Archive for the ‘Alabama’ Category

As I alluded to in my analysis of Giovani Bernard, this is not a very strong year for running backs. There isn’t a Trent Richardson or Adrian Peterson that is going to be taken in the top 10. There will be some good players taken in the latter rounds, but there are going to be backs taken higher than they probably should. If there is one exception to this, it is Alabama running back Eddie Lacy; he isn’t the next AD or Barry Sanders or Emmitt Smith, but Lacy is a consistent, hard-running back who will make plays in the NFL.

While I was watching Lacy’s film I soon came to realize something that is really impressive about the Alabama product, he almost never takes a negative play. I can only recall a handful of plays off the top of my head where Lacy was taken down in the backfield, and when you consider the types of defenses he went up against in the SEC, that becomes even more impressive. Coaches always tell their running backs to “keep their legs moving” when they are being gang-tackled, and I’m not sure if anyone does that more consistently than Eddie Lacy does. The man simply does not go down without a fight.

When you look at Lacy you notice that he has some good size for a running back, in fact when you really look at him you become surprised at his speed and quickness in relation to his size. In the open field, Lacy has some unbelievably deceptive speed and quickness. I’m sure he was able to make more than a few defenders miss him simply because they were not expecting Lacy to be able to do the things that Lacy does. Unfortunately for Lacy he will not be able to participate in drills this weekend at the Combine due to a hamstring injury, so he’ll just have to hope he is healthy for his pro day in March to show off that speed and agility.

The SEC is known for having some of the best defenses in the entire country. So when you look at Lacy’s numbers, which would be impressive no matter where he played, you have to realize how difficult it is to do what he did last season. In 2012, Lacy ran for over 1300 yards, averaging 6.5 yards a carry, and an unreal 17 touchdowns. Add in his receiving yards and Lacy led the entire SEC in total yards from scrimmage. When you have to play teams like Georgia and LSU every week, it is extremely impressive the amount of success Lacy had.

As a pure running back, Lacy has just about everything you want. He has great vision to find the right hole and a good burst to hit that hole hard. The great thing about Lacy too is he doesn’t need a big hole to make a big play; on several plays I watched him squeeze through a small hole and take it to the house. Lacy also has some decent hands for a running back which he will need to showcase in the pass-happy NFL if he wants to have a long, successful career. Sticking with the passing game, Lacy is a very good pass blocker. He picks up blitzes well and protects his quarterback on plays when he is neither running nor going out for a pass.

I should mention that coming in to his junior season, there were some questions in Tuscaloosa about his ability to hang on to the ball. In 2011, Lacy had a few fumbles in a short sampling of plays, which made the Crimson Tide faithful a bit concerned. Lacy obviously spent the following off-season working on his ball handling because this was not really a problem in 2012 where he had over 200 touches.

Lacy is the kind of running back I would love to have on my team. He is a very hard-runner, with good speed and agility. The man simply does not go down without a fight; his legs just never stop moving. Lacy is not going to be a huge star in the league, but he will probably be a consistent contributor on a team looking to add a new wrinkle to their offense. Lacy might end up being a steal in the middle of the second round if general managers realize what I have quickly realized, this is just a bad year for running backs and it is far smarter to wait to find your guy later on in the draft.

 

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Finding a cornerback with good cover skills is very hard to do in the NFL. For that reason players that maybe don’t deserve a big payday but are decent in coverage have received some big contracts recently. Brandon Carr, Jason McCourty among others have received some sizeable contracts simply because they are OK in coverage and far better than some of the other players available at the position. There are really only a select handful of players in the NFL who are great in man-to-man coverage, and teams are always looking to add someone like that on their roster. The organization that has the opportunity to select Dee Milliner this year will have that player on their team.

When isolated man-to-man, there isn’t a better player in this year’s class than Dee Milliner. On film it seemed like he was nearly always in the hip pocket of his man, always in the perfect position to make a play. He is very fluid in his movements, has great speed for someone his size at 6’1”, and has some great ball skills. One of the things that impressed me the most was his willingness to play at 100% until the whistle was blown. On several plays the receiver made the catch, but Dee kept fighting until the ball was knocked loose and ruled incomplete. Giving an effort like that will cause a lot of NFL scouts to salivate.

Milliner did just about everything that he is going to be asked to do in the NFL while playing for the Crimson Tide. He played on the outside as well as the inside. He blitzed the quarterback on several occasions with some moderate success; recording 1.5 sacks this past year. He played special teams on the punt coverage unit. He seems like a team player who will be willing to do anything and everything to help his future NFL team.

Taking a look at Dee’s numbers truly does not do him justice. Milliner only recorded 2 interceptions this past season along with 20 passes broken up, 1 blocked kick, and 4 tackles for loss. Those aren’t mind-blowing numbers on paper, but lucky for Dee football isn’t played on paper. Dee is going to be one of the best players on any given football field on any given Sunday.

Just to pump the breaks a little bit, Dee is not God’s gift to defensive backs. He has wrinkles just like any other player. On film he got blocked far too easily on running plays, completely getting taken out on some plays altogether. His biggest issue though may be his tackling. Far too many times I saw Dee fail to wrap up his man and miss tackles. For younger players it seems that good form tackling is a common problem, but it really seems like an issue with Dee. To really live up to his potential, he needs to work on wrapping up his man; when taking notes on Milliner I wrote “NEEDS TO WRAP UP” several times in all-caps and with exclamation points. If Dee can get over this issue there is really no good reason why he can’t be in the conversation for the best corner in the league in a few years.

Dee Milliner is a top-5 talent who will likely not be taken in the top 5. He has unbelievable reaction time, great speed, and good hands. He appears to have a good work ethic, seems to be a good teammate, and has a great motor. You don’t often see a player he can stay on his man as well as Dee can. Milliner has all kinds of potential and whoever picks him in April will be getting a stud in their defensive backfield, someone to build their entire defense around. I believe that the Lions would be very wise to take this kid at number 5, if he hasn’t already been taken.

Follow me on Twitter: @bill_slane

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