By Jeremy Hritz
In fourth edition of his 2013 NFL Mock Draft, Todd McShay has Eddie Lacy out of Alabama being selected by the St. Louis Rams in the second round, two picks before the Steelers. While the likelihood of Lacy dropping that far is slim, if the Steelers were presented with an opportunity to draft him with their second round pick, would they be likely to do so?
Lacy measures in at 5’11, 231 pounds and is powerfully built. This past season at Alabama, he accounted for 1322 yards and 17 touchdowns, and helped to lead the Crimson Tide to another National Championship. On the big stage in the title game against Notre Dame, Lacy amassed 140 rushing yards, one rushing touchdown, and one receiving touchdown, and single-handedly made Manti Te’o drop a full round in this year’s draft. Lacy has proved he is capable of producing on the big stage and against quality competition in the SEC, and he should be able to continue that success in the NFL.
While his production and size are attractive qualities that make him the best running back prospect in this year’s draft, there are multiple concerns that do present some risk, the first being a nagging hamstring injury that caused him to not participate in the NFL Combine and the Pro Day at the University of Alabama. Also, during his college career, he struggled with turf toe, which he ultimately had to have surgery for to repair. Does the hamstring and the turf toe indicate a player with questionable durability and conditioning?
The other element to consider, and while not able to be validated, is his ability to grasp the complexities of NFL offenses, as it is reported that he struggled academically in high school and had a difficult time meeting collegiate qualifications. Whether or not this is true is unknown, but it is an issue that has consistently been raised in draft discussions regarding Lacy.
The last concern regarding Lacy’s game is his deficiency in pass protection, as he has difficulty maintaining his blocks. This is something that will be scrutinized by the Steelers as they value runners that can protect the quarterback.
What is great about the questions surrounding Lacy is that they are all areas that can be improved. Conditioning and understanding an intricate offense can get better through hard work, as can the ability to protect in the passing game. The true questions is whether or not he has the work ethic, commitment, and drive to make these areas strengths.
The bottom line is the Steelers need a running back in this year’s draft, and they are not going to select one with their first round selection. If Lacy is there for the Steelers in the second round, or even if he is in trading distance as Mike Mayock believes, the Steelers could draft him. However, the reality is most likely that Lacy will be off the board late first round or early on in the second, and the Steelers will have to make other plans.