RB MarShawn Lloyd brings ‘different’ element to Packers backfield

The Green Bay Packers used their first of two third-round selection on USC running back MarShawn Lloyd, who immediately received some high praise from Daniel Jeremiah of the NFL Network, saying that Lloyd was the best running back in this draft class.

“I just think he had a very good start in the SEC,” said GM Brian Gutekunst after Friday’s second-round, “was a really good back in the SEC, and I think it was just his overall ability not only as a runner but the ability to catch the ball, I think he’s got some return ability.

“He’s a 220-pound man. He’s packed in a tighter frame but like his ability kinda to make people miss, he’s got a little juice to him and, again, he’s 220 pounds, he breaks tackles. We think his best football’s ahead of him, and we’re really excited to get him as well.

Even with the Packers acquiring Josh Jacobs in free agency and re-signing AJ Dillon, it’s not a surprise that they spent a top 100 pick on the position. Behind Jacobs on the depth chart, that backup running back role will be up for grabs this summer, and perhaps playing to Lloyd’s favor in that battle will be the different dynamic he brings to the position.

“He’s got serious speed,” said Gutekunst. “He’s very elusive, he’s got great balance, so he’s a little bit different than some of the backs that we have in our depth chart right now.”

Lloyd spent his first two seasons playing at South Carolina. During the 2022 season, he saw his first extensive action, carrying the ball 110 times while averaging 5.1 yards per rush with nine touchdowns in the SEC.

Following that season, Lloyd transferred to USC, where he put together an incredibly efficient season, averaging a whopping 7.1 yards per carry on 115 attempts with nine more touchdowns. Among all running backs, Lloyd would rank 26th in average yards after contact, contributing to his eye-popping average.

“Definitely having a coach like Lincoln Riley, I feel like the proof is in the pudding,” said Lloyd about transferring. “Just seeing exactly what he does with just the players he has and just the different teammates and coaches, different teams he’s coached.

“It definitely helped me out a lot having a really good running back coach that’s now with the Chargers right now, Kiel McDonald, just having really well-coached teams and being able to learn a different aspect of the game, different offenses and different aspects of different-coached teams. I think it’s been really good and it helped me to where I am right now, being able to translate the new things that I’ll be able to do in the NFL.”

Whether at South Carolina or USC, Lloyd didn’t see much action in the passing game, with just 50 total targets over three seasons. However, as we learned watching AJ Dillon the last few years, a lack of college production in that area doesn’t mean a player isn’t capable in that area.

While Lloyd’s opportunities were limited, he made the most of them, catching 13 of his 18 targets last season with the Trojans, averaging a ridiculous 17.8 yards per catch.

“Very comfortable in the passing game,” said Lloyd. “Definitely I feel like coach Lincoln Riley put me in really good positions to be able to, not having much routes but being very effective with it. I believe I had something like 17-plus yards a reception.

“I’m just being utilized in it as much as possible. I played with a team that had really good skills on the outside, a really good quarterback. So you know, it was just more of when things worked out, and I feel like it definitely worked out in the runs, the long run for sure.”

Of course, being an effective ball carrier is a prerequisite to seeing the field in the NFL at the running back position, but as we’ve heard both Gutekunst and Matt LaFleur mention on several occasions, the Packers’ running backs also have to be effective pass-catchers and in pass protection.

Along with Lloyd, competing for that second running back role will be Dillon and Emanuel Wilson, Regardless of who wins that job, what the Packers need from that specific position in 2024 is more juice and playmaking.

Last year, Dillon would average only 3.4 yards per carry. While he provides a reliable presence, there hasn’t been much home run potential, and that impacts how defenses defend the Packers offense. Without much fear of the running game, defenses will put more defenders in coverage, making it more difficult to move the ball through the air.

Wilson, in his limited sample size, showcased some playmaking potential, but he remains an unknown until the Packers see more from him. For Lloyd, as he competes for playing time, he will have to clean up the fumbles and show that he can hold his own in pass protection, but being able to bring that big play ability from USC to the NFL will go a long way in solidifying his role on this Packers team.

“I’m the best running back in the draft, for sure,” said Lloyd, “and I think Green Bay got the best running back in the draft because they think the exact same. I’m super confident with that. I think Daniel Jeremiah, he’s um, that’s going to come up in the next few years, exactly what he says. I definitely do feel like he’s telling the truth on that part.”

Story originally appeared on Packers Wire