PHOENIX -- As far as Seahawks coach Pete Carroll is concerned, there isn’t much that needs to be said about new running back Eddie Lacy anymore. The only thing left for Lacy to do now is prove himself.
That’s the message Carroll conveyed at the NFL’s annual meeting about Lacy, who is trying to resurrect his career after two down seasons in Green Bay. Seattle signed Lacy to a one-year, prove- it deal for $5.5 million, including $3 million guaranteed.
“From this point, it’s a work in progress,” Carroll said. “He’s working on his stuff. We’re going to do a very good job. He’s going to be huge.”
That’s an interesting choice of words from Carroll given Lacy’s history with his weight and conditioning. He reportedly weighed in at 267 pounds on one of his free agent visits in March, and the Seahawks want Lacy to play in the 240 range this year.
His contract also reportedly includes weight clauses, and he will receive $55,000 every month if he’s 255 pounds in May, 250 for June and August and 245 for the season. Hopefully, the money is a motivating factor.
And you would hope that Lacy also wants to show he can still be the dominant rusher he was in the first two years of his career -- when he was also a Fantasy star -- in 2013-14. Carroll said a fresh start in Seattle will help Lacy, and Fantasy owners hope it’s the same thing that happened to Marshawn Lynch when he left Buffalo in 2010, seemingly as a bust, only to have the best years of his career with the Seahawks.
“That’s part of the reason that I’m so excited about it,” Carroll said. “We talked about moving forward and how we’re going to go about this and do this together and get this thing done right. I felt very good about the way we hit it off.”
Carroll also said Lacy isn’t really coming off a bad year in 2016, although he was limited to five games because of a season-ending ankle injury. While those five games weren’t great from a Fantasy perspective because he failed to score a touchdown and had just one outing with more than 100 rushing yards, Lacy actually ran well.
He had 71 carries for 360 yards last year, which was 5.07 yards per carry. Of running backs with at least 70 carries, only seven were better: Jalen Richard (5.92 yards per carry), Mike Gillislee (5.71), Bilal Powell (5.51), LeSean McCoy (5.41), DeAndre Washington (5.37), Jordan Howard (5.21) and Mark Ingram (5.09). Ezekiel Elliott tied Lacy at 5.07 yards per carry.
If you project Lacy’s stats over 16 games, he would have finished with 227 carries for 1,152 yards. Only eight running backs were better than that total with Elliott (1,631 yards), Howard (1,313), DeMarco Murray (1,287), Jay Ajayi (1,272), Le’Veon Bell (1,268), McCoy (1,267), David Johnson (1,239) and LeGarrette Blount (1,161).
Now, as for the touchdowns, it’s doubtful he would have gone all season without scoring, and he averaged eight rushing touchdowns and two receiving touchdowns over the first three years of his career. He also averaged 32 catches and 291 receiving yards over that span.
If you give him those averages, along with his projected rushing stats, you’re talking about a player who could have finished with about 1,400 total yards and 10 touchdowns. Maybe that’s a stretch, or maybe that’s what Lacy is capable of.
Lacy also was among the league leaders last season at 3.4 yards after contact, according to Pro Football Focus. In looking at running backs with at least 70 carries, Lacy was fourth behind Ty Montgomery (5.14 yards), Richard (3.63) and Ajayi (3.46). That shows that Lacy was still running well despite his conditioning concerns.
“He started out really well last year,” Carroll said. “He was on it pretty good. I’m hoping we can recapture where he was at that time last year. I love the player that he brings to us. He’s physical, aggressive, tough, huge, well-rounded, versatile. ... He can do all that stuff. His attitude that he brings really complements our style of play. I think he’s a really good fit.”
Aside from the problems Lacy had the past two seasons -- he struggled in 2015 with 187 carries for 758 yards and three touchdowns and 20 catches for 188 yards and two touchdowns -- Fantasy owners have two areas of concern with him this year. The first is competition on the Seattle roster from Thomas Rawls and C.J. Prosise, which is fair.
Rawls (2015) and Prosise (2016) were productive as rookies, but clearly the Seahawks felt an upgrade was needed, which is why Lacy was brought in. We view Rawls as a handcuff for Lacy with a late-round pick, and Prosise is likely going to play on passing downs, which makes him a decent flier in PPR leagues.
The other concern for Fantasy owners about Lacy is Seattle’s offensive line. Green Bay had the No. 5 offensive line in the NFL last year, according to PFF, while the Seahawks ranked last. But Carroll expects a significant upgrade there this season.
Carroll was excited about offseason additions in left tackle Luke Joeckel from Jacksonville and right guard Oday Aboushi from Houston. Germain Ifedi, last year’s first-round pick, is now expected to move from right guard to right tackle, and 2016 third-round pick Rees Odhiambo will open training camp at left guard. Justin Britt will remain at center.
As Carroll noted about the offensive line “we might not be done yet in helping these guys,” with the position getting more help in the upcoming NFL Draft. And Carroll said part of the reason for playing young players on the offensive line last year was to give them experience.
“We took the hit to get these guys in as early as they did,” Carroll said. “We were the youngest NFL offensive line, and we’re going to benefit from that.”
A better offensive line will clearly help Lacy. And he needs to stay in shape and keep Rawls and Prosise on the bench.
It’s a risk for Fantasy owners to trust Lacy after what has happened the past two years, whether due to poor play, injury or his conditioning issues. But there’s also the chance he rebounds under Carroll, much like Lynch did.
I’m willing to bet on Lacy at the right price, which is Round 5 in standard leagues and Round 6 in PPR. He should outperform that draft spot if he’s healthy, and Fantasy owners, as well as Carroll, are waiting for Lacy to prove himself this year.