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Eddie Lacy will be a top-10 RB again

Green Bay Packers' Eddie Lacy runs for a touchdown during the first half of an NFL football game against the Chicago Bears Thursday, Nov. 26, 2015, in Green Bay, Wis. (AP Photo/Morry Gash)

Green Bay Packers running back Eddie Lacy was undeniably one of the most disappointing players during the 2015 fantasy football season, and now fantasy football players are left wondering what to do with him moving forward. He's slipping into the third round in early mock drafts, which seem strange, considering he was the 1.01 pick in many drafts just six months ago.

But the down season took its toll on Lacy's reputation in the fantasy community. After conducting a post-2015-season Twitter poll,  Lacy was voted as the most overrated player in fantasy football. The poll yielded over 300 different votes, so there was no shortage of opinion. The only player close to him was Demaryius Thomas.

Let’s take a look at whether or not the hate is warranted and answer a question many fantasy football players will have this season: Is Lacy worth a pick inside the top 10 running backs, or was 2015 a sign of things to come?

For starters, the Packers never really intended on using Lacy as a workhorse in their offense. As you question that statement, remember that they had James Starks on the roster when they drafted Lacy in 2013. Not only that, but they drafted long-forgotten Jonathan Franklin in the fourth round that year to compliment Lacy.

Lacy won the running back competition in 2013 and racked up 284 carries, despite missing one full game and most of another. Outside of those two games, Lacy racked up 20 or more carries in 11 of his 14 games, amassing 209 fantasy points.

After being looked at as a hot commodity that offseason, Lacy improved on his rookie campaign while racking up 233 fantasy points in 2014. Despite being healthy for all 16 games, he actually carried the ball 38 fewer times than he did in his rookie year, and reached the 20 carry mark in just four of the games. That is despite the Packers actually averaging 1.1 more carries per game than they did in 2013.

His increase in production came from the passing game, which accounted for 28.6 percent of his fantasy points in 2014. This is the biggest variance from year to year with him: His receptions accounted for just 12.3 percent of his points in 2013 before jumping to 28.6 percent in 201 and 26.1 percent in 2015.

Because of the boost in the passing game, Lacy’s fantasy production on a per touch basis jumped from 0.66 his rookie year to 0.81 in 2014. Not only that, but touchdowns accounted for 33.5 percent of his production in 2014, which is well above the average of 28.0 percent for running backs.

Lacy crashed back down to earth last season, finishing with just 118 fantasy points on 192 total touches, or 0.61 fantasy points per touch (FPPT). For the second straight season, he saw his 20-carry games go down; he had just two of them in 2015.

His touches on a per game standpoint have gone down every year. He averaged 21.2 his rookie year, 17.9 in 2014 and just 12.8 in 2015. The mark he was at in 2015 was right around that of Alfred Blue, Alfred Morris, and Isaiah Crowell. That is not the type of company that you want to be associated with if you plan to be taken as a top-10 running back.

The touches are definitely not where you would like them to be when investing one of your first three draft picks, but there were some games that were cut short by injury and/or fumbles last year. If you remove the games in which he carried the ball fewer than five times, he actually averaged 15.6 touches per game. If you extrapolate his 0.61 FPPT over that many touches, he would have finished with 9.52 fantasy points per game, rather than the 7.87 he did.

The Packers struggled as a team in 2015 and actually averaged almost two carries per game less than they did in 2014. This would most certainly negatively impact Lacy.

His weight was another issue in 2015, and it wasn’t only analysts that took notice. Green Bay Packers head coach Mike McCarthy commented on it as well, which led to P90X creator Tony Horton making a video offering to help Lacy shed weight.

Apparently Lacy heard about the offer and decided to take him up on it. Since starting his workouts with Horton, Lacy looks to have shed weight in favor of muscle. There were reports saying Lacy was playing at over 30 pounds overweight last season. If that is the case, the case could be made that he actually overproduced.

If he sticks with the weight program, there is no doubt that it will have him in better shape, which could lead to big strides on the actual football field. In recent memory, Le’Veon Bell — who was good his rookie year — lost 20 pounds in the offseason and then turned into a star.

Lacy's numbers hold up when compared to other guys in the top 10 among running backs. Over the past five years, there have been 14 other running backs who have averaged more touches per game than him, but only nine of them have averaged more fantasy points per game. And yes, that includes this past season where Lacy averaged just 7.87 standard points per game.

If you watched any Packers game over the second half of the season, you’d also know that the offensive line was in shambles. They didn’t have their five starting lineman play together in any game after November 8, which would be an issue for any running back.

But despite those issues, Lacy did average 0.61 fantasy points per touch and would have finished as the seventh-highest scoring running back if he had received same amount of touches he did the prior season. As a matter of fact, all that he would’ve needed to finish in the top 10 in 2015 was 16.8 touches per game. There were 21 running backs in the league that averaged more touches per game than that.

While Lacy isn’t likely going to get 21 touches per game — like he did in 2013 — he should be back in the range of 17-19 touches in 2016, assuming his weight training program continues (and works). Touches are everything to today’s running backs, and if Lacy gets them, his per-touch scoring rate indicates that he will finish as a top-10 running back in 2016.

So if you're sitting there in the third round of your redraft league and Lacy is still on the board, don't waste any time — take him.

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