Literally for months, Alabama running back Eddie Lacy has been linked to the player of choice for the Green Bay Packers as their selection in next week’s draft – I, like Russ Lande, beg to disagree and point to a guy by the name of Giovani Bernard.
The two running backs are completely different, but both bring their strengths to the table and make strong arguments for selection.
So, why do we like Bernard over Lacy? Lande, in his “Pick your Poison” column on The National Football Post, likes Bernard for all the same reasons I do. I go one step further and say that Bernard is a better fit specifically for the Packers. He catches the ball easily out of the backfield; he’s a patient runner who hangs on the hips of blockers before using his vision and cutting abilities to slice through blocks and accelerates to the open field.
Lacy is the classic between the tackles-type runner who breaks arm tackles easily and pounds the ball hard. Lande says that Lacy catches the easy balls out of the backfield, but struggles on making the tough catches. In addition, he doesn’t have the acceleration to turn those catches into big plays.
However, if there is one area that Lacy supersedes Bernard in the passing game, it’s in pass protection – which is an important aspect of the running backs in the Packers system.
Here are some of the positives Lande provides about Bernard:
Naturally instinctive with great vision, Bernard is consistently able to find an open hole/crease and has the burst to get through it fast. Patient running with the ball, Bernard follows his blockers well … can make the sharp cut off their blocks and gets through the front line of defense quickly. Bernard has the quick burst and speed to get the edge and the sharp cutting ability to make the great cut-back to get through the backside hole. Not only effective on plays that start to the outside, he consistently has shown the ability to change directions fast and bounce the run outside when the inside hole is clogged up.
Here is how he describe’s Lacy’s best traits:
[Lacy] has the size and strength to be a powerful runner between the tackles if he can. He has the playing strength and balance to run through arm/grab tackles and to keep his feet versus hard hits to always gain yards after contact and fall forward for the extra yard or two at the end of the run. Once he catches the ball, he is a strong and aggressive runner after the catch that consistently gains yards after contact.
But in the end, it’s Bernard’s versatility, vision, speed and ability for a big play at any point on the field that sets him apart from Lacy. In addition, Lacy’s poor pro day he last week no doubt lowered his draft stock and may have pushed him into the second round.
Here’s what Lande said:
… neither Lacy or Bernard warrants being selected in the first round in my opinion, but both have the tools to be solid starting backs. His best chance of success is to be drafted by a power running team with a strong offensive line that can give him time and space to get to full speed before he has to deal with a tackler. Whereas Bernard is not going to be a power back, but with some added weight could turn out to be an excellent inside runner. I would draft Bernard ahead of Lacy if I were making the choice because he has the potential to contribute in more areas than Lacy and is a legit big play threat every time he touches the ball.
If Ted Thompson is indeed interested in taking a second or third round running back, Bernard may be that guy. The Packers running game needs a spark and Bernard may be the guy to provide that jump start.
What do you think?