No running backs were taken in the first round of the draft this year, the first time that has happened since 1963.
Still, count on a few backs making a huge impact this season. Two of them, Green Bay's Eddie Lacy and Cincinnati's Giovani Bernard, were taken in the second round with the expectation they could make a big impact on championship contenders. And they both flashed a lot of talent on Saturday.
Lacy didn't play last week in the preseason opener because of an injury, and he looked like he had some pent-up energy. On his first two runs against St. Louis he initiated contact and broke multiple tackles, as the big back ran through defenders for extra yards. He picked up 22 yards on his first two preseason NFL carries, and looked like a player who can be a punishing NFL back – and wants to be a punishing NFL back. He even added a nifty spin move later on a catch out of the backfield, and we've seen that before. He had 40 yards on eight carries.
There were questions about Lacy coming into the draft, and that's why he fell out of the first round and was the fourth running back selected. But most reports on him from camp have been positive, he seems to be the clear favorite to start the season opener, and his first game action was impressive. If he can play like that, and not break down in the process, he adds a dimension to the Packers offense they haven't had in a few years.
Bernard is a completely different kind of back, but that's OK with the Bengals. They already have BenJarvus Green-Ellis to grind it out between the tackles. What Bernard, thefirst running back selected in this year's draft, can do is add a big-play element the Bengals have lacked the last couple years outside A.J. Green.
Green-Ellis was held out for an undisclosed reason, so Bernard got some needed experience against Tennessee. He had seven carries for 39 yards and a touchdown. One first-quarter drive showed what value he could have to the Bengals. He started the drive with runs of 9, 9 and 7 yards on the first three plays. On the fourth play he had a 22-yard reception. He later finished that drive with a 1-yard touchdown, his second short touchdown in two weeks. He looked decisive and had the physical ability to get to the second level.
If the second preseason games were a sign of what Lacy and Bernard can do for their teams in the regular season, they might have been pretty good draft values outside the first round.
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