Fantasy Throwdown: Montee Ball vs. Eddie Lacy: Which Rookie Running Back Should Be Taken First?

by Will Overton

In a year in which we’re told how thin the top of the running back group is and how fast they are going to go, everyone is looking for the next big thing. That guy they can grab in round 6 or 7 like Stevan Ridley last season who will pay big dividends if they miss out early.

With so many people looking for that same type of guy it has brought an awful lot of attention this season to the rookie running back group. There are right around 6 – 7 different rookie backs being taken in standard leagues. However there are two specific guys being taken in those middle rounds that we are going to focus on, it would be three, but Le’Veon Bell falls off the list with his injury.

Just because Montee Ball and Eddie Lacy weren’t taken in the first round of the NFL Draft doesn’t mean they don’t have fantasy value. Both guys wound up in somewhat favorable situations and both are in line to have pretty good fantasy value this year. Each guy is also being taken mostly as 3rd, sometimes even 2nd running backs. The question is which one do you want first?

First of all let’s look closer at where these two are being drafted. Fantasypros.com has an excellent ADP system where they take the ADP from six different sites and average them all. This is where they have each guy:

Montee Ball – 49th overall
Eddie Lacy – 61st overall

Now let’s look at some key areas and see who has the advantage where:

The Offensive System: Both of these teams are more pass first than not and both of them were in the bottom third of the league as far as rushing yardage goes. What might be surprising is that despite their pass first reputations both of these offenses actually did run the ball a fair amount. Denver was actually top ten in rushing attempts while Green Bay was 16th. Because Denver and Green Bay have such prestigious quarterbacks we make assumptions, but they both seem to strive for a more balanced attack and both hope their new additions can get them there.
Advantage: No Edge Given

Offensive Lines: The gap here isn’t as wide as some might assume. Denver is widely touted to be a top five offensive line in the league, but a lot of that reputation, which is earned, has to do with their elite level pass blocking. When it comes to run blocking they were more run of the mill last year, ranking 12th overall in run blocking according to footballoutsiders.com. Meanwhile Green Bay ranked 25th. While Green Bay didn’t have a whole lot of talent at running back, their offensive line did them no favors. I would have liked to see Green Bay make some more changes, but they have young talent and they are trying some new things. The edge here goes to Denver for sure, but the gap might not be as big as we’re led to believe.
Advantage: Montee Ball

Opportunity: This factor might weigh more than the rest. Both offenses run the ball a somewhat similar amount so it’s going to be important who will get the most touches to do something with. Right now neither have been named official starters, but for Lacy it feels like it’s just a matter of time. In Green Bay I think Lacy is going to be the starter early on if not week one. DuJuan Harris has some talent, but he’s not even in Lacy’s league and I think we all know it.

As for Ball, he seems to be unlikely to be starting right away. The Broncos seem to be impressed with Ronnie Hillman and the improvements he made over the offseason. He was drafted relatively early last season and so this isn’t the same kind of situation as in Pittsburgh where the competition has had their chances and failed. If nothing else I think Ball could easily end up in one of this dreaded carry shares that give fantasy owners nightmares.
Advantage: Eddie Lacy

Pass Catching: Neither of these two had much of a history as pass catchers in college and I doubt any of them make a living there in the NFL either. Neither Green Bay or Denver used their running backs as receivers much last season. Denver probably used them the most, but I see Ball as having the least amount of pass catching skills. Honestly if you’re in a PPR league you are probably downgrading both guys just a little.
Advantage: No Edge Given

Longevity/Overall Skill Level: I’m putting the two of these together because I think they go together. Opportunity is a big deal now, but if you’re in a keeper league it’s almost more important to be more skilled because that’s what will bring you longevity. This is an area where I see Lacy getting an edge. Lacy faced the best competition in college and just on the eye test he looked better. He’s more polished as a runner and isn’t just a straight ahead kind of guy like the other two. He also has the least wear and tear on his body. Ball carried a very heavy workload in college, going over 300 touches each of his last two years. Lacy should have the most life left in him and has the most promising future in terms of sustained success.
Advantage: Eddie Lacy

Conclusion: When it comes right down to it all both of these guys are very close together and each has their own advantages. Ball probably plays in the most run oriented offense and could be a real goal line machine. Lacy is the most skilled though in my opinion and while he has some competition in Green Bay he’s clearly the best of that bunch and he’s more of a sure thing to start and get 20 touches per game.

With Lacy being drafted at least a round later than Ball I have to give a slight lean to him. When they are this close, Lacy seems to have the best value with the combination of draft position and overall upside. I also think Ball is being drafted slightly too high with many owners ignoring the fact that Hillman is looking like the starter in Denver.

What do you think of these two? Which one would you take if you could only have one and which one, if either, is being drafted too high?

Make sure to check out all of our 2013 preseason rankings:

Fantasy Throwdown: Jimmy Graham vs. Rob Gronkowski: Who Is The #1 Tight End

2 comments

  1. Muddy Cleats says:

    I like Lacy better….

    Who do you think has more value – Dwyer or Redman? Sudfeld or Houser? looking at both as depth guys….would you take Reece, J. Bell or Christine Michael over either of these two steelers? looking at picking one of these guys for my rb5 so more of a depth pickup….

  2. Will Overton says:

    Dwyer vs Redman: I’ll take Redman out of those two I think. I don’t particularly like either, but Redman likely gets more work. If this is a PPR league then I might go Reece over Redman. If you Lynch maybe Michael makes more sense. Unless one of those scenarios fits though I think it’s Redman.

    Sudfeld vs. Housler: The buzz on Sudfeld is growing and he absolutely does look the part right now. I still lean Housler personally though. Sudfeld won’t lose all his value if Gronk is healthy, but he loses some. Housler seems the safer bet to be a backend of the top 10 tight ends sleeper.

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