Fantasy Football: Eddie Lacy Will Bounce Back in a Big Way in 2016
Green Bay Packers running back Eddie Lacy took a step back in 2015.
To be clear, in terms of advanced analytics, he took a step back in each of his three NFL seasons, but last season was the first time that it reflected in his fantasy point rank.
Even in the debacle year of 2015 for running backs, Lacy's production ranked him 25th at his position (26th in PPR formats), this after consecutive 6th-place finishes in 2013 and 2014 regardless of scoring system.
Lacy is costing fantasy football drafters a mid-second-round pick this season in standard-scoring leagues, according to Fantasy Football Calculator. He's the ninth running back off the board.
In PPR setups, his 2.06 cost drops just into the third at 3.01, and he slips to the RB10. If he can return to his RB6 ways of old, he's going to provide value.
As alluded to earlier, Lacy's rushing efficiency has dropped each year in the league, according to our Rushing Net Expected Points (NEP) metrics, which quantifies performance compared to expectation level.
|Eddie Lacy||Rushing NEP/Carry||RB Average||Success Rate||RB Average|
So, we can see that Lacy hasn't been the same guy on a per-carry average year over year, but he was above league average as a rookie, league average as a sophomore, and not too far off the league average in 2015.
In terms of Rushing Success Rate, the percentage of carries that increase NEP, though, Lacy again trumped the league average and had his best outing to date in 2015, all while the league average rate for running backs dropped to below 40% for the first time since 2015.
Moreover, all other Packers running backs in 2015 notched a Rushing Success Rate of just 34.71% on 170 carries. As a standalone rusher, that would have ranked 27th among 31 backs with at least 150 carries, while Lacy's Success Rate ranked 6th.
He excelled in the same offense that featured unsuccessful backs, even if his per-carry marks didn't show it.
We can talk about his "concerning" receiving numbers -- just 20 catches last season -- but his Reception NEP per target of 0.51 ranked ninth among 58 backs with at least 25 targets in 2015 (Lacy had 28). He ranked 17th in Reception Success Rate (70.00%).
You might want to chalk this up to big gainers on a small sample (though his Success Rate says otherwise), but in 2014, Lacy caught 42 of 55 targets. His Reception NEP per target (0.63, so better than it was in 2015) ranked best among 22 backs with at least 50 targets.
His Reception Success Rate (71.43%) was even better than it was in 2015, too, and ranked him fourth in this group of running backs.
(Positive) Offensive Regression
The Packers had an "off" season offensively last year without Jordy Nelson, the best receiver by Reception NEP per target since 2000. And by "off," I mean that they ranked 12th in Adjusted NEP per play (0.07).
In 2014, they led the league in Adjusted NEP per play and owned the 10th-best mark since 2000 (0.17). This buoyed Lacy's fantasy ranking even though his efficiency dropped from 2013.
In 2013, the Packers ranked 11th in Adjusted NEP per play (0.06), similar to their result from 2015. Lacy's most efficient season and largest workload to date helped him overcome it.
It's hard to see the Packers' offense not faring better than it did in 2015, but we've seen him post a top-six season in a similarly efficient offense in 2013.
Red Zone Usage
Lacy's 20 red zone carries last season created a sharp downward trend in his inside-the-20 volume, as he had 49 in 2013 and 37 in 2014.
But his market share -- the percentage of carries available to him based on his team's play count -- wasn't drastically different.
|Lacy Red Zone Carries||Inside 20||Team%||Inside 10||Team%||Inside 5||Team%|
His 46.5% market share ranked 17th among rushers, so it's not borderline elite like his 57.0% in 2013 (which ranked 8th), but he finished as the RB6 in 2014 with nearly the same red zone market share as he had in 2015.
The problem was just that the volume wasn't there for Green Bay in 2015. They ran the ball just 49 times in the red zone, tied for 25th in the league. In 2014, that number was 79, tied for eighth. In 2013, 92, fourth-most.
I'd be lying if I neglected to point out that part of that drop in volume was because of an overall decline in their pass-to-run ratio in the red zone last year.
|Packers Red Zone||Pass||Rush||Pass%||Rush%|
However, Green Bay ran the ball just 20.3% of the time in the red zone while trailing in 2015, the lowest percentage of any team in the past three seasons. Lacy lost chances because of the offense overall, and when the team trailed, they didn't run it near the goal line.
This might be a good time to mention that the Packers led the league in red zone plays in 2013 (212) and tied for first in 2014 (194) before dropping to 14th in 2015 (153).
Lacy's fantasy ranks have looked pretty similar to his touches rank, 6th in 2013, 7th in 2014, and 22nd in 2015 along with RB6, RB6, and RB25 ranks in standard formats.
We won't boil it down to projecting his touches as his likely outcome, but a bet on Lacy is a bet on the Green Bay offense to return to form, which will bring with it hard-to-match red zone chances among the position.
Nelson is back, though isn't free of "hiccups" just yet, and Lacy's conditioning is trending in the right direction. With no real competition in the backfield, Lacy appears to be a can't-miss option while tied to this offense.