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Friday, April 26, 2013
Eddie Lacy: A new flavor for Packers

By Kevin Seifert

Eddie Lacy and Manti Te'o
Alabama running back Eddie Lacy adds a new dimension to Green Bay's running game.
The smell test failed every time. It was always difficult to imagine the Green Bay Packers selecting Alabama running back Eddie Lacy, or any other player at his position, in the first round of the 2013 draft. The running game simply doesn't carry that kind of value in the Packers' offense.

But in the second round? After a trade that dropped the Packers another six spots to the penultimate choice of the round?

Can't say I ever considered it.

I guess that's why the professionals handle such things.

The Packers scooped up Lacy with the No. 61 overall selection of the draft, a high-value pick if you thought Lacy was a first-round talent and an economical one if you merely agreed the Packers needed a better plan in the backfield moving forward. At 231 pounds, Lacy is the kind of inside power runner the Packers haven't had in the Mike McCarthy-Aaron Rodgers era. Lacy, in fact, is the Packers' highest-drafted running back since Darrell Thompson was the No. 19 overall pick in 1990.

The Packers ranked No. 26 last season in average yards after contact per rush (1.5 yards), according to ESPN Stats & Information. Newcomer DuJuan Harris created some excitement at the end of last season with his frenetic style, but it should tell you something about a team's commitment to building a position that a player was able to walk off the street in midseason, join the practice squad, be promoted to the active roster in Week 13 and earn a starting job by Week 14.

The Packers could add a new layer to their offense if they use Lacy the way Alabama did. Almost two-thirds of his rushing attempts went between the tackles, and he averaged 7.6 yards per carry on those plays, according to ESPN Stats & Information.

There are those who might attribute an inordinate amount of Lacy's success to Alabama's dominant offensive line, one that included a pair of 2013 first-round draft picks, guard Chance Warmack and tackle D.J. Fluker. Indeed, Lacy averaged 4.2 yards before contact last season and made it at least five yards past the line of scrimmage before being touched on nearly 36 percent of his rushes.

But as the chart shows, Lacy was more productive on those inside runs than former Alabama tailback Trent Richardson was in the same situation during the 2011 season. Richardson, of course, went No. 3 overall to the Cleveland Browns in the 2012 draft.

"You watch the film and he rarely goes down with one guy trying to tackle him," Packers director of college scouting Brian Gutekunst told Green Bay reporters. "More guys have to tackle him. He kind of has to be gang-tackled. That’s intriguing as well."

Alabama's offensive line might have had something to do with Lacy falling to the bottom of the second round. The more likely reason, however, was an offseason hamstring injury that limited him during pre-draft workouts. He reportedly wasn't in top shape for his makeshift Pro Day earlier this month, and his 40-yard times of 4.59 and 4.62 that day excited no one.

Gutekunst expressed no concern over Lacy's physical condition, however, calling the Pro Day workout "part of the process." Lacy said: "I wasn't 100 percent but I decided to try it anyway."

Lacy has plenty of time to recover before the start of training camp in July. When he does, the Packers will have what Gutekunst called "a little bit different [player] than we've had maybe in the past."

I don't anticipate the Packers offense changing much with Lacy joining Harris, James Starks, Alex Green and John Kuhn in the backfield. This offense and scheme will always revolve around Rodgers and the passing game. (As it should, by the way.)

What his arrival should do, however, is make the Packers more versatile and ultimately better. They now have their best option in years for times that call for tough yards or running out the clock or simply wearing down a defense. He won't be as exciting as a half-dozen other skill players on the Packers' roster, but every flash needs a grind and every slash needs a pound. Or something like that.