If that’s true, then the Packers are thrilled with their consolation prize.
Bell went at No. 48 overall to Pittsburgh. With Green Bay up at No. 55, general manager Ted Thompson had his choice of Wisconsin legend Montee Ball, Alabama’s Eddie Lacy and Texas A&M’s Christine Michael.
In a shrewd move, Thompson made a deal with San Francisco to back up six spots. At No. 58, Denver grabbed Ball. At No. 61, Thompson grabbed Lacy.
With Bell facing a three-game suspension for violating the league’s substance-abuse policy, you could argue the Packers got the best back in the draft — the first off the board was Giovani Bernard going at No. 37 to the Bengals.
Of the three 1,000-yard seasons produced by the 24 running backs selected in 2013, Lacy has two of them. Lacy leads the way with 2,317 rushing yards — Bell is next with 2,221 and Bernard is almost 1,000 yards behind Lacy for third place. Bell leads the way with 3,474 yards from scrimmage, with Lacy second with 3,001. (See charts at end of story.)
It’s not just the production with the ball in his hands. Of the Class of 2013, six have rushed for at least 1,000 yards. According to ProFootballFocus.com, Lacy has been the pass protector in that group with no sacks, one quarterback hit and a total of five pressures allowed. Bell has allowed two sacks and a total of 10 pressures, Bernard no sacks and 13 pressures, Ball one sack and nine pressures and the Rams’ Zac Stacy one sack and four pressures. Of the top six, only the Cardinals’ Andre Ellington has allowed fewer pressures (no sacks, four total pressures) but that’s on more than 100 fewer pass-blocking snaps than Lacy.
“There’s not too many guys who can come in and play that well in their first two years,” Lacy said when asked to examine the first two years of his career. “Some guys, their first year might not be that good, and their second year is a lot better and the third year is when they get comfortable in the system. Around here, the guys do a great job of keeping me levelheaded and keeping me aware of what’s going on and comfortable. And for me, being comfortable is key. As long as I’m comfortable and I can play the way I need to play, then I’ll do as good as I can.”
Lacy is coming off his best season in the league. He ranked third among all backs last season with 13 total touchdowns — nine rushing, four receiving. His yards per carry went from 4.1 as a rookie to 4.6 in 2014, with that half-yard difference showing up in yards after contact, where he went from 2.3 yards after contact per rush to 2.8, according to PFF. He also improved his receiving output from 35 catches for 257 yards in 2013 to 42 receptions for 427 yards in 2014. His tremendous hands were evident during Thursday’s minicamp finale, when he made an incredible leaping, back-shoulder catch.
“I thought he became more of a complete back,” running backs coach Sam Gash said last week. “I think he continues to make strides in a positive way. Every day, he’s there. He works hard. He’s finishing runs. He’s working himself into the back he knows he has to be.”
Class of 2013: Ten Best Seasons
Class of 2013: Combined Rushing
Class of 2013: Scrimmage/All-Purpose Yards