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Player Spotlight: Eddie Lacy

A detailed examination of Eddie Lacy's fantasy prospects for 2016

After two straight seasons of over 1,100 yards and 20 total touchdowns, 2015 was a terrible year for Green Bay Packers running back Eddie Lacy. Slow, plodding and plagued by both injuries and weight issues, Lacy missed a game, scored just three touchdowns and couldn’t even top 800 yards rushing.

It was brutal.

Now his value has dropped from a top five fantasy back to a borderline RB2—and believe it or not, that’s excellent news because it’s not often you come across a first round running back in the second round.

Yes, Lacy is going to be back on top this year. Here’s why.

No More Ding Dongs

Lacy has been working with P90X founder Tony Horton this offseason and is still doing so in the days leading up to the start of training camp. While the team still feels he has a little ways to go in order to have his conditioning totally up to snuff and have some concerns about his “body composition” (per Lori Nickel of the Journal Sentinel, body composition is the makeup of muscular tissue (organs are muscle), fat and bone versus the “right weight” or his BMI), he’s already leagues ahead of where he was last season and continues to improve.

The team stressed how much better he was when he was in shape, and have put together both a strength and nutritional guide for Lacy (as they do for all Packers players) to help him along.

Of course, Lacy has to follow it, but given the effort he has put in to get back on track this offseason, it’s hard to believe he would let it go so close to the season.

So expect Lacy to look much more like the running back from 2013 and 2014 and lay off the cheese curds, brats and Hostess Ding Dongs which seemed to have dragged him down last season.

The Band is Back Together

While it was clear that Lacy was physically a mess last season (he looked like he was running through molasses), the terrible state of the passing offense hurt as well.

Without Jordy Nelson, the Packers were a hot mess—Randall Cobb was ill-suited to the WR1 spot and none of the other receivers behind him—Jeff Janis, Jared Abbrederis and Davante Adams—managed to step up consistently.

Which meant that teams could stack the box against Lacy. Whereas in previous seasons that didn’t matter as much, 2015 was a different story. His poor conditioning, along with offensive line issues, allowed defenses to shut the run game down.

Now, Nelson is on track to start the season and both the receivers and offensive line group is healthy as well, which means Lacy is going to find far fewer stacked boxes and a lot more running room.

Some people will point to the return of Nelson as a sign that the Packers will head back to the old “pass-happy” ways of the offense prior to the arrival of Lacy. While the team will pass—as you do when Aaron Rodgers is your quarterback—we saw in Lacy’s first two seasons that when he is healthy and effective, head coach Mike McCarthy and offensive coordinator Edgar Bennett will call the running back’s number quite often.

So it’s great that Rodgers has his full complement of receivers back. It means less stacked boxes and more open running lanes, while also still feeding Lacy the ball.

No Real Competition

As much as James Starks has shown flashes of very good play over the course of his career, he has always topped out at “pretty good.” John Crockett looked good in preseason but barely saw the field last season with Lacy a wreck, and the final three players in the backfield on the roster—Don Jackson, Brandon Burks and Brandon Ross—are undrafted rookies.

That’s not to say none of them will be any good this year—just that save for Starks, nobody is a real threat to Lacy’s competition. And again, Starks is a minimal threat. While he totaled 993 yards on the ground last season in covering for Lacy, he only had a 4.1 yards per carry average. And that was when he was healthy, unlike Lacy who had the same average.

Starks did provide a spark here and there, but in watching all his carries last season I saw a guy who continually mistimed a cut, topped out too early or otherwise missed a chance to break a run for a huge gain.

We’ve seen what Starks is, over and over. At his best, Starks is not nearly as good as Lacy. And what we’re seeing now from Lacy tells us that he’s going to be back close to his old self this year.

Which means Starks is relegated back to a role as an afterthought.

Positives

  • Weight down, in better shape
  • Healthy passing game = less stacked boxes
  • No real competition – as long as he’s productive, he’s starter

Negatives

  • Can he keep the weight off and conditioning up?
  • Could be on a short leash after 2015
  • If he struggles, team could create an RBBC with Starks

Final Thoughts

There will certainly be some hesitation around Lacy, given how far off the map he fell in 2015. It’s understandable and even with the progress he has had so far this spring and summer, caution can be advised. We’ll watch camp and see what the results are.

However, we’ve seen the best of Lacy and it’s pretty compelling. While his conditioning was certainly part of the reason he struggled, the decimated offense was an issue as well. That’s not the case this year. He’ll get plenty of carries, despite that healthy receiving corps, and it’s a plus for him as well.

Lacy is set for a bounce-back season. Let everyone else worry and you can have him at the top of the second round, but get first round production.

Projections

 

Games

RSH

YDS

TDs

REC

YDS

TD

Garda

16

265

1,200

9

35

350

3


 

Other Viewpoints

ESPN.com’s Tristan Cockcroft says you have to be cautious with Lacy after last season.

We might not get a firm read on Lacy's fitness until preseason games begin, as few things are more nebulous than offseason physical fitness reports. Remember, before anyone even realized the shape he was in last season, Lacy made a compelling case to be fantasy football's No. 1 pick; he finished the season the No. 27 scorer at his position (in a down year for running back scoring). In fairness, the buzz does seem genuine this time, but stay tuned ...

Marcas Grant of NFL.com says last season was an outlier and Lacy’s ADP is already creeping up boards.

The only downside is that plenty of people are starting to get on board with this line of thinking. Back in the spring, Lacy was being projected as a third- or fourth-round pick. Now he has crept into the second round and the price is likely to get higher as we get to the start of the season.

Rob Demovsky is the Packers beat writer for ESPN.com and he points to the complete lack of offseason and draft moves as proof the team has faith in Lacy.

Thompson expressed supreme confidence in the running back trio from last season by ignoring the position until the rookie free-agent period, when he signed Nevada’s Don Jackson and Troy’s Brandon Burks. Lacy’s extreme weight loss must have given the Packers confidence that he’ll be more productive.