Green Bay Packers general manager Ted Thompson likes big running backs.
He got one of his biggest ones on Friday night in the NFL Draft.
Thompson made Alabama running back Eddie Lacy the Packers’ second-round selection, giving the Packers the potential every-down back that coach Mike McCarthy has spoken about this offseason.
Lacy, 5-foot-11, 230 pounds, burst onto the scene as a starter in 2012 during Alabama’s second consecutive national championship season. But unlike the success he had on the field, he fell from a potential first-round pick into the laps of the Packers at No. 61 overall. In fact, the Packers traded down from their original No. 55 overall pick yet managed to grab one of the top backs in the draft.
“It was a really long wait,” said Lacy. “It’s going to be a big motivation piece I can use.”
Lacy found out about being picked by the Packers as he touched down on a plane on a flight from New York. Ironically, touchdowns are what helped him get to the NFL. He posted 17 scores on the ground with the Crimson Tide last season along with a gaudy 6.5 yards-per-carry average. His career average (on 355 carries) is even better at 6.8 – tops in the nation among active backs.
Lacy is a powerful back with the potential to be unlike anything the Packers have had in years. Of the four running backs Thompson has drafted since 2005, only DeShawn Wynn (2007) was bigger (232 pounds). And Lacy is bigger than all of the 11 other running backs Thompson has acquired via free agency.
Lacy has moves to go along with his size, too. He can make people miss almost as well as he can break a tackle. And he has the “nastiest spin move ever,” according to former Tide teammate Trent Richardson. That earned him the nickname the “Circle Button” after the button on PlayStation’s video game that triggers a spin move.
So why, with a unique combination of size and elusiveness, did Lacy fall so far?
There could be several reasons really.
The most recent reason affected his draft preparations. Lacy injured a hamstring prior to the NFL Combine, forcing him to miss the primary scouting event. At his pro day workout, he performed but said he was less than 100 percent. He also had foot and hand injuries during his collegiate career, and in 2009 he redshirted coming of an injury-riddled final season at Dutchtown High School in Geismar, La.
“He’s a big back, he really hasn’t missed any time,” said Packers director of college scouting Brian Gutekunst of Lacy’s durability. “He’s played through whatever he’s had, so I don’t think it’s going to be a concern.”
“We feel pretty good about it,” added Thompson. “I think it could have been one of the reasons that he wasn’t drafted earlier by other teams but we felt pretty good about it. Between the lines, he’s a go-getter.”
Lacy ran behind an immensely talented offensive line at Alabama. Teammates Chance Warmack, a guard, and D.J. Fluker, a tackle, went Nos. 10 and 11, respectively, in the draft. Center Barrett Jones is expected to be selected Saturday.
Said Gutekunst on how to separate Alabama’s great offensive line and Lacy’s contribution: “Obviously tape. You watch that and kind of take the different situations he’s been put in and watch those. They did have a very, very good offensive line at Alabama, very good players. But he averaged 6-something yards in the SEC his whole career. He’s a good back. We’re really excited to have him.”
Lacy was a backup prior to his 1,322-yard rushing season in 2012 to two pretty good backs – Heisman Trophy-winning Mark Ingram in 2010 and Heisman candidate Richardson in 2011. But some reports say Lacy was a similar talent, if not better in some respects.
“He’s got great lateral quickness, great ability to drop his pads in the hole, very powerful guy,” said Gutekunst. “He has kind of an uncanny knack to get out of trouble for a guy his size. He’s a little bit different than we’ve had maybe in the past. He’s a really good player. He’s been a good player there the whole time even though he’s been behind some very good backs. I think he gives us a little bit of size we haven’t had for a while.”
The last time the Packers took a running back as high as Lacy was in 1990, when they selected Minnesota’s Darrell Thompson in the first round at No. 19 overall. The highest Thompson had selected a back in Green Bay was Brandon Jackson at No. 63 overall in the second round in 2007.
“Considering the Packers were supposedly interested in him at (No.) 26 (overall), I think it’s a really nice value for them,” former Browns general manager and current Senior Bowl executive director and Crimson Tide Sports Network analyst Phil Savage told Packer Report on Friday night. “It keeps him from having the pressure of being a bell cow. He can play in a committee, if necessary, which will help with his durability. He’s a run, catch and block back. He’s got a lot of talent. I was surprised that he fell as far as he did. When he’s healthy, he was clearly the best back in the draft.”
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Matt Tevsh has covered the Packers since 1996. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org