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On Choosing Between Eddie Lacy and Johnathan Franklin

Which Green Bay rookie running back should be taken first in dynasty and redraft leagues?

At the end of the second day of the draft, Eddie Lacy looked like he had a plum fantasy spot lined up. He was back in contention for the No. 1 pick in rookie drafts. Johnathan Franklin hadn't heard his name called, and many of us were wondering if there was something to story that we didn't know when we scouted this excellent back at UCLA.

The Green Bay Packers couldn't help themselves when Franklin fell to the fourth round, and very smartly doubled up at a position that they had flubbed in recent drafts. While this was good for the Packers, it was bad for fantasy owners who liked Lacy and/or Franklin coming into this weekend. Now they would have to weigh the downer of a shared backfield against their affinity for the backs.

This duo is likely to go off of the board somewhat close to each other in most rookie drafts, and some of us are going to have decide between them and maybe one or two other names when we are on the clock. We'll also have to decide which (if either, or maybe even both) to target in redraft leagues. What is the right answer?

Pro Lacy

  • The Packers thought enough more of him to draft him two rounds earlier
  • Question about his toe (fused per a team source of Ed Bouchette of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette) can't be that bad if he still went in second.
  • Should get goal line carries
  • Higher ceiling as a pure talent

 Anti Lacy

  • Conditioning, dedication, and durability are not questions you want in a 1st round fantasy pick
  • Will be less involved in passing game
  • Durability could open door for Franklin to take over
  • Looks like a career committee back

Pro Franklin

  • Slashing style downhill fits a la Ryan Grant
  • Good pass catcher
  • Proven durability under heavy workload
  • More likely to gain value via counterpart's injury
  • Ted Thompson rarely trades up in the draft, so he likes Franklin

Anti Franklin

  • Alarming number of backs went before him
  • Not a special physical talent, undersized
  • Packers preferred Lacy to him
  • Can get overwhelmed as a pass blocker

None of the Above

  • See also: Stewart, Johnathan and Williams, DeAngelo
  • Most likely scenario is that neither overtakes the other long-term
  • Packers have been poor at picking running backs
  • Still Aaron Rodgers' offense 

The Verdict

I am not as swayed by the draft slot gap because I had them ranked very close as overall talents before the draft, and their draft slot won’t mean anything once they get to their first camp. Lacy can look like Marshawn Lynch at his best, but his pro day performance was a red flag about his conditioning/durability, and his fall in the draft seemed to confirm that teams had the same questions about Lacy.

It is compelling to consider that the Pittsburgh Steelers drafted Le'Veon Bell over Lacy. They bring a similar element of size combined with agility and decent size. As mentioned above, a team source told long-time beat writer Ed Bouchette that the team passed because Lacy’s big toe was "fused." Lacy had a serious turf toe condition that was operated on earlier in his career, and he was known as a guy who was always nicked up at Alabama.

Lacy missing time seems inevitable based on his history, and I believe Franklin won’t need much more than a crack in the door to bust through and show the Packers how lucky they were to see him still there in the late fourth round. The Williams/Stewart scenario is scary, and neither should go in the top five of rookie drafts to reflect this risk. As pure talents, they both deserve to go soon after. If I am forced to choose one, it will be Johnathan Franklin.

Of course, that doesn’t help much when weighing Franklin against Marcus Lattimore. Or Keenan Allen. Or Markus Wheaton.