25

June

What is fair value for Eddie Lacy?

Eddie Lacy Pro Bowl

How much would you pay this guy?

Packers fans have been quipping that the running back is the most fungible position in the NFL; I’ve said it, my colleagues here on the blog have said it and tons of you have said it in your comments (yes we do read your comments).  In truth, it’s an easy thing for Packers fans to say simply because the Packers aren’t the type of team that revolves around running the ball; with Mike McCarthy at the helm, Aaron Rodgers behind center and Ted Thompson on top of the front office, the Packer’s have been a pass-first, pass-second, run as an afterthought type of franchise.

On the flip side, ask any Minnesota Vikings fans what they think about the running game and I’m sure you’ll get a completely different response.  Outside of a miraculous 2009 season, there hasn’t been much for Vikings fans to hang their hat on; sure the defense has been occasionally good but their football identity is running the ball with Adrian Peterson.  However Peterson is a once in a generation type of player and the simple fact is that running backs are not very valuable in the NFL; they’re production has plateaued lower than their receiving counterparts, the massive toll playing the position takes on their body and future production and the shift from the workhorse back to the running back by committee approach means you don’t need to find a running back that can do it all.  As a result, less and less running backs are being drafted, especially in the first round.

Packer’s fans might just have to start rethinking about the value of the running back position as the Packers might have a real star on their roster with Eddie Lacy in green and gold.  While Lacy was a godsend for the Packers last year and was essentially the offense while Aaron Rodgers recovered from his broken clavicle, Lacy was paid a mere $405,000 for perhaps the best season a running back has had since Ahman Green in his heyday. Keep in mind this is after winning rookie of the year honors; when Charles Woodson won defensive player of the year honors in 2010, the Packers responded by giving him a huge increase in pay even though he still had plenty of years left on his contract.

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18

June

What Can We Expect From Eddie Lacy In Year 2?

Eddie Lacy went from a too fat, too hyped running back out of Alabama to the 2013 NFL Rookie of the year (which I predicted right after he was drafted).  However, Lacy’s meteoric rise to the best football player from the 2013 NFL draft was probably not as the Packers predicted; with the injury to Aaron Rodgers collarbone the Packers morphed into a conservative, ball control offense lead by pounding Lacy behind Josh Sitton, TJ Land and Evan Dietrich-Smith.  Naturally as Lacy proved to be the most effective weapon the Packers had left, he got more carries, which lead to more yards, more touchdowns and naturally more accolades.  But with the return of Rodgers with a fully healed collarbone, what can the Packers expect from Lacy?

First off the disappointing news; successful rookie running backs don’t do as well on their second season.  According to statistics pulled from Rotoworld, of running backs who gained at least 600 yards during their rookie season in the last 10 years:

  1. 66% of running backs saw a decrease in their rushing production in year 2
  2. 72% of running backs who rushed for at least 7 or more touchdowns saw a decrease in their scoring in year 2
  3. 75% of running backs who rushed for at least 1,000 yards saw a decrease in their production in year 2

As the article states, there is really no concrete reason why running backs tend to decline going into their 2nd years; one possibility is that teams have a full year’s worth of film to watch and thus are able to properly analyze what types of plays, holes or cuts a running back typically executes and can plan accordingly.  Another possibility is that while running backs aren’t typically over utilized their rookie year, high drafted runners like Lacy already come into the league with a lot of tread off their tires; it’s quite well known that running backs have one of the shortest shelf lives of any position in the NFL and it’s possible that a rookie running back is already at his peak by the time he enters the NFL.  There’s also the increase responsibility of being “veteran” player; rookie running backs (as well as all rookies for that matter) are often given more simple assignments and only asked to do things they are already comfortable doing.  With another offseason, 2nd year running backs are expected to fully know the offense, which for a running back includes protecting the quarterback, running a more diverse route tree, etc.  With more things to think about and being put in more foreign situations likely results in a dip in production as well.

11

July

Packers 2010 Yearbook Awards: Player Most Likely to Become a Starter After Being a Backup Last Year

Green Bay Packer Most Likely to become a starter after being a backup last year

(Be sure to place your vote in the poll below.)

Adam: Mike Neal – Neal wins this one, mainly because if he doesn’t the Packers will be in trouble up front.

Al: Mike Neal –  Neal was coming on strong in full beast mode when he went down for the season. I remember Washington coach Mike Shanahan remarking how good the Packers’ DL was after the Washington game and Neal was a big factor that game.

Chad: Mike Neal – You know it’s a good sign when there aren’t too many options for this category. How many starters are actually leaving, even potentially, next season? The only ones I can think of are Cullen Jenkins, Daryn Colledge, Mark Tauscher, Nick Barnett, Brandon Jackson, and James Jones (if you can count him as a starter). From that list, the only positions where a replacement starter wasn’t already seeing action are at defensive end and left guard. That being the case, I’m going to have to go with Mike Neal. His only real competition is C.J. Wilson; meanwhile, the left guard position is WIDE open right now.

Kris: Mike Neal - With Jenkings likely headed out the door in free agency, now is the time for Mike Neal to show us what he’s got.  He started showing flashes before his 2010 season came to a screeching halt due to injury, but the man definitely seems ready to stake his claim on a starting position for 2011.

Thomas: T.J. Lang – If anything T.J. Lang proved in 2009 that he can play in the NFL, whether he ends up being a backup or a starter in the future has yet to be decided but he definitely belongs in the NFL.  That can’t be said with any of the other potential starting linemen.  In my opinion Lang gets the first shot at left guard should Daryn Colledge leave.

Zach: Neal – With Cullen Jenkins on his way out, Neal should be a starter at defensive end. He’ll first need to beat out Howard Green, who played well down the stretch and applied the pressure that caused Nick Collins’ pick-six in the Super Bowl. But if Neal is healthy, and plays anywhere near the level he showed to begin his rookie season, it’s his job to lose.

5

July

Packers 2010 Yearbook Awards: Player Most Likely to Have a Breakout Season in 2011

Green Bay Packer Most Likely to Have a Breakout Season in 2011

(Be sure to place your vote in the poll below.)

Adam: Jordy Nelson – It was between Nelson and Starks and I went with Nelson simply because the Packers will be throwing more than running.

Al: Morgan Burnett – As last off season progressed, I loved what I was reading about Morgan Burnett. Thrown in as the #1 thanks to Atari Bigby’s injury, Burnett mastered Capers’ defense and was even taking a leadership role. That doesn’t happen with too many rookie safeties. During the preseason games, I loved what I saw of Morgan Burnett. I was convinced that by the end of the year, he would be playing like veteran rather than a rookie. I look for Burnett to make that giant leap I expected last year and solidify his status as one of the best young safeties in the league.

Chad: Mike Neal – If there’s one guy who’s hungry and ready to make a splash this season, it’s Mike Neal. He is most likely going to be in the starting line-up when the season begins, and he’ll get every opportunity to wreak havoc on the line. Someone will need to fill Cullen Jenkins’ shoes, and I think Neal is just the guy to do it.

Kris: James Starks – Ryan Grant is no sure thing coming back from injury and Starks will take full advantage of his opportunity.  We only caught a glimpse of his potential in last season’s playoffs and he should shine with 16 games to showcase his talents.

Thomas: Andrew Quarless – It took Finley a while to get going and it might be the same thing for Quarless.  With more attention being focused on Finley and Jennings, Quarless has the opportunity to surprise everyone.  Also add in the fact that Quarless is a better blocker than Finley and he might see the field more as an inline pass threat.

Zach: Jordy Nelson – I feel strongly about Nelson’s potential impact for next season, and I’d be absolutely shocked if he didn’t see the third-most passes coming his way in 2011 (behind Jennings and Finley). That  alone should set him up for a breakout season. And while it’s probably never smart to rule out Driver, it’s Nelson’s time in the offense. He’ll build off his Super Bowl performance.

4

July

Packers 2010 Yearbook Awards: Player Most Likely to have the Best Season of their Career in 2011

Green Bay Packer Most Likely to Have the Best Season of Their Career in 2011

(Be sure to place your vote in the poll below.)

Adam: Nick Collins — Collins is already good, but I still think he’s still on the upswing. Look for him to go from good to great in 2011.

Al: B.J. Raji — I think year three will be the breakout for B.J. Raji. After an injury hobbled first season, Raji played a ton of snaps last year and his improvement was accelerating in the post season. That trend continues, Jersey Boy Raji gets stronger and opposing centers feel the pain.

Chad: A.J. HawkThis is a tricky one. When you talk about the best season of a player’s career, you’re talking past, present, and future. So to hit this category, you’ve got to find the player that’s hitting their peak and not currently too early or too late in their careers. That being said, I think this is the year A.J. Hawk hits his high point. His production dipped a bit when the Packers switched to the 3-4 under Capers, but after finally taking the reins of the defense last year, I think Hawk’s sixth season will be his best ever.

Kris: Aaron Rodgers — Call me crazy but I’m going with Aaron Rodgers. 30 touchdowns and only 7 picks may be near impossible to beat, a career high in yardage isn’t out of the question.  I will even call my shot now and say he is the league MVP. That would be a career year for Rodgers.

Thomas: Jordy Nelson — In my opinion he’s already the number 2 receiver after Jennings and that will only increase his production as that becomes more apparent.  I think he has better hands than Jones (who is probably going to leave anyways) and Driver has declined to a point where Nelson is probably better.  Add that to the fact that Nelson has had pretty paltry numbers since being drafted (not his fault, there was just so much talent ahead of him), and there’s no way he doesn’t have a great statistical season.

26

June

Packers 2010 Yearbook Awards: Player Most Likely to Get a Contract Extension During the Season

Green Bay Packer Most Likely to Get a Contract or Extension During the Season:

(Be sure to place your vote in the poll below.)

Adam: Sitton — Aaron Rodgers is a top three quarterback that needs as many quality fat guys blocking for him as possible. Sitton’s versatility makes him an ideal guard long-term for the Packers.

Al: Sitton – I suppose the top two possibilities here are Jordy Nelson and Josh Sitton. While I’m a Nelson fan, and the Packers certainly like him a lot, he’s not what you would call a “linchpin” guy that the Packers NEED to lock up for a long time. Sitton, on the other hand is on the cusp of Pro Bowl Status, does not get hurt and is the best lineman on the team. Easy one here.

Chad: This one is a no-brainer. Josh Sitton is entering the final year of his contract and has proven himself to be one of the best – if not THE best – offensive guards in the NFL. He has become an anchor for Green Bay’s offensive line, and for a pass-heavy offense with Aaron Rodgers under center, protecting the quarterback is a top priority. You can’t let a guy like this slip away, and I highly doubt Ted Thompson will. I fully expect him to have something close to a 5-year deal by the time the season is over and he hits free agency.

Kris: Sitton.  Ted Thompson is in the process of locking up his offensive line long term whilst getting younger at the same time and Sitton is a key cog in keeping Rodgers upright. By the time 2011 is well underway, Sitton will have earned that vote of confidence

Thomas: Nelson – Actually I’m kind of surprised that Nelson hasn’t already gotten a extension.  He’s got very little leverage since he’s either the 3rd or 4th receiver on the team and he’s shown he can produce as a number 2 receiver in the Super Bowl and playoffs.  With Donald Driver declining and James Jones likely to leave, now is the prime time to lock Nelson down.

Zach: Sitton: I have a sneaky suspicion that Nelson could be it because he’ll be easier to sign, but Sitton is the player who deserves it most. It’s going to be interesting though—Thompson has never signed a guard to a big contract, and Sitton is going to command a lot of dollars. I’d guess there’s very little chance he lets a player that he drafted and of Sitton’s cailber to hit the free agent market, however.