Packers Annual Checkup: Johnathan Franklin
FOX Sports Wisconsin's Paul Imig gives an in-depth statistical analysis and film study of every Packers player in his annual offseason checkup. Check every weekday through mid-April for his latest report.
Johnathan Franklin, running back/special teams
Season stats: 11 games (62 offensive snaps), 19 rushing attempts, 107 yards, one touchdown, two fumbles (one lost), five forced missed tackles; four receptions, 30 yards; four kick returns, 82 yards; two special teams tackles
ProFootballFocus.com season rating: minus-0.4 (ranked No. 13 out of 23 Packers' offensive players; ranked last among Green Bay's running backs and fullback)
Best game: Week 3 loss at Cincinnati (played 43 of 81 offensive snaps); 13 carries for 103 yards (7.9 average), one touchdown, one fumble lost, five forced missed tackles; three receptions for 23 yards; 2.5 PFF rating
Worst game: Week 5 win vs. Detroit (played 7 of 71 offensive snaps); three carries for one yard (0.3 average), one fumble; minus-2.2 PFF rating
Expectations at the start of the season: Medium
Expectations were ... Not Met
Looking live: Coach Mike McCarthy was thrilled when the Packers traded up to select Johnathan Franklin in the fourth round (No. 125 overall) in the 2013 draft. "I don't know how you cannot be excited about the film he has," McCarthy said that day about Franklin. "He can really catch the football and do things out of the backfield. Very dynamic player. I'm excited to work with him. Just the little time I had to talk with him on the phone, I think he's going to be an excellent fit for us." Though coaches often say very positive things about the newest member of their team, McCarthy was especially enthusiastic about Franklin. It was apparent that the offensive play-caller in McCarthy had already been thinking of ways to get Franklin involved. Training camp, however, was a disappointment for Franklin. On Day 1, he was taking snaps with the first-team offense, and in the subsequent days he was part of a fairly large group returning punts and kicks. But by Day 4 already, Franklin was recognized in the "So You Had a Bad Day" category of the Training Camp Report series. Despite his reputation in college as a good pass-blocker, the undersized Franklin had almost no success in those drills against Green Bay's outside linebackers. Franklin made another unwanted visit to the "So You Had a Bad Day" section on Aug. 15 for his inability to secure balls as a punt returner.
Upon further review: Franklin made the active roster to begin the regular season, but it likely had more to do with his status as a rookie fourth-round pick than it did with his performance in training camp (which left a lot to be desired). When starting running back Eddie Lacy suffered a concussion in Week 2 against Washington, the Packers turned to James Starks for the remainder of that game while Franklin didn't see a single snap on offense. But a week later in Cincinnati, when Starks had a knee injury take him out of action, Green Bay had little choice but to see what Franklin could do. In his first 10 carries against the Bengals, Franklin ran the ball better than he ever did throughout training camp. Though he had several impressive moments in that game, none stood out more than his 51-yard carry. On that play, Franklin looked every bit like the player that had McCarthy so excited during draft weekend. It was a quick pitch to the left that gave Franklin very little room to work. He could have easily been stopped for a 1-yard loss but escaped with a nice cut-back toward the middle of the field. Five yards later, Franklin had four Cincinnati players closing in on him from almost every angle, but he broke left and through the arms of a Bengals safety. Then, Franklin showed his speed by outrunning Cincinnati's secondary for an additional 45 yards. It was a "wow" moment for Franklin. Of course, that play was somewhat forgotten when Franklin later had a huge mistake that cost the Packers a road win. Green Bay was up by three points and facing a fourth-and-1 with just over four minutes remaining in the game. Franklin attempted to jump the pile for a first down, but the ball popped out of his hands and onto the ground. Seventy yards later on the fumble recovery, the Bengals had what became the game-winning touchdown. In the Packers' next game, Franklin's confidence appeared shot. He broke inside on his first carry when he had room outside and then followed it up on the next drive with another fumble. That was basically the end of Franklin's season, though it wasn't until Nov. 27 when Green Bay placed him on injured reserve with a neck injury that it was officially over.
Overall 2013 grade: D
Status for 2014: Seventy-five percent chance of being on Green Bay's active roster to begin the 2014 regular season. Franklin can't afford to have another lackluster training camp. He's no longer a rookie and won't have the same leeway that he did. General manager Ted Thompson has recently shown that he'll cut a mid-round draft pick if that player isn't performing up to expectations. Jerron McMillian, a 2012 fourth-round pick, found that out midway through his second season. Lacy will be the starter in 2014 and he'll have DuJuan Harris ready behind him. It's also possible that the Packers choose to re-sign Starks, an unrestricted free agent. Even if Starks signs elsewhere, Franklin is No. 3 on the depth chart at best and is a long way from passing Lacy or Harris. Franklin might have to prove his worth on special teams, particularly as a kick returner. Franklin is also 24 years old, which isn't all that young for a player who just completed his rookie season. He showed signs of being a good NFL running back, but he did some things that could end up making his professional career short-lived if not quickly corrected.
Next: Running back DuJuan Harris.
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