And so the diamond mining begins.

The frenzy of January includes the beginning of draft scuttlebutt and speculation, in addition to coach hiring season. Oh yeah, the playoffs are still happening. That too.

For those obsessed enough to start thinking about how a real draft effects their fake draft next August, you may now start that unhealthy practice as juniors begin to declare.

So with that, I give you Eddie Lacy.

The Alabama running back was joined by cornerback Dee Milliner and tackle D.J. Fluker, as the three members of the national championship winning Crimson Tide declared their intention to enter this year’s draft today. There’s plenty of hearsay yet to come that will bury us between now and late April, an onslaught which begins in earnest shortly after the Super Bowl during the Scouting Combine, although even before the NFL season ends the seeds for the smoke are planted by the Senior Bowl. But of that group, Milliner is widely pegged as the best prospect, and a possible top 10 pick.

Our fantasy fiend-ish minds care so little about that, though, as it’s Lacy who’s the twinkle in our eye.

Joining the recent lineage of highly successful ‘Bama backs who have been first-round picks over the past two years (Trent Richardson and Mark Ingram), Lacy has emerged quickly, and especially this past season after his elevation to starting status following Richardson’s departure. He was still rather incredible even while playing behind Richardson last year, averaging 7.1 yards per carry (!!!!!!!!) on his 94 carries. This year, though, he exploded, finishing with 1,322 yards at a pace of 6.5 yards per carry with 17 touchdowns. He also added 189 receiving yards, and two more touchdowns through the air.

All of that of course came against tough SEC defenses, and it was highlighted by Lacy’s 181 yards and two touchdowns on 9.1 YPC (!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!) in the SEC championship game against Georgia, and earlier this week in the national championship he posted 140 yards and two touchdowns (one receiving) on 20 carries during Alabama’s blowout win over Notre Dame.

CBS draft expert Rob Rang doesn’t quite think Lacy will follow Richardson and Ingram into the first round. But he won’t be far behind either, likely coming off the board sometime in the second round as one of the first RBs selected (and most likely the first, as Rang ranks him as the top RB).

Rang compared Lacy’s downhill power running to the style of Michael Bush, writing this about his strengths:

Has the leg drive to push the pile and keeps his legs churning through contact, often resulting in broken tackles. Lacey reads his blocks nicely, showing enough lateral agility to avoid defenders as well as the burst to stick his foot in the ground and accelerate through gaps quickly.

He’s a well-built back, but shows good balance (including an often-used spin move) and athleticism (leaping ability) to surprise defenders anticipating that all he has is power. Runs tough and determined with an angry attitude to finish each run and pick up positive yardage.

Obviously Lacy’s fantasy impact next fall depends on where he lands, and his situation. Last August we were all high on David Wilson and his potential to offer good late-round value, and then his inability to pass block and avoid fumbles put the rookie firmly in Tom Coughlin’s dog house. But if he’s even in a situation where there’s an opportunity to platoon, Lacy could provide at minimum quality weekly flex value due to his bulk, and likely presence as a goal-line pounder who will accumulate touchdowns and cheap points.