GREEN BAY, Wis. -- Devante Mays was the 22nd running back picked in this year’s draft. There were only four more taken after him. Yet Mays thinks he’s closer to Leonard Fournette, the No. 1 running back who went fourth overall, than, say, Matthew Dayes, the last running back taken in the draft.
Now, the Green Bay Packers rookie intends to show it.
Mays, the seventh-round pick (No. 238 overall) who was the last of the three running backs the Packers drafted this year, made a move in practice this week. With Ty Montgomery out with a leg injury, Mays worked as the No. 2 running back behind fourth-round pick Jamaal Williams. It means he jumped ahead of fifth-round pick Aaron Jones. That could be the order in which they play in Saturday’s second preseason game at Washington.
Before the draft, Mays told Bill Huber of PackerReport.com, “It’s hard not being one of those guys they talk about, like a Leonard Fournette. I know I should be mentioned with those guys.”
He might have been last season had knee and ankle injuries not wrecked his senior year at Utah State. After narrowly missing 1,000 yards as a junior, he was limited to just six games as a senior.
“I’ve always believed in myself,” Mays said this week. “I know what I can do. I don’t really know what would have happened if I wouldn’t have got injured, but I know I have the ability and skill set to have been a top player.”
Mays showed a little of what he could do in last week’s preseason opener when he caught a swing pass in the left flat and made Eagles linebacker Nathan Gerry miss on the way to a 5-yard gain on fourth-and-2. Mays showed surprising elusiveness for a 5-foot-10, 230-pound back. Mays did not have a carry in the game, but that could change against Washington.
“Talented runner,” coach Mike McCarthy said. “He not only will make you miss, but he runs with power. Very natural with the run instincts. He’s got more to learn. He’s not comfortable 100 percent on some of the things we’re doing, but I’ve been very impressed with him when he has the ball in his hand.”
Mays is built differently than the Packers’ other backs. Montgomery (6-foot, 216) and Williams (6-foot, 213) are taller than the 5-foot-10 Mays but not as big, while Jones (5-9, 208) is much smaller. If anyone resembles former Packers running back Eddie Lacy in terms of power and agility, it’s Mays.
“That’s one thing that’s always come naturally to me,” Mays said. “I’ve played running back ever since I was a little boy -- since I was about 6 years old. That’s what’s come natural to me -- running and making guys miss. I’ve not always been a big guy. I used to be a smaller guy. I didn’t get big until later in high school, when I started working out a lot and putting on more muscle.”