It was reported earlier today that Alabama Crimson Tide junior running back Eddie Lacy and junior offensive tackle D.J. Fluker will be declaring for the 2013 NFL Draft. They will more than likely be joined by cornerback Dee Milliner and linebacker C.J. Mosley, who have yet to declare, but are both projected to be first round picks in April.
It’s not all that surprising that Lacy and Fluker are planning to declare themselves for the NFL Draft, even though at this point neither are projected to be picked in the first round.
According to CBS, both are likely 2nd round draft choices with Lacy being listed as the 2nd best running back prospect behind North Carolina’s Giovani Bernard, and Fluker listed as the 8th best offensive tackle prospect.
Of course, while both are projected 2nd round picks, I think they could work their way up into the first round with good combines and good workouts. Let’s take a look at each individual draft prospects and what the future may hold for them in the NFL.
As I said above, Lacy is the 2nd ranked running back prospect according to CBS. Walterfootball.com updated their mock draft today following the news of Lacy and Fluker declaring, and he has Lacy being picked in the 2nd round, 57th overall by the Green Bay Packers.
Regardless of whether or not Lacy is able to work his way into the first round of the draft, the move makes sense for him. This is probably as high as his draft stock is going to get, and running backs have such a short shelf life as is. You can look no further than South Carolina’s Marcus Lattimore to see that one play can change everything. All it would take next season is one fluke play and that could be the end of Lacy’s football career.
Also, Lacy has battled various injuries throughout his career at Alabama, and finally enjoyed a relatively healthy season in 2012, although he was hobbled by a few nagging injuries throughout the year, but so is pretty much everyone in the country.
It’s smart for him to declare early and make as much money as he can. I don’t think him returning for his senior year would boost his stock all that much with what is likely to be a decreased workload in 2013. The good news for Lacy and NFL teams that want to draft him is that he doesn’t have all that much mileage on him.
In his career at Alabama, Lacy has only 335 carries. To put that into perspective, Wisconsin’s Montee Ball carried the ball 332 times THIS SEASON. Lacy hasn’t been overworked in college, and by all means he should have relatively fresh legs in the NFL. This was his first season as a starter at Alabama, and even then he split carries with freshman T.J. Yeldon and wound up running the ball only 184 times. He made those carries count, however, and racked up 1182 yards on a 6.4 yards per carry clip and punched in 16 touchdowns on the ground.
I’ve said it for a few weeks now, but Eddie Lacy has been running like a three year player at the end of the season, especially against Georgia in the SEC Championship Game where he was named MVP for his 181 yard, 2 touchdown performance.
Even with Lacy leaving a year early, I don’t think Alabama fans have much to worry about at running back. T.J. Yeldon has been spectacular as a freshman this season, rushing for exactly 1000 yards on 154 carries (6.5 YPC) and 11 touchdowns. An increased workload next season should bring big numbers for Yeldon.
Also, Jalston Fowler will be back next season along with possibly Dee Hart, and freshman Kenyan Drake has looked very good in garbage time this season. It also helps that the Crimson Tide currently have three running backs committed to the 2013 recruiting class, including the leading high school rusher of all time, Derrick Henry.
D.J. Fluker declaring for the draft is a bit more surprising than Lacy. Fluker could have probably benefited from another year in Tuscaloosa where he could further develop as a pass blocker, but again with the risk of injury being very real, it is hard to fault him for leaving a year early as well as a projected 2nd round draft choice.
Fluker struggled mightily early in the season against speed rushers off the edge, but he improved as the year went on and became a downright dominant force over the season’s final few weeks. He was thought of as a liability in the passing game leading up to the LSU game, but he silenced all his critics by helping to shut down LSU defensive ends Barkevious Mingo and Sam Montgomery, two likely first round NFL Draft picks.
Even still, Fluker still has a lot to work on in pass protection to be a starting tackle in the NFL. He is a dominant run blocker, and because of that we could very well see him move to guard in the NFL. At 6-foot-6 and 335 pounds, Fluker has the size that makes scouts and coaches at the next level drool over. He has immense potential, and a good combine and workouts with NFL teams could send his draft stock soaring.
As of now, Walterfootball.com projects Fluker to be drafted in the 2nd round, 44th overall by the New York Jets. Teams are always looking to beef up their offensive lines, so it would be an utter shock if he fell past the 2nd round, even with his trouble pass blocking.
With Fluker declaring for the draft, that means Alabama will have to replace three starting offensive lineman off the best offensive line in the country. Center Barrett Jones and left guard Chance Warmack are both seniors, and are both projected to be picked in the first round of the draft.
Arie Kouandjio and Austin Shepherd are two names currently on the roster to keep an eye on to replace Fluker, but Kouandjio may be better suited to slide over to left guard and replace Warmack.
Another name is the #1 rated high school offensive lineman in the country, Laremy Tunsil. Tunsil is 6-foot-6 and 295 pounds, and if he signs with Alabama, he could very well come in and start at right tackle immediately.
Alabama, along with Georgia and Florida State, are the three finalists for the offensive tackle out of Lake City, Florida. Tunsil’s friendship with Alabama commit Derrick Henry has caused many to believe the Crimson Tide are favorites to land his signature.
Lacy and Fluker have both had very good careers at Alabama, and I’m thankful for all they have done during their time in Tuscaloosa, and obviously wish them nothing but success at the next level.
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