Would Packers have chosen Montee Ball?

May, 1, 2013
5/01/13
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Our annual draft analysis includes a category entitled "File it Away." I used it this year to discuss the Detroit Lions' failure to draft a receiver or an offensive tackle, but I want to follow up with a second scenario that could have more lasting impact in the NFC North.

Recall that the Green Bay Packers' original second-round pick was originally the No. 55 overall selection. As it approached, many of us were wondering if the Packers planned to draft a running back, and as it turned out, they would have had their choice between Alabama's Eddie Lacy and Wisconsin's Montee Ball, among others.

But the Packers traded out of the position, moving to the No. 61 overall pick in exchange for an additional sixth-round draft pick from the San Francisco 49ers. The Denver Broncos drafted Ball at No. 58, leaving the Packers to select Lacy at No. 61.

We might never learn whether the Packers preferred Ball or Lacy if given a choice. Brian Gutekunst, the Packers' director of college scouting, told reporters only that the Packers knew there would be a player they liked at No. 61. But it's worth noting that the Broncos chose Ball because of concerns over Lacy's injury history.

"It was a close call, no question," John Elway, the Broncos' executive vice president of football operations, told reporters. "You're talking about two great backs. The bottom line is, we looked at the medical. It came down to the medical side."

Lacy had toe surgery following the 2011 season, forcing him to miss spring practice in 2012. He dealt with an ankle sprain during the 2012 season and was limited during predraft workouts because of a hamstring injury.

The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported that the Pittsburgh Steelers drafted Michigan State's Le'Veon Bell at No. 48 overall because of Lacy's toe injury. The report suggested the injury was more serious than some realized and that it required a fusion of bones.

Dozens of similar scenarios occur in every draft, but it will be worth monitoring how those decisions work out for the Steelers, Broncos and Packers. Did the Steelers and Broncos miss out on a more talented player because of unrealized concerns? Or did the Packers' tradedown leave them with a less desired prospect? We'll file this one away.

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