By Dan Dahlke
It seems to be a common sentiment among Packers Nation and many NFL analysts, like NFL.com‘s Gil Brandt and Akbar Gbaja-Biamila (recognize the last name?), the Green Bay Packers will go running back with their first pick in this year’s draft.
Though I agree that running back is a major need for Green Bay, I have a hard time believing Packers GM Ted Thompson will select a running back in the first round, nor do I believe he should.
Let’s be honest, trying to predict who Ted Thompson will draft in the first round is like trying to read tea leaves blindfolded. It just can’t be done. However, we know Thompson will stick to his best-available player approach and draft for value. That’s why I don’t see the Packers selecting a running back in the first round. I just don’t see a value pick at 26 with this year’s running backs.
Many mock drafts around the Web have the Packers selecting Eddie Lacy from Alabama with their first pick. It’s easy to drool over the 5-11, 231-pound backfield workhorse who posted an impressive 1,322 rushing yards and 17 touchdowns in 2012 for the Crimson Tide, and imagine how much more potent the Green Bay offense would be with those rushing numbers behind Aaron Rodgers and company.
But let’s not get ahead of ourselves. Despite Lacy’s production in college in his one year as the lone starter, many around the league have serious doubts about the back’s health and transition to the NFL.
Lacy didn’t participate in the NFL Combine or the Crimson Tide Pro Day because of a lingering hamstring injury he suffered early February training for the Combine. A subpar Pro Day this last week did little to reassure scouts that Lacy is the real deal and fully recovered. As reported by Bucky Brooks, Lacy ran the 40 in 4.6, which put him in the middle of the pack for this year’s running back crop, and Brooks also reported Lacy looked fatigued during the workout and had to call it quits early due to lack of conditioning.
In addition to health and conditioning concerns, it is well known that Lacy’s pass blocking and receiving, staples for backs in the Green Bay’s offense, leave something to be desired.
Needless to say, I still think Lacy could be a great back in the NFL, but a first round pick? I don’t think so – not if you want to find value at 26. Lacy will be a good pick in the second round, but I’d rather see the Packers select a defensive lineman, such as Datone Jones from UCLA, or a safety, such as Eric Reid from LSU, with their first pick. Maybe Ted Thompson will surprise us, but I expect him to address the backfield and find value in rounds second through fifth rounds with backs such as Jonathan Franklin or Stepfan Taylor from Stanford.