Alabama running back Eddie Lacy dazzled the nation with his power running in the SEC championship game and the BCS national championship game.
He powered through Georgia’s defense for 181 yards on 20 carries to win the SEC title game MVP award. In the BCS title game, Notre Dame couldn’t stop Lacy either. He finished with 140 yards rushing on 20 carries in the 42-14 rout.
The guy they call “circle button” for his deft spin moves certainly looked like a big-time NFL prospect in those games.
But he’s received mixed results after a shoddy workout on his Pro Day on April 11 and may slip out of the first round of the NFL draft, which is set for Thursday through Saturday.
After the Crimson Tide won their second consecutive BCS title, Lacy was slowed by a hamstring injury. He didn’t take part in the workouts at the NFL scouting combine in February.
When he was ready to run at his Pro Day, he ran a disappointing 4.58 seconds in the 40-yard dash and appeared to be out of shape.
Bucky Brooks, a former NFL player and analyst for NFL.com, was not impressed as Lacy took several breaks during the workout.
“The lack of conditioning exhibited today will lead some coaches and scouts to question his work ethic. Concerns must be addressed in (meetings),” Brooks tweeted from the workout in Tuscaloosa.
Other NFL analysts are not sure how much credit to give Lacy, who ran behind a talented offensive line that featured pro prospects center Barrett Jones, guard Chance Warmack and tackle D.J. Fluker.
“I’m starting to think that (draft analyst) Mel Kiper could have run for 750 yards at Alabama,” ESPN analyst Jon Gruden said. “That’s what’s most impressive to me is the style that Alabama plays offense with. It’s physical. It’s why they’re the National Champion.
“It allows them to control the clock. But I like their power running game, particularly when they run right with Fluker at the point of attack and Warmack pulling around the horn, it’s downright nasty.”
Even Lacy credits his line for his success.
“It all depends on how you look at it,” Lacy said. “I mean, I feel as though we complement each other because you have a great offensive line and you have a great backfield as well.”
Lacy still has his supporters.
“Eddie Lacy to me has the talent and skill-set to be a first-round back,” NFL Network analyst Mike Mayock said. “I’ve got him at No. 18 on my board right now. I think he probably will go between 20 and 32.
“I think there are some teams with some need at tailback. If he slid a little, I wouldn’t consider that a real issue, because I think he’s going to be a solid three down back in the NFL.”
Kiper still has Lacy being selected in the first round.
“Eddie Lacy is a borderline first,” Kiper said. “I think he could easily go where St. Louis is picking at 22, think about Green Bay at 26, even as early as Cincinnati at 21. I don’t see a scenario where Eddie Lacy doesn’t go in the first.”
Before signing running back Steven Jackson, the Falcons were heavily scouting the group of running backs.
In addition to Lacy, Wisconsin’s Montee Ball, Michigan State’s Le’Veon Bell and UCLA’s Johnathan Franklin are three other running backs with bruising styles. Clemson’s Andre Ellington and North Carolina’s Giovani Bernard are more elusive runners in the draft.
“This is a good running backs group,” Falcons general manager Thomas Dimitroff said. “I don’t think you’re hearing a lot about running backs being picked in the top 10. Obviously, you are not hearing a lot of about that, but you definitely could walk away with two or three being picked in the first round that are going to be good contributing picks.”
There’s also the case of South Carolina running back Marcus Lattimore, who suffered a gruesome knee injury against Tennessee last season. He’s battling back from surgery and is trying to recover the explosiveness that he showed during his stint with the Gamecocks.
“He’ll be ready to go in 2014,” Kiper said. “A team that has extra picks in the third or fourth round, I think could look at Marcus Lattimore very seriously at that point.”