Former Northern Illinois fullback/running back Clint Ratkovich has confirmed he suffered a severe knee injury during his April 8 workout at the Green Bay Packers’ pro day for local prospects in the 2022 NFL draft class.
According to Dane Brugler of The Athletic, Ratkovich is believed to have torn his ACL while working out in front of the Packers on Friday along with other local prospects. The local pro days are designed to give scouting opportunities to lesser-known players who were either not invited to the NFL Combine or got little exposure at their school’s pro day. They also improve their chances of being signed as undrafted free agents.
Ratkovich was unlikely to be drafted in the 2022 draft due to his smaller-school status and underwhelming production. He was a two-time first-team All-Missouri Valley Conference selection during his four seasons at Western Illinois, serving as more of a receiving weapon (128 receptions for 1,204 yards and 10 touchdowns) than a runner (97 carries for 429 yards and three scores) for the offense.
Only once he moved to Northern Illinois as a graduate transfer did he emerge as a truly bullish rushing option out of the backfield. He carried the ball more times in his lone year with the Huskies than his entire career with the Leathernecks and became a bit of a touchdown machine, finishing the 2021 season with 105 carries for 461 yards and 13 touchdowns — tying for the 24th-most among FBS running backs.
Unfortunately, Ratkovich will now have to wait until after his knee has recovered to see if he can parlay his strong final year into an opportunity at the sport’s highest level.
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Packers Could Circle Back to Ratkovich
The pre-draft process is always the worst time for an NFL hopeful to sustain a serious injury, but it does happen from time to time. A similar workout incident happened with Michigan edge rusher David Ojabo — one of the top players in the 2022 class — when he tore his Achillies at his school’s pro day in mid-March. Now, he could end up falling out of the first round and miss the early parts of his rookie season as he recovers.
Teams don’t just tear up their evaluations of players when they get injured, though. In Ratkovich’s case, a significant knee injury will make his journey to the NFL much tougher than it already was, but something about his skill set persuaded the Packers to grant him a local pro day workout in the first place. It is always possible they will revisit the subject again in the future once Ratkovich has cleared all the health hurdles.
The Packers haven’t tried incorporating a fullback into their offense since 2020 when John Lovett was on the roster. While he had minimal usage in the first half of the year before suffering a season-ending injury, there was clearly an intent to get him more involved out of the backfield. If they think that type of weapon could be valuable to them again, maybe it is worth monitoring Ratkovich’s recovery over the next year.