Alabama Crimson Tide running back Eddie Lacy figures to be the first running back off the board in the 2013 NFL draft. However, for the first time in a long, long time, it didn't happen in the first round. Lacy's slight dip in stock will wind up being a blessing in disguise as he makes the jump to the pros, though.
Lacy indicated that he was somewhat hurt by the criticism from his performance in an interview with 790 the Zone in Atlanta with Archer and Bell:
It’s very tough. You hear a lot of things. People saying "he’s not in shape" or "he’s not fast." But in reality it’s due to a lack of time. It’s something you can’t really worry about.
...You know what you are capable of when you're 100 percent and the guys doubting you on the next level know as well. I don't think it should be said or anything like that but there is nothing you can do about it.
If concerns over a lackluster work ethic and underwhelming conditioning weren't enough to drive Lacy to prove critics wrong, his fall out of the top 32 picks should help in that regard. But he shouldn't take evaluators' negativity too hard because he has all the tools to be a successful pro.
At 5'11" and 231 pounds with deceptive speed and lateral quickness for his size, it's easy to see why Lacy is generally regarded as the consensus No. 1 running back prospect. The fact that he was in a time-sharing role with Alabama freshman phenom T.J. Yeldon also allowed him not to take as much punishment in his only season as a starter for the Crimson Tide.
Lacy's more highly touted predecessors, Mark Ingram and Trent Richardson, were first-round backs.
That wasn't the case for Lacy, and FOX Sports: NFL's official Twitter page highlighted just how long it's been since no running backs were taken in Round 1:
Mike Klis of the Denver Post came to Lacy's defense on Friday and praised him. Klis suggested that a nagging turf toe injury is what caused the slide for Lacy rather than any character or effort concerns. Lacy also missed the NFL Scouting Combine and his first shot at a pro day at Alabama with an ailing hamstring.
As long as Lacy can fully recover from turf toe, though, the injuries shouldn't really be a huge red flag.
For such a powerful back, Lacy has unusually fresh legs, and ESPN Stats & Info made a notable comparison between him and Richardson that suggests instant success in the NFL:
When Lacy gets moving downhill with a head of steam, it's difficult to stop him. He also has the upside in terms of vision to be a Pro Bowl-caliber player. As long as he's coached up to be a more decisive, one-cut runner to begin his career and allows the rest of his arsenal to develop over time, there's no telling how good Lacy could be.
ESPN's Mike Greenberg brings up a reasonable inference as to why Lacy fell, but he indicated that he would love to have the talented runner on his favorite NFL team:
Running back has become the most volatile position in pro football, but for teams thin at the position, Lacy is a valuable commodity that should be snatched up by the first needy franchise in Round 2.