Nick Saban appears to be on the verge of a football dynasty with the University of Alabama. He’s not only winning championships, but he’s also churning out multiple high-end prospects each year. This year, there are five potential first-round selections coming out of Alabama: cornerback Dee Milliner, offensive tackle D.J. Fluker, nose tackle Jesse Williams, guard Chance Warmack, and running back Eddie Lacy. While all of them show great promise and talent that’s worthy of selecting, there’s one that doesn’t quite fit in the picture: Lacy.
There’s no doubt that Lacy is talented, but there are several questions about him that will be answered in the next two weeks. The first is simple: just how valuable of a player is he? The value (or lack thereof) of his position has been well documented, as the market is producing more and more talented ball-carriers that can be found in the later rounds at a cheaper rate. There’s also the pounding that ball-carriers take, which makes drafting them early even more difficult.
Another question worth asking is what kind of a talent is he? He has 1,996 yards and 299 carries over the last two seasons, which are impressive numbers, but they also raise more questions. Can he carry the workload at the next level, and how much did he benefit from the gaping holes his offensive line opened up?
Then there’s the question of his work ethic. At a private workout, Lacy ran two separate 40-yard dash times of 4.57 and 4.60, which were fine when since he’s 230 pounds. However, his workout had to be cut short because of stamina issues, even though he weighed in 12 pounds lighter than his typical playing weight, according to NFL.com. Was he lacking stamina because he didn’t work hard leading up to the workout? Or had he simply not adjusted to his new weight yet? There’s a big difference between the two.
If general managers can get the above questions answered over the next two weeks, then they might be open to drafting Lacy on the opening day of the draft. Even though at times the alleys he ran through looked like they were cleared out with an atomic bomb, there were many times where he proved that it wasn’t just his blockers doing the dirty work.
He showed the lower body strength to run through multiple arm tackles on any given play because of his high-knees running style. He also showed that he could make defenders miss at the line of scrimmage, then find the crease, square his shoulders, and hit the alley rather quickly to pick up yards in chunks. He’s light on his feet for his size, showing the ability to make quick jump-cuts that are reminiscent of Thomas Jones when he was running well for the New York Jets. All of these traits were on display at different times throughout the season, but they came together on one memorable play in the BCS Championship game against Notre Dame.
It was third-and-one on the 23-yard line, and Lacy was the lone back. He would be counted upon to move the marker early in the first quarter of a 7-0 game. It would be a simple handoff that was straight forward and to the point: run north and get the first down.
While Lacy awaited the ball, the defense overloaded the box with safeties running in late. That made it difficult for Lacy to find room to run. It also meant he would have to make a defender miss at the line, because his O-line was going be outnumbered. The play rested on his shoulders, and he responded emphatically.
Once he tucked the ball into his right arm, Lacy made a slight hop to the left, where he met safety Zeke Motta. Instead of trying to run through Motta, he made a sudden jab with his left foot and shifted his weight to his right. He raised his knees as Motta dived forward to make a last gasp at an arm tackle, which he ran right through.
Now clear of a defender, Lacy was forced to make another move, only this time to avoid his teammate. Left tackle Cyrus Kouandjio was down-blocking a defender in the same direction where Lacy was running, forcing the runner to make a jump-cut to the left. The cut was executed with little wasted movement as he landed with his left foot first and the right quickly following, all the while keeping his eyes up in search of more grass.
The next move was to daylight. He exploded to his right, bouncing off his right foot and running between a first level block by Kouandjio and second level by Warmack. What followed were a few lateral steps to the right before another cut was pressed off of his left foot, which allowed him to square his shoulders and finally get downhill. He ran hard before being tripped up short of the end zone, as you can see at the 1:54 mark in the video courtesy of draftbreakdown.com.
With most prospects, there’s one play that illustrates the sheer talent they possess, and this was it with Lacy. It’s a play that shows all of his talent and the potential he has as a ball-carrier in the pros. Now the only questions are if he’ll reach his ceiling, and what his talent is worth on draft day. The value of his position will make it difficult to take him in the first round, even though there will be GMs who are tempted.
Overall, Lacy’s not worth a first-round selection. He’s big, light on his feet, and he runs well, but the questions outlined earlier are significant. In addition to them, the question that needs to be asked is if there’s something special he can offer that others at his position don’t.
That’s one question that can be answered now. The answer is No.