Green Bay Packers general manager Ted Thompson has hit home runs with each of his picks in the 2013 NFL draft, but selecting Alabama running back Eddie Lacy might just be the steal of the first two rounds.
Not only did Thompson fill one of his roster's biggest needs with one of this draft's best running backs, but he did so without having to use a first-round pick, or even his original slot in the second.
Thompson actually traded down from No. 55 overall to No. 61, securing a sixth-round pick from the San Francisco 49ers in the process. When Lacy, who most considered a potential first-round pick, slid all the way to No. 61, the Packers jumped on the opportunity to finally provide quarterback Aaron Rodgers with a legitimate running-back option.
And legitimate Lacy is.
At 6'1", 231 pounds, Lacy is a workhorse back with three-down skills. A battering ram inside the tackles, Lacy can also catch out of the backfield (35 career catches) and pass protect on third downs. He did all three in spades at Alabama.
As the lead runner for the National Champions last season, Lacy carried 204 times for 1,322 yards (6.5 yards/carry) and 17 touchdowns. He averaged almost seven yards a carry over his three years at Alabama.
The numbers absolutely match the value here for Thompson and the Packers.
Thanks to his NFL-ready size and agility and elite college production, mock drafts almost universally had Lacy coming off the board in the 25-35 range. The NFL was so confident he'd be off the board in the first 32 picks, they invited Lacy to the green room for the first round.
Could you blame the NFL? Throughout the draft process, several mock drafts had Green Bay selecting Lacy with the No. 26 overall pick.
Instead, the Packers took him with the second-to-last pick in the second round, No. 61 overall. Lacy was getting off a plane from New York City when the call came in.
Mike Mayock of NFL Network praised the pick without hesitation:
At 230 pounds, he's got much better feet than people think. This guy's a three-down tailback. He'll protect the quarterback. He can carry 20 to 25 times a game. For the Packers, who have been running the ball by committee, this is a perfect pick.
The Packers can now plug in Lacy behind Rodgers and feel very confident that the bevy of two-high safeties looks that plagued the offense at times last season will no longer exist in such frequency. Defense will have to worry about containing a talented back like Lacy, who should be able to take advantage of six- and seven- man boxes as a rookie.
There have certainly been several steals in the 2013 draft so far, with Shariff Floyd landing in Minnesota highlighting the group.
But Lacy has a legitimate case for being the biggest.
A first-round talent, Lacy finally came off the board just two picks shy of the third round.
Lacy now falls into a dream situation in Green Bay, where he can turn motivation from a draft-day fall into the kind of production the Packers have coveted from the running back position throughout the Aaron Rodgers era.