When you think of the Green Bay Packers and fantasy football, odds are that you think passing. Aaron Rodgers has been one of the top fantasy quarterbacks in the league for several years now (when Shea McClellin doesn't land on his collarbone, that is), Jordy Nelson has quietly become a stud, and Randall Cobb has become a versatile threat to pick up the occasional big run in addition to solid receiving numbers.
That's all well and good, and each of those players projects to have excellent seasons, but in 2014, Eddie Lacy should be the first Packer off the board in every fantasy draft.
First of all, Lacy's running ability is not in question. Look at his overall yardage: while playing essentially 14 games (missing all but six plays of the week 2 game against Washington and all of week three against the Bengals), Lacy posted 1,178 yards, good for 8th in the league. If you project that out into a 16-game season, that would result in a 1,346 yard season, which would have put him second in the entire NFL.
Then you have the touchdowns that he brings to the table. He scored 11 times in 2013, and he was remarkably consistent after the first few games; in the 11-game span between weeks 7 and 17, Lacy scored 10 times and failed to reach the end zone only twice. He also takes all of the Packers' goal-line carries - as evidenced by his 8 touchdowns of three yards or more last season.
Even if Lacy loses some carries to James Starks or DuJuan Harris, an uptick in receiving production should more than make up for last year's 7th-best fantasy running back. He's been working hard on his receiving and blocking abilities this offseason, and though he was used in those capacities somewhat a year ago (35 catches for 243 yards), the Packers want to keep him on the field for three downs as much as possible to help the offense keep clicking at a fast tempo. A reasonable expectation for this season is around 50 catches and 350-400 yards, and likely a score or two through the air as well.
The final point to Lacy's appeal for fantasy players is his consistency, which I alluded to when discussing his touchdowns. He posted double-digit fantasy points in 11 of the Packers' 16 games last year, and had fewer than 8 points only three times (including one game where he would have been benched in advance anyway due to injury). He's no stranger to big games, though, exceeding 16 points six times and 20 points in four games.
Though several quarterbacks and wideouts will likely be selected in the first few rounds of your fantasy draft, elite running backs still remain as scarce as ever and should be your top priority in round one. With his role in the passing game expected to grow and his penchant for finding the end zone showing no signs of slowing down, we think Lacy should be a top-5 pick in just about any fantasy draft this season, as Lacy should put up the best season by a Packers running back since the days of Ahman Green.
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