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Eddie Lacy's 2014 Fantasy Football Outlook

By Jared Smola 7:49am EDT 5/29/14

Note: This is a free preview of a 2014 Draft Sharks Player Profile. DS Insiders will have access to over 300 of these -- along with detailed projections -- in June.


Eddie Lacy

Lacy was a fantasy football stud in every sense of the word last year.

His 284 carries ranked 5th league-wide. His 1,178 rushing yards were 8th best. Lacy finished 3rd behind only Marshawn Lynch and Jamaal Charles with 11 rushing TDs.

The rookie was also productive in the passing game. He tallied 35 catches for 257 yards. Both marks ranked among the top 27 RBs. Lacy finished 10th at the position in total yards. He was fantasy’s #7 RB in non-PPR leagues and #8 in PPR.

Consistency was a calling card for Lacy. He finished 6th among RBs in our 2013 Reliability Ratings. He failed to reach double-digit PPR points in only 2 of 15 games. And he left both of those early with injury. Lacy reached 100 total yards 6 times and found the end zone in 10 different games.

The performance was no fluke, either. Lacy fared extremely well in a bunch of Pro Football Focus’ advanced metrics. The rookie ranked 4th among RBs with 56 missed tackles forced. His 647 yards after contact were 6th-most league wide. Lacy finished 5th at the position in PFF’s run grades. The 4 guys ahead of him: LeSean McCoy, Marshawn Lynch, Adrian Peterson and Jamaal Charles. Good company.

Lacy was also near the top of the pack in most of the major pass-catching categories. His 79.5% catch rate ranked 14th among 45 RBs with 20+ catches. He was charged with just 2 drops, registering a drop rate of 5.4% that ranked 15th. Lacy finished 17th among 55 RBs in PFF’s receiving grades.

Perhaps more importantly, he was dependable in pass protection. Lacy was the league’s 4th-best blocking RB, per PFF. He allowed just 1 QB hit and not a single sack on 124 pass-blocking snaps. His 98% pass-blocking efficiency ranked 3rd among RBs behind only Maurice Jones-Drew and Frank Gore. That’s extremely important when your QB is Aaron Rodgers.

Lacy is a true 3-down back on an explosive offense. And he’ll only turn 24 in June. What’s not to love?

There are 2 concerns you’ll hear about Lacy: the impact that a healthy Rodgers will have on his output, and durability. Let’s tackle each issue.

Rodgers remains an elite QB in the prime of his career. Green Bay’s offense will continue to run through his right arm and underrated athleticism. But the Packers’ coaching staff has been talking all offseason about wanting a more balanced offense in 2014.

“You don’t want to be one-dimensional one way or the other,” HC Mike McCarthy said in April. “We’ve lived that life where we were heavy one-dimensional throwing it, and you’d like to have balance. It makes it easier, puts a little less stress on your quarterback, your best player.”

In other words, the Packers are going to feed Lacy.

They really don’t need to change much from the attack they ran when both Lacy and Rodgers were on the field last year, though. That only happened for 6 full games. In those 6 contests, Lacy racked up 132 carries, 502 yards and 4 TDs. That’s an average of 22 carries, 83.7 yards and .67 TDs per game. In 9 games with Rodgers sidelined, Lacy averaged 16.9 carries, 75.1 yards and .78 TDs.

In addition to his TDs climbing sans Rodgers, Lacy also saw his yards per carry rise from 3.8 to 4.4. We’re not worried about what either mark means for his 2014 outlook, though. The majority of Lacy’s games with Rodgers came early in the season when the rookie was adjusting to the NFL game. There’s no arguing that a healthy Rodgers makes the Packers offense more dangerous. That should mean better efficiency and more scoring chances for Lacy.

Lacy’s receiving numbers were also slightly down with Rodgers at the helm. He averaged 2.7 targets, 2.3 catches and 15.5 yards per game with Rodgers vs. 2.8 targets, 2.3 catches and 18.2 yards without. Rodgers won’t check down as much as Green Bay’s backups did last year. But Lacy is a reliable receiver who will continue to be used in the screen game. And the losses of WR James Jones and TE Jermichael Finley could bring a few extra targets his way in 2014.

The numbers say a healthy Rodgers is no threat to Lacy’s workload or production. Word out of Green Bay this offseason says the same. Besides, it only makes sense that having one of the top QBs in the game under center would help a RB’s numbers. We’re fully expecting Lacy to improve on last year’s 4.1 yards per carry.

The 2nd concern with Lacy is durability. It was a major issue leading up to last year’s NFL Draft – and one of the main reasons he slipped to late 2nd round. Lacy dealt with toe, hand and elbow injuries at Alabama. Knee and pectoral problems kept him out of the Combine. And he sat out Alabama’s Pro Day with a bum hamstring.

He played in 16 of Green Bay’s 17 games last year, but it wasn’t easy. Lacy sustained a concussion in Week 2 that cost him the Packers’ next game. He missed snaps in Week 12 with asthma problems. A couple weeks later, Lacy suffered an ankle injury that would linger the rest of the season.

Lacy’s running style lends itself to injury. He’d rather run through a defender than around him. He seeks contact. This guy isn’t a great bet to enjoy a lengthy NFL career.

But his durability isn’t something we’re incredibly concerned about in 2014. Lacy has a big 5’11, 230-pound frame to handle the hits. He’s often doling out more punishment than he’s receiving. And he’s shown the willingness and ability to play through injuries in both college and the pros.

RB is an inherently injury-prone position anyways. Avoiding Lacy because of the chance he misses time in 2014 isn’t a winning fantasy football move. He’s going to be a stud whenever he’s on the field.

Draft Sharks Bottom Line:

This is a young, talented, 3-down back in one of the most explosive offenses in the game. We’re not concerned about Lacy’s durability or his workload with a healthy Rodgers. Few RBs boast a better combination of rushing, receiving and TD potential. Lacy is well worth a pick in the mid-1st round of fantasy drafts.

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