Johnathan Franklin had a great season last year, capturing the all-time UCLA rushing record and leading the team a one of the better seasons in recent years. Franklin, a fourth-round selection was expected by many to compete with Alabama draftee Eddie Lacy for carries during the rookie campaign for both. Green Bay quarterback Aaron Rogers even praised Franklin's understanding of the passing game progressions and commented that UCLA's system had prepared Franklin for the next level.
However, recent reports have indicated that Lacy has pretty much secured the starting running back position and that it just hasn't clicked for Franklin.
Now Bob McGinn of the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel has pretty much trashed Franklin:
Franklin's game, based on the off-season and first three weeks of training camp, hasn't fit as well in the NFL.
Franklin, 5 feet 10 inches and 205 pounds, can't get out of neutral. He rushed seven times for 17 yards in the intrasquad scrimmage and nine for 23 in the first two games.
It's just 16 carries, but Franklin's average of 2.5 yards is about on par with the way he has practiced, too.
With Randall Cobb injured and possibly being phased out of the return game, the Packers have been force-feeding Franklin into a role he never played for the Bruins. He has encountered some ball-security issues in practice and hasn't done anything returning in games.
The scouts said he ran hard from scrimmage in college, but that hasn't been evident in the pros. Renowned for his pass protection, he's been only adequate there.
Early reports certainly have indicated that Franklin hasn't found much room to run and that he's needed some adjustment to the pro level. However, it's way too early to label him a bust, as McGinn seems inclined to do.
The only decent numbers put up by any running back with the Packers have been put up running behind the first-string offensive line. Franklin's numbers are very similar to Alex Green and James Stark, who are NFL veterans also running behind backup offensive linemen. We all know Franklin has struggled with ball security in the past, but he didn't fumble in the preseason games and seems to be doing better catching the ball out of the backfield than the other backs on the roster.
Also, it does seem pretty unfair to judge Franklin based on punt returning, something he didn't do in college and wasn't really drafted to help out with.
Franklin is experienced and capable catching balls out of the backfield and received rave reviews for his pass protection during the Senior Bowl. The modern NFL is runs a pass-first system and backs who can catch passes and pass protect can have lengthy careers and third-down backs. Franklin may need some time to adjust, but if he can focus on catching balls out of the backfield and blitz pickup, he should do just fine.