Alabama Crimson Tide running back Eddie Lacy figures to be the first running back off the board in the 2013 NFL draft. However, for the first time in a long, long time, it didn't happen in the first round. Lacy's slight dip in stock will wind up being a blessing in disguise as he makes the jump to the pros, though.
Bucky Brooks @BuckyBrooks
The lack of conditioning exhibited today will lead some coaches and scouts to question his work ethic. Concerns must be addressed in Mtgs2013-4-11 15:36:22
Bucky Brooks @BuckyBrooks
He posted a 32.5 vertical and 9-7 broad jump & clocked a 4.44 short shuttle. Disappointing positional workout. Out of shape.Unable to finish2013-4-11 15:28:07
Lacy indicated that he was somewhat hurt by the criticism from his performance in an interview with 790 the Zone in Atlanta with Archer and Bell:
It’s very tough. You hear a lot of things. People saying "he’s not in shape" or "he’s not fast." But in reality it’s due to a lack of time. It’s something you can’t really worry about.
...You know what you are capable of when you're 100 percent and the guys doubting you on the next level know as well. I don't think it should be said or anything like that but there is nothing you can do about it.
If concerns over a lackluster work ethic and underwhelming conditioning weren't enough to drive Lacy to prove critics wrong, his fall out of the top 32 picks should help in that regard. But he shouldn't take evaluators' negativity too hard because he has all the tools to be a successful pro.
At 5'11" and 231 pounds with deceptive speed and lateral quickness for his size, it's easy to see why Lacy is generally regarded as the consensus No. 1 running back prospect. The fact that he was in a time-sharing role with Alabama freshman phenom T.J. Yeldon also allowed him not to take as much punishment in his only season as a starter for the Crimson Tide.
Lacy's more highly touted predecessors, Mark Ingram and Trent Richardson, were first-round backs.
That wasn't the case for Lacy, and FOX Sports: NFL's official Twitter page highlighted just how long it's been since no running backs were taken in Round 1:
FOX Sports: NFL @NFLonFOX
For the first time since 1963, no running backs were selected in the first round of the #NFLDraft.2013-4-26 04:06:47
Mike Klis of the Denver Post came to Lacy's defense on Friday and praised him. Klis suggested that a nagging turf toe injury is what caused the slide for Lacy rather than any character or effort concerns. Lacy also missed the NFL Scouting Combine and his first shot at a pro day at Alabama with an ailing hamstring.
As long as Lacy can fully recover from turf toe, though, the injuries shouldn't really be a huge red flag.
For such a powerful back, Lacy has unusually fresh legs, and ESPN Stats & Info made a notable comparison between him and Richardson that suggests instant success in the NFL:
ESPN Stats & Info @ESPNStatsInfo
Eddie Lacy averaged 2.5 more yards per rush inside the tackles in his final college season than Trent Richardson. http://t.co/24Q2r6qtJA2013-4-18 19:25:51
When Lacy gets moving downhill with a head of steam, it's difficult to stop him. He also has the upside in terms of vision to be a Pro Bowl-caliber player. As long as he's coached up to be a more decisive, one-cut runner to begin his career and allows the rest of his arsenal to develop over time, there's no telling how good Lacy could be.
ESPN's Mike Greenberg brings up a reasonable inference as to why Lacy fell, but he indicated that he would love to have the talented runner on his favorite NFL team:
Mike Greenberg @Espngreeny
The devaluation of RBs will cause Eddie Lacy to drop. But I'd love to have him on my team. Kid can play. #Alabama2013-4-24 12:43:42
Running back has become the most volatile position in pro football, but for teams thin at the position, Lacy is a valuable commodity that should be snatched up by the first needy franchise in Round 2.