“No running backs this weekend, folks.”
Who wrote that just a couple of days ago? Who would say such a thing?
Well, that would be me.
In a move that a lot of Green Bay Packers fans wanted, but one yours truly did not expect at all, the Packers selected Alabama running back Eddie Lacy with the 29th pick in the second round (61st overall) of the draft Friday. Lacy’s selection came after Green Bay traded back six spots with the San Francisco 49ers (more on that in a bit).
Lacy, 5-feet, 11-inches and 231 pounds, was a one-year starter for the Crimson Tide. In that one year, last season, he racked up 1,322 yards on 204 attempts (6.5 YPC), hitting paydirt 17 times. He also caught 22 passes for 189 yards and two scores.
In a conference call with reporters after being selected, Lacy said “everything” when asked what his best attributes are. In reality, he might not be far off. He’s a tough, hard-nosed, physical runner who also brings a very nice, semi-sneaky dose of athletic ability (and boy, oh boy, can this guy spin).
It’s a safe bet that Lacy is already the No. 1 back on Green Bay’s depth chart at this point. He’ll play the role of every-down hammer for the offense. And when it’s 2nd-and-goal on the two-yard line, well, John Kuhn probably won’t be taking the handoffs anymore. DuJuan Harris becomes a change-of-pace back (and a nice one at that) and Alex Green likely serves as a pass-catching, screen-game back (where he probably should’ve been all along). This gives the Packers three backs in three clearly-defined roles, something they haven’t had in awhile. That’s important.
It also likely means the end of the line for James Starks and Cedric Benson in Titletown. But make no mistake, the offense just got quite a bit better with Lacy’s selection, one that I was never against, but rather just didn’t expect. That’s mostly due to how Ted Thompson and Mike McCarthy have treated the position in recent years. Outside of drafting Green in the third round two years ago, they’ve mostly tried to scrape by at running back.
But the selection of Lacy, along with first-round pick Datone Jones, shows the Packers are indeed going about building their team a different way. They are emphasizing attributes they’ve previously ignored as the focus now seems to be about getting tougher, more physical, fielding a team that is more capable of winning street fight games against the likes of the 49ers and New York Giants. These two picks don’t put Green Bay ahead of those teams, necessarily, but the Packers are much closer to catching them than they were Thursday afternoon.
As for Green Bay’s other selection Friday, there wasn’t one. In the third round, the Packers moved back five spots, from 88 to 93, in their second trade back of the day with San Francisco. At 93, Green Bay pulled off a deal with the Miami Dolphins, moving out of the third round completely, to pick 109 (12th pick of round four). Those two deals netted the Packers an extra seventh-rounder (from San Fran) and fifth-and-seventh-round picks (from Miami).
Toss in the first trade back deal with the Niners (which gave Green Bay a sixth-rounder) and the Packers now have a whopping 10 picks on the final day of the draft. I’m not at all pleased about allowing arguably your top competition in the NFC to move ahead of you twice, but Thompson definitely has a ton of ammunition for the final day now. With two 4s, three 5s, two 6s and 3 7s, it’s a safe bet Thompson will be looking to move back up on more than one occasion. In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if Green Bay used some of those later picks to move up early Saturday or even gain entirely new picks early on.
And with the depth that is still left on the board, that may end up being the smart play. Alabama’s duo of center Barrett Jones and nose tackle Jesse Williams are still available, as is Louisiana Tech wide receiver Quinton Patton, all players who would look great in green and gold. Either way, it’s sure to be a frantic final day Saturday and we’ll be recapping all the madness here. As always, stay tuned.