The Green Bay Packers (8-7-1) pulled off a miraculous win in the Windy City over the Chicago Bears (8-8) to win their third consecutive NFC North Division crown on Sunday, but the Packers wouldn’t have been close to sniffing the postseason without the bruising and outstanding running from long-dreaded rookie running back Eddie Lacy.
Sure, maybe the return of Super Bowl champion and MVP quarterback Aaron Rodgers saved the Packers’ playoff hopes against the Bears on Sunday, but Lacy kept the Packers in the playoff hunt while Rodgers continued to sit out while recovering from a broken collarbone injury.
Lacy is one of many candidates to win the NFL‘s Offensive Rookie of the Year award. He’s part of a class which includes Pittsburgh Steelers running back Le’Veon Bell, Cincinnati Bengals running back Giovani Bernard, St. Louis Rams running back Zac Stacy and San Diego Chargers wide receiver Keenan Allen.
Lacy, who was picked in April’s NFL Draft behind running backs Bernard, Bell and Montee Ball (Denver Broncos) due to concerns regarding Lacy’s prior foot and ankle injuries at the University of Alabama, deserves to win the award for four reasons:
1. Lacy led all rookies in rushing yards (1,178), yards from scrimmage (1,435), yards per carry (4.1) and total touchdowns (11)
2. Lacy accounted for a team-best 21.5 percent of the Packers’ total offensive production while receiving 61.8 percent of the total carries.
3. Lacy accounted for 26.1 percent of the Packers’ offensive touchdowns, the best among all NFL rookies and highest percentage on the Green Bay offense.
4. Despite Rodgers’ collarbone injury which sidelined him for nearly half of the regular season, Lacy became the Packers’ first 1,000+ yard rusher in a season since 2009 (Ryan Grant).
With the odds in Lacy’s favor, there are pros for why Stacy, Bernard, Allen and Bell make solid cases for the Offensive Rookie of the Year Award. But the cons are overwhelming and benefit Lacy’s case to win the award in February.
1. Stacy (St. Louis)
PRO: He accounted for 21.7 percent of the Rams’ total offensive production and was the focal point of a Rams’ offense with similar quarterbacking issues. The player with the second-highest percentage of offensive production on the Rams? Tight end Jared Cook who accounted for only 13.1 percent of the Rams’ total offense.
CON: Stacy missed the 1,000-yard mark in rushing (973) and was a starting running back on a team which finished last in the NFC West division.
2. Bernard (Cincinnati)
PRO: He accounted for 1,209 total yards of offense while only receiving 35.3 percent of the Bengals’ total carries and led all rookie running backs with 56 receptions for 514 yards and three receiving touchdowns.
CON: Bernard was second on the Bengals in total offensive production to wide receiver A.J. Green, third in total touchdowns behind Green and Marvin Jones, and second on the team in rushing behind BenJarvus Green-Ellis.
3. Allen (San Diego)
PRO: He helped lead the Chargers to their first playoff berth since 2009 while leading the Chargers in receiving yards (1,046) and tying wide receiver Eddie Royal for the most total touchdowns (8).
CON: Allen was second on the Chargers in targeted passing attempts behind tight end Antonio Gates and wasn’t regarded as the focal point or the most dangerous offensive weapon in quarterback Philip Rivers‘ arsenal.
4. Bell (Pittsburgh)
PRO: He was second among all rookies in yards from scrimmage (1,259 yards) but accounted for a higher percentage of the Steelers’ total offensive production (22.1 percent) than Lacy did for the Packers.
CON: Bell was second fiddle on the Steelers’ offense to wide receiver Antonio Brown who accounted for 26.1 percent of the Steelers’ offensive production. Bell only averaged 3.5 yards per carry and was tied for second on the Steelers in total touchdowns while receiving the highest percentage of carries (61.9 percent) among all rookie running backs.
From a statistical standpoint, Lacy was the most productive offensive rookie in the NFL this season and the most dangerous weapon on the Packers’ offensive unit while helping Green Bay earn their third consecutive NFC North division crown.
NFL Awards recognize individuals who standout on their respective teams, and Lacy stood out more than any other rookie in 2013. Lacy’s numbers and the other candidates’ cons heavily outweigh the remaining candidates’ pros. There’s no question about it; the award belongs to Lacy.