Running back Eddie Lacy of the Green Bay Packers might not be as electric as Cincinnati Bengals running back Giovani Bernard. He certainly doesn't play a high-profile position like New York Jets quarterback Geno Smith.
However, what Lacy has over both Bernard and Smith is the fact that he's easily been the top offensive rookie in the NFL through the first seven weeks. That might be a tough pill to swallow for fans of other teams, but it's the absolute truth.
Let's break down exactly what makes Lacy the NFL's top offensive rookie.
The first thing you need to know about Lacy's statistics is that he's really only played in four games this year. He was active against the Washington Redskins in Week 2, but was knocked out after one rush with a concussion. That injury kept him out of the Packers' Week 3 matchup with the Cincinnati Bengals.
So, taking that into consideration, Lacy's 352 rushing yards, which leads all rookie running backs, is rather impressive. Lacy also leads all other rookie running backs in yards per game (70.4), first downs (15) and is second in yards per carry (4.2) among rookies with 50-plus carries.
If you take Lacy's current yards per game and stretch that out over a full season, Lacy is on pace for just over 1,100 yards. However, over the last three games Lacy is averaging just over 100 yards per game:
If he keeps up that pace over the final 10 games, he'd rush for over 1,300 yards on the season.
That's an extremely impressive amount for a rookie. Combine that with the nearly 200 receiving yards he's on track to have this season and Lacy is having a great season for any running back, especially a rookie.
Furthermore, Lacy's elusive rating, a rating designed by Pro Football Focus (subscription required) to determine how difficult a runner is to bring down, is currently the 13th-best in the NFL. That puts him ahead of stud running backs like Arian Foster, Frank Gore and C.J. Spiller.
Simply put, Lacy's current statistics, and what he's on pace for, is what makes him such an impressive rookie.
The Most Valuable Rookie
Not only has Lacy been the most impressive rookie statistically, but he's also been the most valuable rookie to his team. Sure, the argument could be made that Smith, the Jets rookie quarterback, has been more valuable, but it simply isn't true.
The balance that Lacy has brought to Green Bay has been simply unbelievable. This was a team that had one of the worst ground games in the league last year, and now the Packers are averaging the sixth-most rushing yards per game in the league.
That's a testament to the amount of trust the Packers already have in their rookie running back only six games into the season. Where other teams have failed to make their rookies such an integral part of their respective offenses, the Packers have had no issues whatsoever trusting the former Alabama back.
An Even Bigger Role Moving Forward
What Lacy also has going in his favor is the fact that he's almost guaranteed to have an even bigger impact moving forward. The reason for this lies in the chart below:
|Green Bay Packers Offensive Injuries|
As you can see, the Packers have suffered a number of injuries on the offensive side of the ball. While players like wide receiver Jarrett Boykin were able to step up last week against the Cleveland Browns, there is no doubt that the Packers will need to rely on the legs of Lacy even more moving forward.
While Lacy has been the top offensive rookie of the seasons through the first seven weeks, he's only going to separate himself from the rest of the pack as the season progresses.
Look for Lacy to literally run away with the Offensive Rookie of the Year Award as we get closer and closer to the final weeks of the season.