Eddie Lacy Is a Top Fantasy Football Back, But Is He an Efficient Runner?
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, Lacyâ€™s numbers were horrific. Many seemed to think he was going through what many call a â€œsophomore slump.â€ 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 & Player||Rushes||Rush NEP||Rush NEP/Rush|
|2008 Ryan Grant||312||-29.99||-0.10|
|2009 Ryan Grant||283||18.12||0.06|
|2010 Brandon Jackson||191||-8.12||-0.04|
|2011 James Starks||133||-7.07||-0.05|
|2011 Ryan Grant||134||-6.25||-0.05|
|2012 Alex Green||134||-18.98||-0.14|
|2013 Eddie Lacy||285||2.32||0.01|
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 Lacyâ€™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.
|Opponent||Current Adjusted Defensive RNEP (Rank)|
|@ Seattle Seahawks||-30.55 (6th)|
|New York Jets||-6.44 (14th)|
|@ Detroit Lions||-52.57 (1st)|
Lacyâ€™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, heâ€™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, Lacyâ€™s NEP numbers since Week 4 rank near the top of the league.
|Player||Rush NEP Since Week 4||NFL Rank (w/ at least 140 carries)||Total NEP Since Week 4||NFL Rank (w/ at least 140 carries)|
As you can see, although Lacyâ€™s statistics were horrendous for the first few weeks of the season, heâ€™s been nearly unstoppable in terms of efficiency in the Packersâ€™ 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 hasnâ€™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.
|Player||2014 FP (Standard Scoring)||Rank||FP Since Week 4||Rank|
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 heâ€™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.