The Green Bay Packers’ third-year running back, Eddie Lacy, has become a fan-favorite around the state of Wisconsin. Although it appears as though he has fans all around the country — specifically in Bristol, CT. That’s right, ESPN (based in Bristol) has listed Lacy as the top running back, and top overall player, for Fantasy Football this year.
It seems crazy that a player that didn’t make the Pro Bowl last year could be the top-ranked player on such a list, but there he is. NFL Spin Zone’s own Keegan Matheson examined the question ‘is Lacy was worthy of the distinction?’ Now, I’m asking if Lacy can truly live up to such high expectations in the 2015 season.
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Lacy was named to the Pro Bowl as a rookie in 2013 as he ran for 1,178 yards and 11 touchdowns in 15 games. But it was his emergence as a receiving threat in 2014 that caught my attention. In 2014, Lacy ran for ‘only’ 1,139 yards and nine touchdowns (on 38 less carries than in 2013), but posted 427 receiving yards and four touchdowns through the air. He also averaged 4.6 yards per carry last year, up from 4.1 as a rookie.
His growth from year one to year two was astonishing, although was nuanced enough to be missed by some. Quarterback Aaron Rodgers not only now fully trusts Lacy as a target to throw to, but as a blocker as well. Thus, Lacy should be able to stay on the field for more downs than ever before in 2015. He’ll more comfortable than he was last year with his new and improved role. That is one of the reasons why ESPN listed him as the top Fantasy Football player for 2015.
Opposing defenses obviously have to focus on the reigning AP MVP Rodgers and his various weapons including wide receivers Jordy Nelson, Randall Cobb, Devante Adams, and tight ends Andrew Quarless, and Richard Rodgers. Which means that defenses can’t sneak up and stack the box against Lacy, because Rodgers will audible and burn them over the top.
That, more than anything, is why ESPN listed Lacy as the top Fantasy Football player. Look at the other top running backs in the NFL and their quarterbacks. Opposing defenses that face DeMarco Murray and the Philadelphia Eagles won’t fear their quarterback (who will it even be? Sam Bradford?). Opposing defenses that play against LeSean McCoy and the Buffalo Bills will not fear Matt Cassel or E.J. Manuel, or whoever is throwing the ball up there these days. Jamaal Charles is another great back that defenses can focus on; Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Alex Smith rarely takes over games with his arm.
The one top running back that is in, at least, a similar situation to Lacy is Le’Veon Bell in Pittsburgh. Defenses will worry about quarterback Ben Roethlisberger‘s arm, albeit not as much as defenses worry about Rodgers’. Where does ESPN have Bell listed in its Fantasy Football ranking? Second, right behind Lacy. Makes sense doesn’t it?
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Clearly, ESPN understands that the NFL is a quarterback-driven game and that is why Lacy, and Bell, will live up to the hype as the top two running backs in the league next year — as far as Fantasy Football statistics are concerned. It’s all about the quarterback and those two elite passers will allow their running backs to run absolutely wild as defenses fear being beat deep.
So yes, Lacy will live up the hype this year; 50 percent because of his incredible skill set and 50 percent because he has a future first ballot Hall of Fame quarterback in the backfield beside him.
The game will rarely be on Lacy’s shoulders and that will allow him to run with anger and passion without overthinking anything. He can just go out there and play because Rodgers and his receivers will keep the Packers in every damn game anyway. A superstar running back is dangerous with any offense, but a superstar running back with a Hall of Fame quarterback, two 1000-yard receivers, and a tested, veteran offensive line is absolutely terrifying.
Lacy isn’t the fastest or shiftiest running back in the NFL, but he definitely has the greatest combination of strength, speed through the hole, vision, balance, and quick feet of any back in the league right now (Seahawks fans disagree).
Some people compare Lacy to Seattle Seahawks running back Marshawn Lynch–which is fair–and others say that Lynch has a better combination of skills. But it should be noted that Lynch is five years older than Lacy and has been hit a hell of a lot more in his career heading into 2015. Seriously, Lacy is only 24-years old and he’s already gaining this much attention (Lynch was ranked fifth in ESPN’s Fantasy Football player ranking).
Look for Lacy to post some ridiculous numbers as the season rolls on. I’m predicting that he racks up at least 1,300 yards on the ground and 550 through the air this year. I’m also seeing at least 16 total touchdowns in 2015 (with at least of 275 carries and 50 receptions). It should be noted that both Murray and McCoy had well over 300 carries last year, but Packers’ head coach Mike McCarthy has shown that he doesn’t like to overwork Lacy — smart man.
Quality over quantity. That is why Lacy will never run for 1,800 yards or score 20 touchdowns in a season, but that’s OK because it should prolong his promising career.
If Lacy can produce the numbers I listed above, he’ll be right up there with the top Fantasy Football players for the 2015 season. He also may just lead the Packers back to the Super Bowl for the first time since 2010.
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