Rookies backs Alonzo Harris, John Crockett in the running with Packers

GREEN BAY, Wis. -- Alonzo Harris said he had offers from eight teams. John Crockett said he stopped counting at 20.

It's perhaps the only consolation for players who don't get drafted: They can pick their team rather than the team picking them, albeit for considerably less money. Crockett received a $5,000 signing bonus from the Green Bay Packers. Harris banked just $3,500.

Players drafted at the end of the seventh round took home $52,784 in signing bonus money and will always hold the distinction of being drafted, which can serve as a tiebreaker when roster cuts are made.

But one look at the Packers' depth chart shows why the two rookie running backs might have found an ideal situation in Green Bay. Behind Eddie Lacy and James Starks, there's not another halfback on the roster with a down of NFL regular-season experience. Rajion Neal, the No. 3 running back by default this offseason, spent the last half of last season on the practice squad after spending the first half out of football.

You better believe that depth-chart research was an important part of undrafted free agency.

"Of course, I'm not just going to go sign a contract blind," Harris said during last week's rookie minicamp. "Me and my agent and my high-school coach, we all did research. Teams my agent told me about, we wrote them down and did research on them. Other teams had several [running backs] in the mix. Dallas had about three or four as well as Green Bay. So that's what it really came down to. I really felt this was the best position."

The Packers also commissioned a study that they distributed to potential undrafted rookies and their agents in which they showed that since general manager Ted Thompson took over in 2005, the Packers used undrafted free agents on 77,079 total snaps. The next highest team was at 54,105 snaps, according to the study.

"Green Bay is one of the places that actually gives you a shot," Crockett said. "And that's all you can ask for."

The Packers are seeking a replacement for DuJuan Harris, who served last season as the No. 3 halfback (and kickoff returner). It's a role that could become critical -- although it wasn't last season -- if Lacy or Starks sustain an injury.

Coach Mike McCarthy typically likes Thompson to keep at least three halfbacks and a fullback. Perhaps they will consider keeping an extra fullback this season given that they drafted one, Oklahoma's Aaron Ripkowski, in the sixth round as a possible heir apparent to John Kuhn.

Both Harris and Crockett arrived with impressive resumes, even if they weren't household names in college football. At Louisiana-Lafayette, the 6-foot-1 and 237-pound Harris averaged 4.7 yards per carry, rushed for 3,330 career yards and scored 44 touchdowns. At North Dakota State, Crockett (6-0, 217) didn't become the starting running back until his final season. Still, he finished his career with three straight 1,000-yard seasons. He set school records for all-purpose yards (2,419) and rushing yards (1,994) as a senior.

It might have been hard for a guy like Crockett, who got little attention despite playing on three FCS national championship teams in his three seasons, to get to the NFL. But now that he's here, he's on a level playing field and in a place where he has a chance to make it.

"I think the notice part is over," McCarthy said. "Just as I've told everybody, Crockett included, 'You're here for a reason. You've earned a right to be in an NFL facility. You've earned the right to challenge for a roster spot for the 2015 Green Bay Packers.'"