make the final 53 – we all know how much Ted Thompson loves his draft picks – don’t forget about him in the coming weeks. Because unlike other undrafted free agent running backs who have suited up for the Packers in recent years, this one actually looks like a potential NFL player.

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About Michael Rodney

Packers Notes is the creation of Michael Rodney, who has been writing about the Green Bay Packers for close to 30 years. His first blog, Packer Update, hit the internet in 2006. Before becoming a public educator, Rodney worked as a journalist for a couple of newspapers in his home state of New Jersey. He's had numerous articles on the Packers published and he's been featured on both television and radio over the years.