FanPost

Ball vs. Lacy: The Case For Montee Ball

If you’re a Broncos fan, you’re certainly familiar with the narrative, in the 2013 NFL Draft, the Denver Broncos selected Montee Ball with the 58th overall selection of the draft, passing on Eddie Lacy, who was drafted by the Packers with pick 61. At first glance, the choice of Ball over Lacy looks like a no-brainer, when examining both backs’ college statistics. Eddie Lacy racked up 2740 total yards and 32 TDs in his three seasons in Alabama, while Ball doubled both of those totals, amassing 5738 total yards and 83 TDs in his four seasons spent as the starting back for the Wisconsin Badgers. Regardless of his collegiate statistical advantages, there have been questions about whether or not the Broncos made the right selection in Ball, questions that get louder and louder with the continued success of Lacy as the Packers lead back, while Ball splits time in the Broncos backfield with Knowshon Moreno. While the reasoning behind these questions is understandable, they are not fair to ask at this point in both young backs’ careers, and they are far from being answered; one thing is for sure though, Montee Ball has shown equal signs of a promising career in the NFL as Lacy has.

The primary reason that these questions are unfair is simply the workload and the situations that both backs are in. Eddie Lacy earned the starting role out of training camp in Green Bay, and was immediately given a heavy workload in the opening weeks of the season; since the start of the 2013 season, when healthy, Lacy has seen less than fifteen touches just once. In addition to Lacy getting starter snaps from the beginning of the season, the Packers began to rely much more heavily on the rookie when star quarterback, Aaron Rodgers, went down with a broken collarbone in Week 8; since then, the Pack have given Lacy an average of 19 carries per game and he’s been a valuable safety net for the backup QBs, hauling in 19 of his 31 grabs over the past seven weeks. On the other side of the spectrum, Montee Ball started the 2013 season in a battle with two talented backs, Knowshon Moreno and Ronnie Hillman, who each had a full season of learning Peyton Manning’s complicated offense under their belts. Moreno won the starting job, and has managed to hold onto it due to strong quarterback protection and passionate rushing performances; however, Ball has managed to be an effective change-up back and has provided some solid pass protection as of late. In addition to that, Ball has shown some real explosiveness and an ability to run at the NFL level in the action that he has seen. Anyone who watched the Broncos’ Week 11 matchup against the Chiefs, where Montee put up 117 yards in just 13 carries can see the potential that Ball has as a runner. Clearly, the sheer quantity of opportunities that Lacy has been given gives him an advantage over Ball, prompting people to unfairly suggest that he is the better back; statements that become more absurd when looking at the numbers that the two backs have respectively managed.

Rush Yards

Yards/Game

Yards/Attempt

Attempts/Game

TDs

Montee Ball

455

32.5

4.3

7.6

4

Eddie Lacy

1028

79.1

4.1

19.1

8

Simply observing the two backs’ rushing statistics reveals an obviously heavier workload for Lacy, resulting in more yards, yards per game, attempts per game, and touchdowns; however, Ball has actually averaged more yards per attempt, suggesting that he would have similar numbers to Lacy if given more opportunities. The Broncos and Packers run similar offenses, the Broncos averaging 41.6 (58%) pass attempts and 29.6 (42%) rushing attempts per game, while the Packers average 35.1 (55%) pass attempts and 28.2 (45%) rushing attempts per game, which makes the two teams easy to compare. If Montee Ball were to maintain his 4.3 yards per attempt, as well as his 26.5 carries per touchdown, and was given the same percentage of the load of work in Denver that Eddie Lacy receives in Green Bay (62.7%), rather than playing second fiddle to Knowshon Moreno, the first-year back’s pro-rated stats alongside Eddie Lacy’s numbers would look as follows:

Rush Yards

Yards/Game

Yards/Attempt

Attempts/Game

TDs

Montee Ball

1114

79.6

4.3

18.5

9

Eddie Lacy

1028

79.1

4.1

19.1

8

With 62.7% of the Broncos’ rushing workload, Montee Ball would receive approximately 260 carries, which yield the numbers in the above table. With an equal workload to Lacy, Ball’s pro-rated statistics indicate that the rookie back out of Wisconsin would have equal, if not better numbers than Eddie Lacy. The Packers’ and Broncos’ offensive lines appear to be equally talented, with the 10th and 1lth ranked rush offensive lines respectively per Football Outsiders, meaning that this would not be a factor in production between the two. When you look at more advanced statistics regarding the two backs, like the one below, it reveals that Montee Ball have a higher first down rate on his carries, as well as a higher TD rate. Additionally, you see that Ball has had a slightly harder time holding onto the ball (which got him into the early season doghouse), but you also see that both backs have provided excellent quarterback protection with 0% sack rates.

First Down Rate (Rush)

TD Rate

Fumble Rate

30+ Yd Rushes

Sack Rate

Montee Ball

26.7%

3.8%

1.9%

1

0%

Eddie Lacy

22.2%

3.2%

0.4%

3

0%

In addition to showing similar talent in rushing and pass protection, Montee Ball and Eddie Lacy have very similar receiving numbers out of the back field, with Ball averaging half the catches as Lacy, and exactly half the yards. Again, if the numbers that Ball has put up were pro-rated using the same workload as Lacy, it can be seen that the Badger alum would have eerily similar numbers to those of Lacy.

Rec. Yards

Yards/Game

Yards/Catch

Catches/Game

TDs

Montee Ball

123

8.8

7.2

1.2

0

Eddie Lacy

236

18.2

7.6

2.4

0

Eddie Lacy’s has 31 total receptions this year, giving him 9.70% of Green Bay’s passing completions. If Montee Ball were to have an equal portion of the Broncos’ pass completions, he would have approximately 31 as well (30.846), which would give him pro-rated receiving stats as follows (assuming he continued to average 7.2 yards per catch):

Rec. Yards

Yards/Game

Yards/Catch

Catches/Game

TDs

Montee Ball

222

15.9

7.2

2.2

0

Eddie Lacy

236

18.2

7.6

2.4

0

While clearly these numbers are built upon the assumption that Ball would maintain his average numbers across the same amount of work as Lacy, it appears as though the backs have shown similar promise for each of their teams in the play that they’ve been given. There is no question that both running backs are going to be premier players for their teams in the NFL in years to come, Lacy simply has been given the opportunity to do so early in his career. Meanwhile, Montee Ball is stuck behind Knowshon Moreno, who is having a huge breakout year for the Broncos, and is arguably the Broncos’ MVP behind Peyton Manning. It’s safe to say that even if the Broncos had drafted Lacy, he would probably be playing a secondary role to Moreno, who still would have had the advantage of knowing the pass-protection schemes and the intricate play calls of Peyton Manning from the start of the season. The Broncos will be in an interesting position in the offseason, when Moreno becomes an unrestricted free agent. Denver will have to choose between keeping Moreno at a much higher price, now that he has proven he can be a number one back, or cut ties with Moreno and hand the reins to Montee Ball, who appears to be the future franchise back. While I love the passion and play of Knowshon, if the price were too high to keep him around, I have no doubt that Montee Ball could come in and do exactly what everyone hoped he could when the Broncos drafted him, and assume the role of the every down back. While it is yet to be seen who the better running back will be, these players are both unquestionably talented players, and at this point, the only thing that separates them is a greater chance for Lacy to put his talents on display; don’t let the added reps fool you into thinking that Lacy would have been the better draft choice.


This is a Fan-Created Comment on MileHighReport.com. The opinion here is not necessarily shared by the editorial staff of MHR

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