The NFL draft is always hard to predict, but if you would have told Green Bay Packer fans beforehand that the team would come away with defensive end Datone Jones and running back Eddie Lacy after Day 2 without trading up (they actually traded down in Round 2), they would have likely called you crazy.
Well, seeing is believing. The Packers pulled off one of the steals of the draft with the selection of Lacy, one of most coveted running backs of this year's class and one who most analysts agreed was the top runner available.
Many mock drafts had Lacy going to Green Bay at the No. 26 spot, so the fact that the Packers were able to wait until the second round (No. 61 overall) to get their man makes him one of the true steals of the draft at this point.
Throughout the tenure of Green Bay general manager Ted Thompson, the Packers have lacked an elite running back (ranking 12th or lower in rushing yards for eight straight years).
Year after year, it has been mentioned as a position of need, but as we all know, Thompson doesn't draft for need—he drafts the best player available.
The "best player available" philosophy is a big reason why Aaron Rodgers is in Green Bay. It's also part of the reason why the Packers have struggled to find a great running back. In 2007, Thompson used a second-round pick on Brandon Jackson and in 2011 he used a third-rounder on Alex Green.
However, Jackson has come and gone after spending four years in Green Bay. He was a solid contributor on a Super Bowl champion team, but never starting material. Green's career has been hampered by injury and his grade thus far is incomplete, but he's shown nothing to make anyone think he is more than just a situational player.
The Packers have also tried to address the position through trades and free agency, but have had mixed results.
Ryan Grant was acquired for a sixth-round pick before 2007 and became the team's starter through the 2011 season, but was never more than an Ordinary Joe. Cedric Benson was signed as a street free agent before training camp last year and was solid in five games, but missed the rest of the season due to injury.
Green Bay almost went through free agency again this year, as they showed interest in Steven Jackson and Ahmad Bradshaw. It wasn't meant to be, in large part because Thompson doesn't do free agency—he's all about the draft.
As frustrated as some fans were with Thompson for passing on Jackson earlier this offseason, he trusted his instincts and his board. Now, he finally has a running back who has a legitimate chance to be a star and has the ability to relieve some of the pressure from Rodgers and the passing game.
After all, it was Lacy who took over in the SEC Championship Game against Georgia, rushing for 181 yards and two touchdowns to help his team reach the National Championship Game. Then he helped win it with 157 total yards and two touchdowns against Manti T'eo and the vaunted Notre Dame defense.
That's over seven yards a carry against two of the best defenses in college football last season. No matter how good the Alabama offensive line is, that production proves he's elite and capable of being a true difference-maker.
For his career, Lacy ran for a total of 2,402 yards on just 355 carries (6.7 yards per carry), caught 35 receptions for 338 yards and scored 32 total touchdowns. He's the total package at the running back position and after years of waiting, Rodgers—and Packer fans everywhere—can finally sit back, relax and enjoy watching their new every-down, starting-caliber running back.
It's been a long time coming.
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