We now know why teams passed 60 times on one of the most talented players in this past weekend’s draft. Running back Eddie Lacy, picked late in the second round by the Packers, underwent toe fusion surgery last March – a serious procedure that has been performed on very few world-class athletes. In fact, according to a report in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, the Steelers “wouldn’t touch” Lacy because of the operation. And this is coming from an organization that had no qualms drafting Georgia’s Jarvis Jones at 17, despite the fact that the outside linebacker had to leave USC after being diagnosed with spinal stenosis.
While Lacy showed no ill-effects from the fusion last season, there’s simply no way of telling how the toe will be two years from now. Heck, there’s no way of telling how the toe will be two months from now. That uncertainty, more than anything else, is why the former Alabama star wound up being the fourth back selected. It’s probably also why GM Ted Thompson traded up to get UCLA’s Johnathan Franklin in the fourth round. Besides being a terrific value at that point in the draft, he’ll also provide insurance in case the toe or any other part of Lacy’s banged-up body gives him trouble in the next few years.
Did the Packers gamble a bit on Lacy? Absolutely. Was it a gamble worth taking? Absolutely. At best, the toe will never become an issue and he’ll enjoy a long and successful career in Green Bay. And if that happens, a championshop or two is almost certain to follow. Because giving quarterback Aaron Rodgers a big-time running back is akin to giving Dwyane Wade that dude from Cleveland. At worst, Lacy will be plagued by toe issues and become nothing more than a journeyman. And if that’s the case, so be it. Did you know that of the 26 running backs chosen in the second round of the past 10 drafts, just five became immediate impact players? They were also the only five to ever play in a Pro Bowl.
The point is, selecting any running back in the second round of the draft has proven to be a hit-or-miss proposition (more miss lately). But if you’re going to gamble, you may as well roll the dice on a 231-pounder with outstanding power, excellent vision and very good feet. Even if that 231-pounder with outstanding power, excellent vision and very good feet has a toe that looks like it was worked on by Dr. Frankenstein.