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Player Spotlight: Eddie Lacy

A detailed look at Eddie Lacy's fantasy prospects 

Positives

  • A proven workhorse back, when healthy and in shape
  • OC Darrell Bevell has a long history of favoring a single back versus a committee
  • The Seahawks are one of the most balanced (run vs. pass) offenses in the NFL

Negatives

  • Lacy has dealt with weight and conditioning issues throughout his career
  • The Seahawks line was a mess last year, and it's unclear how much better it will be in 2017
  • Russell Wilson is an adept goal-line threat

A High-Variance, Boom-Or-Bust situation

Eddie Lacy is being misunderstood, and fantasy owners have a short window of time to take advantage. After flaming out in Green Bay, most think of Lacy's spot in Seattle as being about earning a role in a two- or three-runner committee. The heavy-set back has been recast in many eyes as a plodder, best suited for carries on 1st and 2nd down, and possibly as a short-yardage specialist. While it's true Lacy has fallen out of shape, and his fitness remains a risk, his fantasy value is entirely binary. 

  • Option #1 -- Lacy continues to improve his conditioning, wins over Bevell and Carroll in the preseason, and earns 70%-75% of the workload 
  • Option #2 -- Lacy can't get in better shape, struggles in the preseason, and becomes an also-ran and possibly a camp casualty

Most think there's an Option #3; that Lacy fits into a rotation with C.J. Prosise and Thomas Rawls. That's a mistake. Lacy is either going to BOOM, or he's going to BUST.


Darrell Bevell is the perfect OC for a Lacy Resurgence

If (and that's a big if) Lacy earns the starting role, he couldn't ask for a better offensive coordinator. Darrell Bevell has been an NFL offensive coordinator for 11 years, five in Minnesota and six in Seattle. 

TABLE 1: Running Back Stats, Minnesota Vikings under Darrell Bevell (2006-2010)

YearTmRushRuYdsYPRRuTDRun%Pass%
2006 MIN 438 1,819 4.15 12 44.8% 55.2%
2007 MIN 490 2,635 5.38 22 53.3% 46.7%
2008 MIN 515 2,339 4.54 15 53.3% 46.7%
2009 MIN 465 1,914 4.12 19 45.7% 54.3%
2010 MIN 434 1,942 4.47 16 46.3% 53.7%
  AVG 468 2,130 4.55 17 48.6% 51.4%

TABLE 2: RUNNING BACK STATS, SEATTLE SEAHAWKS UNDER DARRELL BEVELL (2011-2016)

YearTmRushRuYdsYPRRuTDRun%Pass%
2011 SEA 440 1,755 3.99 15 46.3% 53.7%
2012 SEA 531 2,599 4.89 16 56.8% 43.2%
2013 SEA 502 2,183 4.35 14 54.5% 45.5%
2014 SEA 518 2,755 5.32 20 53.3% 46.7%
2015 SEA 496 2,269 4.57 10 50.4% 49.6%
2016 SEA 399 1,564 3.92 13 41.4% 58.6%
  AVG 481 2,188 4.55 15 50.4% 49.6%

In Bevell's two stints as an offensive coordinator, he has been a running back's dream play-caller. His teams' running back stables have averaged more than 2,100 yards rushing and 16 touchdowns per season, with a 4.6 yards per rush average. You'll also note the team's run/pass ratio is nearly 50/50; something unheard of in the modern football era.

TABLE 3: DIVISION OF CARRIES, RUNNING BACKS, DARRELL BEVELL TEAMS

YearRB1RB2RB3
2006 77.3% 10.7% 6.1%
2007 55.7% 36.8% 4.7%
2008 78.3% 13.0% 9.9%
2009 74.6% 21.9% 2.9%
2010 75.0% 21.3% 3.5%
2011 72.9% 13.7% 11.9%
2012 73.2% 18.6% 5.4%
2013 74.7% 19.3% 4.5%
2014 72.2% 19.1% 8.8%
2015 39.7% 30.0% 10.5%
2016 37.9% 35.3% 10.0%
AVG 66.5% 21.8% 7.1%

In Bevell's 11 seasons, the top running back has averaged 66.5% of the carries. Frankly, that number UNDERSTATES how much Bevell favors one running back because of the 2007, 2015, and 2016 seasons. In those years, injuries forced Bevell to use more balance. But even in those seasons, if you look at the game logs, he gave a single back the preponderance of the touches whenever health permitted. 

"Typical" Bevell Carries for a Running Back

  • Average # of Carries by Running Backs under Bevell (2006-2016) -- 475 carries
  • Average % of Carries for the Team's RB1 -- 66.5%
  • Implied Carries for Darrell Bevell's RB1 -- 316 carries (475 x 0.665)

Lacy Is Not One Dimensional

Eddie Lacy is an all-purpose back. There's no scheme, formation or game script that doesn't suit Lacy (when he's healthy and in shape).

  • Career Average Yards per Reception -- 8.9 (vs. 8.1 average for running backs with 50+ receptions)
  • Career Catch Rate -- 75.4% (vs. 74.5% average)
  • Career Receiving TD% -- 4.5% (vs. 2.9% average)
  • Goal Line TD% -- 48.6% (vs. 40.8% average)
  • Yards per Rush -- 4.36 (vs. 4.16 average for RBs with 100+ carries)

What About the Conditioning and health?

After starting his career with back-to-back Top 10 fantasy seasons, Lacy fell to 24th in 2015. The wheels fell off last year when Lacy missed 11 games and eventually succumbed to ankle surgery. The surgery went well, but Lacy was limited in OTAs. The Seahawks were smart enough to build fitness incentives into his contract. He has a series of seven weigh-ins culminating in a playing weight goal of 245 pounds by the start of the regular season. Entering training camp, Lacy has met each weigh-in, and Coach Carroll has expressed confidence in his new workhorse.

Is the Offensive Line Still Offensive?

The Seahawks offensive line has fallen on hard times. Last year's unit was among the league's worst in all facets. It couldn't keep Russell Wilson clean in the pocket. It couldn't sustain blocks or open holes in the running game. The team expects the line to make a leap forward this year for a number of reasons:

  1. Left tackle George Fant's natural progression -- Fant started ten games last year as an undrafted rookie free agent. He only played one year of college football. A resume like that makes his struggles understandable, and it also makes a case for a significant leap forward in Year Two
  2. Luke Joeckel's reclamation project -- Joeckel never lived up to his draft slot as a tackle in Jacksonville, but the Seahawks think he can significantly improve the interior with his aggressiveness
  3. Competition on the right side -- Mark Glowinski will have to compete at right guard against last year's 3rd rounder Rees Odhiambo
  4. Germain Ifedi playing tackle -- Ifedi will be moved to right tackle this year, a position many NFL scouts saw as his best option when the Seahawks drafted him in the 1st round
  5. Ethan Pocic as a wild card -- Pocic was drafted in the second round out of LSU and will push everyone other than Justin Britt for a starting role

Eddie Lacy's upside is largely contingent on the Seahawks line playing better. It's a leap of faith, but his current ADP builds in a substantial enough discount to take the bet. 


Projections

YEAR GRSHYDTDTARGRECYDTDFumL
2014 GB 16 246 1139 9 55 42 427 4 2
2015 GB 15 187 758 3 28 20 188 2 2
2016 GB 5 71 360 0 7 4 28 0  
2017 PROJ-Dodds 14 203 873 7   23 191 1 1
2017 PROJ-Henry 15 200 875 8   25 205 1 1
2017 PROJ-Wood 16 250 1100 8   21 185 1 2
2017 PROJ-Tremblay 16 160 665 5   31 234 1 2

Final Thoughts

Eddie Lacy was the apple of fantasy owners' eyes just two seasons ago. Weight issues, conditioning, and an ankle injury derailed his status in Green Bay, and he found himself on the Street this offseason. Pete Carroll moved quickly in free agency to sign Lacy, which is a testament to Lacy's potential considering the litany of other options at Carroll's disposal. Technically Lacy is competing for the lead role with incumbent Thomas Rawls. Rawls hasn't been able to stay healthy though, and Carroll and Bevell appear to have soured on him. Why else sign Lacy? C.J. Prosise may have a role as a pass-catcher, but that shouldn't dissuade the excitement for Lacy. On average, Darrell Bevell's #1 running back averages 318 carries. As long as the offensive line shows signs of life and Lacy stays fit, he can vault back into RB1 contention. 


Other Perspectives

Andy Hicks thinks Lacy puts it all together this year:

"This is the year that Eddie Lacy’s career could go either way: out of the league or back to his form from his first two seasons. Lacy obviously remains a high risk pick, but the upside is much higher than his current draft position. If you pair him with Thomas Rawls then you should safeguard your investment, but focusing purely on Lacy and despite his reputation, he has always performed when on the field. In his five games last year, he overaged over 5 yards a carry, and the year before had three 100-yard games when Green Bay wasn’t really interested in running the ball. There is no doubt that Seattle will want to run the ball, and often. They have depth at the position, but the lead runner will be Lacy. Don’t let him fall too far in your draft."

Matt Waldman sees too many risks versus the potential reward:

"There are too many reasons to bet against Lacy even if he meets incentive-laden contract with Seattle that focuses a lot on his physical conditioning. Thomas Rawls is capable of top-12 fantasy production when healthy, and C.J. Prosise had a three-game stretch last year where he showed that he’s a big-play, every-down weapon in development. Seattle encourages competition for starting jobs, which means that Lacy could have the best name on the depth chart but not necessarily the best game. Expect a committee approach where Lacy’s current ranking is based more on his realistic ceiling than his mid-point or floor."