Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
POSTED: 11:09 a.m. HST, Apr 27, 2013
LAST UPDATED: 11:34 a.m. HST, Apr 27, 2013
GREEN BAY, Wis. » The sea parted weekly. A small car could drive through some of the holes Alabama’s offensive line created last year. The edgy, mauling front five dominated defenses. And as a result, they also complicated the draft stock of one Eddie Lacy.
As the 5-foot-11, 229-pound back tripped deep into the second round of Friday’s NFL draft, the skepticism gained merit.
Was Lacy merely a product of the men in front of him?
“Not at all,” said guard Chance Warmack, taken 10th overall by the Tennessee Titans. “Eddie’s an exceptional back. And I feel he didn’t have the opportunity to show everybody the type of back he is. At the next level, he’s only going to get better and better.”
The Green Bay Packers hope Warmack is right. They’re giving Lacy the chance to be his own running back, his own talent. On Friday, Ted Thompson traded down six picks in the second round and took Lacy. It’s only the second time in his nine drafts the general manager has taken a running back this high. He’s banking on Lacy being more than a cog in a system.
Last season, Lacy rushed for 1,322 yards on 204 carries with 17 touchdowns, capping it all off with the second-most embarrassing moment in Manti Te’o’s life. Yet he didn’t hear from an NFL team until his plane landed in Alabama from New York City Friday evening.
Now he needs to prove he’s more than a pawn on Nick Saban’s chessboard.
“It was a really long wait,” Lacy said. “It’s going to a big motivation piece I can use.”
That motivation comes from seeing three running backs fly off the draft board ahead of him.
First, Giovani Bernard to the Cincinnati Bengals with the 37th pick. Then, Le’Veon Bell to the Pittsburgh Steelers. And after Green Bay traded down — deferring the decision to take Lacy or Montee Ball — the Denver Broncos took Ball at No. 58. It was a humbling wait for a running back who played with a pair of first-rounders in Mark Ingram and Trent Richardson.
Just last week Lacy said he was “as complete as it gets” at running back. On Friday, he didn’t change his mind.
“I’m a bigger guy, a tough runner, a physical runner,” Lacy said. “That’s just natural. But I’m also shifty and I can make defenders miss and also break long runs. I just feel like I can do anything.”
And yet maybe some teams thought such confidence is blind because of Warmack, because of D.J. Fluker, because of center Barrett Jones. Fluker went 11th overall and Jones, still available, may be the best center in the draft.
Alabama’s bare-knuckle blocking tight end Michael Williams agrees with Warmack.
A potential priority free agent, he watched these first three rounds of the draft as more spectator than edge-of-seat participant. And as it progressed, he says he was “more surprised than anybody” that Lacy slipped. He insists Lacy can shine behind any offensive line.
Green Bay, Williams says, “got a steal.”
“I’m not going to put myself down,” said Williams, often an extended tackle in Alabama’s offense, “but Eddie had a good burst. He was a big part of our offense. Of course we had a big line, but he’s got to do some of it on his own.”
If the Packers need Lacy to carry the ball 20-25 times a game, Williams believes he’ll hold up.
“Thirty if you needed to,” Williams said. “He’s a workhorse, man. You don’t see too many backs at 230 doing what he does. You see the spin moves and everything he can do in the open field. And he can run hard between the tackles, so I mean he’s the best running back in the draft.”
Added Warmack, “He can play on first, second and third down. He’s just an all-around football player. He doesn’t care about the hype or all that. He’s going to work.”
Two Alabama backs are already trying to prove this a myth, not a legitimate criticism. With the New Orleans Saints, the Heisman Trophy-winner Ingram has been a part-time back so far with 1,076 yards on 278 attempts (3.9 avg.) and 10 touchdowns in two seasons. Trent Richardson, the third overall pick in 2012, ran for 950 yards and 11 touchdowns. His average was a so-so 3.6, but he also showed some grit on a bad Cleveland Browns offense.
As Lacy said, Green Bay “saw something” in him that they didn’t like in Ball. Size. Power. Deceptive quickness. All of these traits jump out on film, too.
Now, Lacy is out to prove he’ll keep it up without Warmack, Fluker and Co. holding his hand.
“There’s still a lot I have to go out there and prove,” Lacy said. “I can’t wait until I can start on that.”
Lacy ready to run for Packers after falling in draftThe sea parted weekly. A small car could drive through some of the holes Alabama’s offensive line created last year. The edgy, mauling front five dominated defenses. And as a result, they also complicated the draft stock of one Eddie Lacy.