By Eric Balkman
Despite all of the excitement around Green Bay over the past 72 hours, one thing is still blatantly clear with the Packers organization.
Aaron Rodgers is by far and away the driving force of Green Bay’s offense. And the running game – albeit much improved since the end of the 2012 season — is planted firmly as a tertiary offensive option (next to passing the ball and passing the ball, of course).
While Eddie Lacy is perhaps the most talented back the Packers have had since Ahman Green was in his prime, he does not come without his fair share of significant question marks.
Lacy, for instance, has had only one full collegiate season of carrying the full running workload under his belt — a task he will be asked to do in the pros as a rookie in Green Bay immediately.
And in the age-old NFL chicken-or-the-egg argument, was it Alabama’s offensive line that made Lacy into the beast he is perceived to be by his supporters? Or was it Lacy himself who possessed the talent to make the Crimson Tide’s offensive line look better than it actually was?
Considering the last two running backs Alabama churned out to the NFL, my bet is on the former. Mark Ingram has been a more-than-underwhelming first round draft pick, and Trent Richardson certainly has yet to achieve the expectations that being the third overall pick brings with it.
Also bear in mind that two of the road graders that cleared the path for Lacy in college — Chance Warmack and D.J. Fluker — were the 10th and 11th picks overall, respectively, in this year’s draft.
Perhaps the biggest red flag of Lacy’s pro prospects is his health. For a bruising, punishing running back to remain consistently nasty, he has to be able to avoid injuries. And Lacy is already behind the eight ball there.
After skipping the NFL combine, Lacy’s pro day workout at Alabama was nothing if not disappointing. Lacy blamed his poor performance on a lingering hamstring injury, which is understandable to a point.
After all, if your hamstring was hurt, wouldn’t you still find ways to stay in shape? Swimming, working out in a pool, building upper body strength and minding your diet would all be good options. And judging by Lacy’s workout, he could not have taken all — if any — of those aspects to heart.
When you take into consideration Packers GM Ted Thompson trading up to snag the talented running back from UCLA, Johnathan Franklin, in the fourth round of this year’s draft, it’s clear even the man who selected Lacy is hedging his bet a little bit on the second-rounder.
It’s no coincidence that Aaron Rodgers became the highest paid player in NFL history shortly before the draft started. Thompson and the Packers know that if Green Bay is able to hoist the Lombardi Trophy again in 2014, it will be because of Rodgers’ arm much more so than Lacy’s legs.