This post comes from Justin Becker of FantasyFootballOverdose.com. You can follow the Fantasy Football Overdose Google+ Page, and for more Fantasy Football Projections visit Fantasy Football Overdose, a fantasy football blog.
When the St. Louis Rams bid long time veteran running back Steven Jackson farewell last off-season, fantasy football owners assumed Jackson would be taking any fantasy relevance along with him.
They were right – initially.
Daryl Richardson and Isaiah Pead were the expected top two backs for the St. Louis Rams, with Benny Cunningham working in as flier pieces in the new full-fledged running back by committee approach. In fairness, some wise fantasy enthusiasts looked ahead, put their finger to their chin and thought, “Ya know, that Zac Stacy might be a bit of a fantasy sleeper”.
Perhaps they knew that Stacy was one of the more underrated running backs coming out of Vanderbilt in last year’s draft. Maybe they could see that despite being on the shorter side, the stocky Stacy actually had the strength, leg drive and enough quickness to actually do something at the next level.
That, or they took one look at the uninspiring Richardson and Pead, and did the math. Naturally, the Rams couldn’t get anything going on the ground early in the year. In fact, Stacy ended up being the first St. Louis player to score a rushing touchdown for the team – in week nine.
Thanks has to go out to Richardson and Pead, of course, as fantasy owners would have never been blessed with Stacy’s brute power and physicality against opposing defenses, had it not been for such a rough start on the behalf of the two guys playing ahead of him. Injuries and poor play alike had to happen for Stacy to get a crack in the rotation.
His chance finally came in week five against the Jacksonville Jaguars, and he took advantage right away, rushing for 78 yards on 14 carries, while sporting a gaudy 5.6 yards per carry average.
Stacy earned the start the following week, where he led the Rams to an upset blowout win over the hapless Houston Texans, again topping 70 rushing yards, this time on 18 carries for a still solid 4.4 yards per carry average.
While Stacy’s yards per carry dipped to just 3.1 in his third game as the Rams’ true main back, he made an impact elsewhere as a receiver, putting his versatility on full display with four catches for 34 receiving yards and a touchdown catch.
Suddenly Stacy wasn’t some unknown, but instead a weekly play in fantasy football. Even more, he was now a fairly versatile threat. If only he could add rushing touchdowns to his resume.
Stacy did that just two games, later, when he popped in two touchdown runs during a terrific 127-yard rushing day against the Tennessee Titans.
Feasting on a poor Titans run defense didn’t impress anyone, but the week before he hung 134 rushing yards on the Seattle Seahawks, mashing the eventual Super Bowl champs on 26 carries, keeping the Rams in the game until the game’s final play.
Throughout the rest of the year, St. Louis leaned on Stacy for four more 20+ carry games, including an insane 33 rushing attempts against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in week 16.
Stacy came out of nowhere and crashed down into the fantasy realm as a very solid and stable RB2 from week nine on, while posting at least Flex value from week five on.
In the end, Stacy fell short of 1,000 rushing yards as a rookie by less than 70 yards, ran for a respectable 3.9 yards per carry and found the end-zone a total eight times (seven rushing). Again, that versatility showed up, as he caught 26 balls in just 12 starts.
But that was last season, right? No one saw him coming, whether it be fantasy owners or NFL folk. He was largely an after thought in fantasy football drafts, mostly drafting in the final two rounds or not at all.
Last season, it was, indeed. Heading into 2014, everything about Stacy balloons to new heights. St. Louis GM Les Snead has already loudly made it clear, saying that the Rams have absolutely no plans in making life easier on Stacy.
“He should be more productive (in 2014) because he should have more carries,” Snead said.
And why wouldn’t he? Stacy has proven far and away to be the most effective back on the roster. The only legit reason to not have on the field is if the Rams are in clear passing situations or if he needs a breather. And frankly, even in passing situations, the Rams may still elect to keep him on the field due to his solid pass protection and soft hands as a receiver out of the backfield.
With an obvious role as the Rams top back in 2014, fantasy owners want to know what that means, though. Will Stacy be as good as he was in 2013? Can he be even better?
Why not? The kid was a rookie and was learning on the fly, while going to battle against some of the dirtiest run defenses in arguably the nastiest division in the entire league.
The proof is in the pudding. Stacy hung 134 yards on the Seahawks the first time he met them and even put up 72 on 19 carries against the 49ers. Stretch out his rookie year to include the first four weeks in which he wasn’t yet being utilized, and Stacy could have potentially put up 1,378 rushing yards, roughly 11 total touchdowns and 36 receptions.
Unfortunately, there is a bad side, as well. For one, if we’re extrapolating Stacy’s numbers, we also need to pay mind to his carries. He had one carry in week one and put up 249 carries in the other 12 games he rushed the ball in. Stretch that over a full season, and Stacy would have amassed an incredible 354 carries.
In his 12 games as the main back, he came out to a 20 carry average. Obviously he was a huge part of an offense that was without Sam Bradford and needed to rely on their best offensive player to remain competitive. But the Rams want him to run the ball even more?
That might be a tad troubling considering Stacy wasn’t all that successful his second time around against the Seahawks. Granted, it was the season finale in Seattle, but 15 carries for 15 yards has to be fairly telling.
A 1.8 yard per carry performance on the road against the Arizona Cardinals in week 14 doesn’t help, either, while his 62 yards on 26 carries against the Indianapolis Colts in week 10 was also pretty regrettable.
The point? Stacy is a bruising back with good strength and versatility. However, he’s not an elite athlete and he’s not overly explosive. Due to his power and role, he’s going to put up some good numbers across the board. It will be extremely hard to see him running the ball under 300 times or for under 1,000 yards on the ground.
While that should make him a very solid RB2, Stacy is a candidate to be over-drafted when you look closer. Playing in the NFC West certainly doesn’t do him any favors (six games against tough defenses), while his natural physical limitations can’t be pushed to the side.
Tags: St. Louis Rams