Johnathan Franklin saw his first action of the season on Sunday, and he looked good until fumbling away the game for the Green Bay Packers in the final four minutes of a 34-30 loss at the Cincinnati Bengals.
Franklin, a fourth-round pick out of UCLA, came in to replace James Starks, who hurt his knee before halftime. Franklin looked shifty and did well to avoid being tackled on first contact. He ripped off a 51-yard run — the Packers’ longest of the season — and he scored a 2-yard touchdown in the third quarter. His final stats were impressive; he rushed for 103 yards on 13 carries, and he caught three passes for 23 yards. But the fumble was a killer.
The Packers went for it on 4th and 1 with under four minutes left in the game. They handed it off to Franklin, who tried to dive for the first down. He was stripped of the ball on his dive and the Bengals recovered and returned it for the winning touchdown.
As LBS contributor A. Botros noted, the turnover recalled previous fumbling problems Franklin had in college.
Franklin was a star running back for the Bruins and became the school’s career rushing leader, but he had a huge fumbling problem early in his college career. He lost seven, six, and five fumbles in his first three seasons respectively, but he cut that down to only one fumble in his senior season. He still lost 19 fumbles over four seasons.
The Packers are thin at running back. Eddie Lacy suffered a concussion last weekend, and Starks hurt his knee this week. Franklin exited the game late after hurting his ankle, but returned. We highly recommended Starks as a fantasy pickup last weekend, and we recommend Franklin as a pickup pending Starks’ health. The Packers have some talented backs that have a ton of fantasy value, as long as they are healthy.
Below is a look at the play where Franklin lost the fumble: