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Packers 2022 Roster Preview: Running backs ready to carry the load – Acme Packing Company

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Our position-by-position breakdown of the Packers’ roster continues with a look at the running backs.
Running backs may not matter as much as they once did, but they’re fun to watch. That’s especially true in Green Bay, where the Packers offer a little bit of everything.
Aaron Jones and AJ Dillon are high-level contributors, there’s positional intrigue behind them on the depth chart, and there is no shortage of interesting prospects competing for playing time. What else could you want?
Yes, the offensive line will determine most (all?) of their success this year, but no matter who gets credit for the yards, it’s still exciting to see Jones dash around defenses before turning things over to Dillon to bludgeon them into submission.
How acquired: 2017 NFL Draft (round 5, 182nd overall)
NFL experience: 6th year
2021 stats: 15 games played; 171 carries, 799 yards, 4 rushing touchdowns; 52 receptions, 391 yards, 6 receiving touchdowns
Aaron Jones is a true Green Bay success story. Originally a day three selection in the NFL Draft (taken after Jamaal Williams, if you can believe it!), Jones grew out of his Mike McCarthy-induced small role to become a Pro Bowl-caliber contributor on one of the best offenses in the NFL. Along the way, he earned himself a rich contract extension, climbed the Packers’ all-time leaderboards in a few noteworthy statistical categories, and generally cemented his reputation as a fun, enjoyable player of the late Rodgers era.
Jones carries all of that and more into the 2022 season — but with two noteworthy questions hanging over this and future years. First, after more or less splitting time with AJ Dillon in 2021, how big of a role will Jones even have this year? He’ll doubtless be an important cog in the offensive machine, but how important, exactly?
And second, will this be the last time we see Aaron Jones in Green Bay? His cap hit balloons to an unseemly $20 million next year, which will be his age 29 season. That’s the sort of number that tends to get you sent out the door with a firm handshake and best wishes for your next opportunity. Barring an extraordinary restructure, the end seems to be in sight. Jones seems to have quite a bit left in the tank, but it looks fairly likely that this will be the last season he gets to expend any of it in Green Bay.
How acquired: 2020 NFL Draft (round 2, 62nd overall)
NFL experience: 3rd year
2021 stats: 17 games played; 187 carries, 803 yards, 5 rushing touchdowns; 34 receptions, 313 yards, 2 receiving touchdowns
AJ Dillon is more or less the perfect counterpoint to Jones. Dillon is a former second-round pick while Jones lasted until the fifth; Dillon is a mountain-sized bruiser while Jones darts around defenders; Dillon’s contributions in the passing game are solid but limited, while Jones will regularly line up as something approximating a wide receiver.
Dillon was also the perfect complement to Jones in 2021. The Packers all but fused their two opposite running backs into one superback, and between them their output was about as good as anybody could have hoped.
We’ll likely see the same approach, more or less, in 2022, meaning the only real question for Dillon’s third NFL season is the extent to which the opportunities are divided. There’s no question that he can produce, but how many carries and catches the Packers want to spend on his diminutive backfield counterpart will probably go a long way toward determining what kind of season Dillon has.
How acquired: Undrafted free agent in 2020
NFL experience: 2nd season
2021 stats: 9 games played; 23 carries, 89 yards, 1 rushing touchdown; 2 catches, 3 yards
Taylor’s NFL career has had something of a slow start. He spent all of 2020 rehabbing a college injury, though he did practice some late in the season. Then, in 2021, his only significant playing time came in games that had already been decided; 17 of his 23 carries came in the Packers’ Week 17 rout of the Vikings and their meaningless Week 18 tilt in Detroit.
As a result, it’s a little bit difficult to get a read on Taylor as a player. He has the requisite size for an NFL running back and is plenty athletic, but he hasn’t gotten a good opportunity to show what he can do.
But that could be changing in 2022. With Kylin Hill on the shelf for the immediate future, there’s at least a theoretical opening for Taylor as the Packers’ third running back. He’ll have to stave off newcomer Tyler Goodson to get the job, but with a couple of years in Matt LaFleur’s system under his bet, Taylor seems like a good bet to get it done.
How acquired: 2021 NFL Draft (round 7, 256th overall)
NFL experience: 2nd season
2021 stats: 8 games played; 10 carries, 24 yards; 1 catch, 5 yards
Hill was well on his way to carving out a nice little role before a torn ACL ended his season after eight games. A do-it-all back for the first half of the season, Hill ran well, showed good enough hands in the preseason and regular season (albeit on just two targets when the games counted), and returned kicks for the Packers.
The extent to which Hill bounces back from his ACL injury will determine how his 2022 shakes out. Presumably (though not assuredly) he’ll start the season on the PUP list, but he’ll barely be a year removed from his injury before the Packers have to make the decision to put him on the 53-man roster or shelve him for the season. A redshirt year might be best for his long-term health, but it could be a death knell for his still-young NFL career. He’s in a tough spot, to be sure.
How acquired: Undrafted free agent in 2022
NFL experience: Rookie
2021 stats: N/A
Forecasting any undrafted free agent is tough, but it’s easy to see why we liked Tyler Goodson’s chances of making the roster.
The aforementioned injury to Kylin Hill leaves a job behind Jones and Dillon vacant, and Goodson sports a solid track record of productivity (more than 2,500 yards in three seasons at Iowa) and has athleticism to burn.
Tyler Goodson is a RB prospect in the 2022 draft class. He scored a 9.53 RAS out of a possible 10.00. This ranked 75 out of 1586 RB from 1987 to 2022. #RAS
If he looks the part early, Goodson could be well on his way to a spot on the 53.
How acquired: Undrafted free agent in 2022
NFL experience: Rookie
2021 stats: N/A
Baylor isn’t particularly big or fast, but he did have a very productive final season at Oregon State, rushing for more than 1,300 yards while scoring 13 touchdowns. He didn’t make much of an impact as a receiver for the Beavers, though (just 16 catches in his college career), which would historically make him not of much interest to the Packers. But as AJ Dillon showed, just because a back doesn’t do much in the receiving game in college doesn’t mean he’s incapable, and maybe he’ll show some heretofore untapped abilities in a roster bid.


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