Has the Time Come for Fantasy Football Owners to Give Up on Eddie Lacy?

Lacy's production and role have diminished as the season has progressed, is it time for his owners to take action?

We've all been there.

Sunday after Sunday we watch our prized first-round running back struggle his way through another five-point fantasy day as our opponents deliver us one crushing defeat after another.

We tell ourselves he's fine, maybe it was just a tough matchup or perhaps game flow got the best of him. 

But as the weeks roll along it begins to eat at us. With the persistence of a steady drip from a leaky faucet, it invades our every thought.

Some of us fail to realize it right away, while others are quicker to come around. Eventually that moment of clarity comes for all of us though.

As tough as it is, we have to accept it: our first round pick might be a bust.

The time has come that we may be ready to anoint yet another member of the running back brethren with the dreaded "bust" label.

Green Bay Packers running back  Eddie Lacy -- a consensus first-round pick this summer in fantasy drafts -- started the season as expected, rushing for 85 yards along with a touchdown on his way to a solid 15.9 fantasy point day in Week 1. 

Things were playing out exactly as his owners had planned.

To the dismay of those same owners, in the five weeks since that initial game Lacy has compiled a mere 24.4 points, per

An ankle injury is at the heart of many of his struggles, but his owners have likely taken notice of an even larger looming issue -- a developing timeshare with backup James Starks.

Some in the media have pointed to Lacy's equally lackluster start to the beginning of last season as a potential ray of hope for him. 

Can we accredit his horrendous start to the fact that he may simply be a habitual slow-starter? 

Or do his owners need to accept that this production level may be the new reality and seek out a trade before it's too late?

Is Lacy Just a Slow-Starter?

If you are a Lacy owner, I'm sure by now you've been made aware many times that he had a similarly slow start to last season. While this is true -- and his season totals through six games are very comparable -- his game-logs differ drastically.

Below is a breakdown of Lacy's first six games from 2014, including his  Net Expected Point (NEP) totals. Outside of his Week 5 breakout game, Lacy was consistently sub-par despite receiving steady work week to week.

Week Att Rush Yds Yds/Att Rush TD Tgts Rec Rec Yds Rec TD NEP
1 12 34 2.8 0 3 3 11 0 -3.57
2 13 43 3.3 0 3 2 18 0 -2.39
3 11 36 3.3 0 1 1 9 0 -10.26
4 17 48 2.8 1 2 1 11 0 3.34
5 13 105 8.1 2 3 3 27 0 9.26
6 14 40 2.9 0 0 0 0 0 -2.81
Totals 80 306 3.83 3 12 10 76 0 -6.44

Compare that to this year's first six games below. Despite suffering a significant ankle injury in week 2, Lacy had managed to perform effectively through week 4.

Week Att Rush Yds Yds/Att Rush TD Tgts Rec Rec Yds Rec TD NEP
1 19 85 4.5 1 3 2 14 0 4.73
2 3 9 3 0 0 0 0 0 0.62
3 10 46 4.6 0 3 3 41 0 2.01
4 18 90 5 0 3 1 3 0 4.61
5 13 27 2.1 0 1 1 3 0 -5.06
6 4 3 .8 0 2 2 8 0 -1.88
Totals 67 260 3.88 1 12 9 83 0 5.04

Lacy's statistical totals look quite similar from 2014 to 2015. However, his Total NEP is significantly higher this season, implying that his on-field play has actually been superior this season as compared to last. 

His Total NEP is not inflated by excessive touchdown production. He is also sporting a healthy 43.28% Rushing Success Rate (the percentage of carries that yield positive NEP gains), which ranks 11th in the league among running backs with greater than 50 carries. This suggests that when he's touched the ball he's actually been fairly consistent.

Lacy also struggled to a degree to begin his rookie season, posting a very disappointing 14 rushes for 41 yards and a fumble lost -- it should be noted that he did salvage that day with a rushing touchdown though. He then suffered a concussion early Week 2 and proceeded to miss Weeks 3 and 4, before returning to find success from Week 5 on.

The early season struggles have begun to become an expected event for Lacy owners thus far in his short career.

What's Behind the Lack of Production?

There are two key contributing factors that appear to be derailing Lacy's season thus far: a Week 1 ankle injury and the emergence of James Starks.

The ankle injury has been a hinderance to Lacy. However, the bye week should help speed up the recovery. It's possible the injury has been affecting Lacy more than initially thought as well.

In a recent  interview with Mike Clay, Packers beat reporter Rob Demovsky brought up Lacy's conditioning and the fact that his ankle injury may be impacting it -- and thus contributing to the running back's slow start to begin the season.

Coach Mike McCarthy has denied this as a possibility. However, as a bigger back, Lacy has had questions regarding his conditioning dating back to his rookie season. If Lacy is able to start getting in full practices, his conditioning should improve as the season progresses.

The greater concern for many owners is the threat of Starks. Starks looked good last week and has many owners concerned that we will see a full timeshare situation when the Packers return from bye.

Many have pointed to the fact that Starks and Lacy have essentially split snaps thus far this season -- Lacy has taken 46.10%, compared to Starks' 45.60%. These numbers are skewed due to Lacy's early exit from Week 2 though.

If we remove Week 2 from the sample, Lacy has taken 56.49% of snaps compared to 42.21% for Starks. For reference, Lacy was only at 62.43% of snaps through Week 6 last year, when he was at full health.

While public opinion has been that Starks has looked better on the field, the Packers staff still only elected to dole out 10 carries to Starks in a prime matchup against San Diego with an obviously ailing Lacy.

While Starks holds an edge in rushing yards and yards per carry over Lacy -- 286 yards and 4.5 compared to 260 yards and 3.9 -- Lacy has outperformed Starks in all of our key metrics.

PlayerRush NEPRush Success RateReception NEPTarget NEPTotal NEP
Eddie Lacy0.640.434.402.235.04
James Starks0.390.35-0.58-4-0.19

In addition to trailing Lacy in all of our key metric areas, Starks has had injury issues of his own in the past. Last season marked the first full season of Starks' career -- he had missed 13 games over the previous two seasons.

Should Owners Take Action?

It's concerning that Starks has continued to gain the confidence of this coaching staff. However, the true problem with Lacy continues to be his injured ankle and its slow recovery. The bye week comes at a great time for him, and a healthy Lacy still offers an impressive weekly ceiling.

If your intentions are to trade Lacy, you need to seek out a deal prior to next week's game against the Denver Broncos though.

The Broncos are number one in our team defense rankings, and it's likely both Lacy and Starks will struggle to find much running room.

Overall, Lacy should be a hold, but owners who are seeing their playoff chances slip away could justify a 2-for-1 type of deal to help bolster your starting lineup.

Owners with a winning record are probably best served to hold Lacy at this point. The depressed value you'd see in return isn't worth the potential value Lacy could hold for a playoff run.

When evaluating potential deals, just keep in mind Lacy's past and the potential he has in this offense. As Aaron Rodgers and the rest of the offense continue to figure things out, Lacy should see his production increase as the season progresses.