+Excellent burst for his size
+Good long speed
+Gets yards after contact
+Plays his best against tough opponents
+Adequate pass blocker
-Offers almost nothing on pass plays
-Has straight line quickness but not the best change of direction skills
-Not the best outside runner
I think Eddie Lacy is as good as Trent Richardson. This is just as much of a testament to how much I like Lacy as well as a testament to the fact that I thought Richardson was overrated in college (good speed, bad acceleration). Lacy is a good player. He very well could be a two down back at the NFL level, since he offers nothing at all as a receiver and would need to go from solid to phenomenal as a pass blocker not to be a negative in this area, since teams don’t care much about blocking backs anymore, so a blocking back is only noticed if he’s truly amazing at it. Still, it’s hard not to love his ability to run inside and play his best in tough games.
Lacy has good measurables and durability. He has ideal height at 5’11, good bulk at 231lbs, and solid speed for his size with a 4.53 40 yard dash. That speed translates on film too; he shows great burst for a guy his size and solid long speed. From a durability standpoint, Lacy is roughly the best case scenario for any running back. He has missed one game in his career due to injury (2011 Vanderbilt game due to toe; had surgery in the off-season). Even better; he has a low odometer, with 390 touches (that counts catches) in his college career (by comparison, Stepfan Taylor had 940 touches and Montee Ball was within 20 carries of 1,000 for his career). So, in that sense, Lacy is a dream scenario for running back durability: he doesn’t have a long history of injuries and his body is completely fresh.
Lacy has awesome stats. In his freshman and sophomore seasons, he got limited carries while other Alabama running backs were dominating in front of him, but always maintained a high yards per carry when he did play, but, in 2012, he really broke out. He had 204 carries for 1322 yards (6.5 YPC) and 17 touchdowns. A 6.5 yards per carry in the SEC is absolutely ridiculous. What’s even more impressive is that he often played his best games against tough competition. He had a performance for the ages in the SEC championship game with 20 carries for 181 and 2 touchdowns, and he was also impressive in the national championship, with 20 carries for 140 yards and a touchdown. On the downside, you have to wonder why he has the occasional 10 carry, 26 yard clunker against Mississippi State (might have been because of Cameron Lawrence, the best player not at the combine, but still). But, all things considered, he has great stats.
Lacy is a terrific inside runner. One tendency I notice immediately; he likes to line up really far behind the line of scrimmage. In a singleback set, he’s usually at least 8 and as far as 10 yards behind the line of scrimmage before the ball is snapped. He likes to survey the field from a safety’s vantage point and he loves to have a good running start when he gets the ball. Frankly, it’s hard to argue with the results. He always accelerates very quickly, and maybe that vantage point really does work, because he always finds the hole and shows great burst through it. He never dances in the backfield. From a tackle breaking perspective, Lacy does far more than people realize. If a defender wraps up and really gets his body around Lacy, he almost always goes down, or at least he goes down more often than you would like for a 230lbs back. Conversely, Lacy is brought down by tackles around the ankles and arm tackles as infrequently as any running back I’ve ever seen, and he usually doesn’t break stride as he gets away. He has a great spin move and absolutely phenomenal balance. Basically, I’m saying the only way to tackle Lacy is to tackle him. He never goes down unless two arms are around his shoulder pads. And that’s worrisome for defenders, especially linemen. He also has excellent toughness and gets lots of yards after contact. On the downside, he isn’t very shifty and doesn’t have the best change of direction skills.
Lacy isn’t the best outside runner. He has solid vision, good long speed, and he reaches to speed quickly, but his biggest problem in this area is that he lacks change of direction skills. All of his quickness seems to be straight forward; he has no suddenness if he attempts to reverse his field or juke a guy out. He doesn’t make quick cuts and is simply at his best running in a straight line. He’ll make attempts to try to deceive with his eyes, i.e. look one way then cut the other, but the cut is so slow that it rarely gets him much extra yardage, so it’s not very effective. His mediocre outside running makes me think he probably won’t be a superstar (guys like Adrian Peterson and LaDainian Tomlinson scare you between and outside the tackles), but he’ll still be fine.
Lacy doesn’t offer much on pass plays. On the bright side, he is an above average blocker, with good toughness and respectable (and improving) football IQ for the sake of recognizing blitzes. On the downside, people don’t care about blocking backs as much as they used to, and he really offers little as a receiver. He has below average hands and isn’t dominant in the open field. I see him largely as a two down back at the NFL level, because, as a back, you need to be a ridiculously good blocker if you don’t make catches to be anything but a negative on passing downs, and, although good, Lacy isn’t an off the charts dominant blocker at this point in his career.
I love Lacy (no reference intended). I think he’s a good player. His solid speed, good burst, and ability to break tackles sets him up for a long career at the NFL level. He’ll be solid.
NFL Comparison: Arian Foster, except a worse receiver. Don’t get too excited. Foster is half good player, half a product of a brilliant Texans offensive line scheme. He’s a borderline top 10 NFL back in my mind, basically, a slightly above average starter, and I think Lacy will be one too, probably for the Packers (really good fit).
Grade: 93 (worthy of a late first round pick)
Projection: 90 (will be a late first to early second round pick)