Eddie Lacy Is a Top Fantasy Football Back, But Is He an Efficient Runner?

Since Week 4, Lacy has been dominant in fantasy football, but has his efficiency in Green Bay been up to par?

Following the long line of University of Alabama running backs, Eddie Lacy was drafted in the second round of the 2013 NFL Draft by the Green Bay Packers. The hope was that Lacy would finally be the successful workhorse back that the Packers had never had with Aaron Rodgers under center.

But has he been?

In his rookie season in Green Bay, Lacy accounted for 1,178 rushing yards on 284 carries and also added 11 touchdowns. His successes led him to win the NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year award. Due to this success, Lacy was highly touted coming into 2014. In leagues throughout the country, fantasy footballers drafted Lacy in the middle of the first round, expecting big results from the second-year back.

Through the first three weeks of the season, though, Lacy’s numbers were horrific. Many seemed to think he was going through what many call a “sophomore slump.” At numberFire, we use our very own metric called Net Expected Points (NEP). This unique tool measures how much a player puts his team in a better position to score each time he touches the ball.

A Look Back at Former Packer Running Backs

Throughout Aaron Rodgers time as a starter in Green Bay, he has never really had a star running back to help him out.

Year & PlayerRushesRush NEPRush NEP/Rush
2008 Ryan Grant312-29.99-0.10
2009 Ryan Grant28318.120.06
2010 Brandon Jackson191-8.12-0.04
2011 James Starks133-7.07-0.05
2011 Ryan Grant134-6.25-0.05
2012 Alex Green134-18.98-0.14
2013 Eddie Lacy2852.320.01

In the six years that he started before the Packers drafted Lacy, only once did one of his running backs post a positive Rushing NEP and Rushing NEP per carry. That was Ryan Grant in 2009, who was obviously inconsistent over his career in Green Bay, as noted by his numbers in 2008 and 2011. Lacy had a solid rookie season in terms of NEP, but 2014 was the year for him to step it up and show what he is really made of.

Despite early struggles, Lacy has gotten back on course, but how has that translated in terms of our advanced metrics?

Lacy in Weeks 1-3

In the first three weeks of the 2014 season, Lacy totaled 36 carries for 113 and not a single touchdown. His NEP numbers were even worse.

Out of all running backs that currently have at least 140 carries (an average of 10 carries per game), Lacy ranked last in both rushing NEP at -18.05 and total NEP at -16.22. In fact, his rushing NEP was more than twice as bad as Andre Williams', who ranked second-to-last on that list. One factor that may have led to Lacy’s poor start were the defenses he faced. All three of the teams rank in the top half of rushing defenses, and two of the teams are in the top six.

OpponentCurrent Adjusted Defensive RNEP (Rank)
@ Seattle Seahawks-30.55 (6th)
New York Jets-6.44 (14th)
@ Detroit Lions-52.57 (1st)

Lacy’s 2014 Breakthrough

Patience was soon rewarded for both Lacy and his fantasy football owners after a slow start. In Week 4 of this season against the Bears, Lacy netted his first touchdown. Ever since then, he’s been nearly unstoppable, both from a fantasy and an efficiency standpoint. If you take a look at all the workhorse backs in the NFL, Lacy’s NEP numbers since Week 4 rank near the top of the league.

PlayerRush NEP Since Week 4NFL Rank (w/ at least 140 carries)Total NEP Since Week 4NFL Rank (w/ at least 140 carries)
Eddie Lacy18.162nd 48.842nd
LeVeon Bell14.237th 64.061st
Matt Forte15.495th 43.924th
Jamaal Charles26.901st 44.493rd
Arian Foster15.734th 37.375th
Marshawn Lynch14.306th 25.738th
Justin Forsett15.863rd 28.627th
DeMarco Murray12.178th 23.219th

As you can see, although Lacy’s statistics were horrendous for the first few weeks of the season, he’s been nearly unstoppable in terms of efficiency in the Packers’ offensive system. He ranks behind only Jamaal Charles in Rushing NEP and behind only Le'Veon Bell in Total NEP, easily making him a top-five running back over the past 11 games.

Lacy hasn’t just been a phenomenal tool in the Green Bay system, though. He has been an incredibly valuable piece in fantasy football teams for those that stuck with him after a rough start.

Player2014 FP (Standard Scoring)RankFP Since Week 4Rank
Le'Veon Bell264.31st 212.21st
DeMarco Murray264.22nd 207.52nd
Marshawn Lynch228.43rd 166.97th
Matt Forte221.74th 193.64th
Arian Foster210.15th 179.16th
Eddie Lacy203.66th 190.55th
Jamaal Charles198.57th 193.93rd
Justin Forsett186.18th 1588th

Although his overall fantasy ranking has been solid all season, the gap between Lacy and first place decreased dramatically if you only look at the numbers since Week 4.

Eddie Lacy has not only been a fantastic running back in a fantastic offense, but also he’s been every bit worth the mid-first round pick that most spent on him in their fantasy football drafts this past summer. Looking ahead at next year, Lacy looks to be worth yet another first round pick due to his age, his efficiency, and the strength of the Packer offense.