Dec 22, 2013; St. Louis, MO, USA; St. Louis Rams running back Zac Stacy (30) leaps into the end zone for a one yard touchdown during the first half against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at the Edward Jones Dome. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports

Is Tre Mason The Beginning Of The End For Zac Stacy?


This post comes from Justin Becker of FantasyFootballOverdose.com. You can follow him on Twitter @NFLRankings or the Fantasy Football Overdose Google+ Page, and for more 2014 Fantasy Football Rankings visit Fantasy Football Overdose, a fantasy football blog.

 

Even before Tre Mason said that the St. Louis Rams coaching staff suggested he’d have a shot at the starting running back job, we all had to suspect it was possible. After all, the Rams drafted the talented Auburn rusher in the third round when they already had a starting running back, as well as some serviceable talent in place behind him.

So, what was the plan here? Mason himself says the Rams told him he’ll have a chance to compete for Stacy’s starting job right away, and I am inclined to believe him. Mason is indeed the superior athlete and brings more impressive play-making ability and versatility to the table, so putting a guy who can do more ahead of a guy who does less simply makes sense.

We might be guilty of crossing our fingers for it to happen for fantasy purposes, but the reality is that Mason is the better pure talent.

Is it the right move, though? Let’s break down both backs and come to a conclusion as to whether or not Mason should take over as the new starter and if it’d work out:

 

Breaking Down Zac Stacy

There’s no denying Stacy’s solid productivity for a rookie in 2013. He exceeded expectations and gave the Rams a solid ground attack when they simply didn’t have one. He’s undersized and not explosive in the least, but he displays good vision, cuts well and is a decisive runner. He also uses good strength and power to punish inside the tackles.

Overall, his numbers weren’t bad for a rookie, as he ran for 973 yards and seven touchdowns on 250 carries. Even more impressive are some of his individual game efforts, such as a dominant performance against the Seahawks in week eight, as well as two 120+ yard days, one against the Saints and the other against the Buccaneers.

He showed toughness and solid drive against some decent matchups, and naturally picked apart some easier ones, as well.

With that said, he still only averaged 3.9 yards per carry, had several easy matchups and really disappeared down the stretch of the season. In fact, he rushed for less than 4.0 yards per carry in five of his last seven games.

It grew apparent that Stacy is a volume rusher that does not have the speed or quickness or beat elite defenders or crack big plays consistently. That doesn’t make him a bad starting running back, but it won’t always make him an overly effective one. His week 17 season finale against Seattle (15 yards on 15 carries) shows you the low end of his ability.

 

Breaking Down Tre Mason

Mason also isn’t the biggest back in the world, but he has the frame and toughness to handle a big load, and showed that as a monster producer at Auburn. He also possesses borderline elite speed and athleticism, showing good quickness and solid short area burst. In addition, he’s a highly versatile threat that can develop into a true feature back.

While not quite the tough runner Stacy is, Mason still packs a solid punch and does a much better job at getting yardage before the point of contact, as well as making defenders miss. Both of these attributes could get extra yardage in such a tough division.

The biggest point of all when comparing these two backs is the fact that Mason is the better pure athlete and talent, and simply carries more upside. He has real issues with blocking and ball security, but both are easily correctable.

 

The Verdict

If I’m the Rams, I go to Mason as long as he can correct his flaws. Both of these guys are smaller backs, so size and durability goes out the window. The big issue is whether or not Mason comes in and becomes a liability in pass protection or ball security. If those aren’t serious issues, he offers way too much compared to Stacy and should be their lead rusher.

Dick's Sporting Goods presents "Hell Week":

Tags: St. Louis Rams Tre Mason Zac Stacy

  • erick

    Again I’m forced to point out masons very bad pass blocking skills. .. go watch his tape and you will see what I’m talking about. .. I hope he improves a lot. .. but there’s no way he starts if if he doesn’t improve dramatically. ..

    • MichaelNupe Thompson

      We still got that elite o line coach. So I’m confident he can get it together

    • Nathan Kearns

      You’re pointing our a problem that 99% of rookie running backs have coming out of college; primarily because, like Mason, they aren’t asked to do it with an regularity. But, to your point, Zac Stacy was equally putrid in pass protection last season, and regularly caused problems with Jake Long and Joe Barksdale by being out of position (see Jake Long “tripping” call). Moreover, Schottenheimer rarely asks his running backs to stay engaged in the backfield on passing plays. More often, they’re asked to chip and wheel/roll to the flats or curl in front of the linebackers.

  • Natedogg265

    Why are all the rams bloggers stuck on the 3rd round draft pick?

    The most exciting pick of the draft was Aaron Donald.

    • Nathan Kearns

      I believe Mr. Donald has had plenty of coverage, including a recent piece on our site about the “resurrection” of the Fearsome Foursome. However, there is “story” in Greg Robinson or Aaron Donald, so to speak. OTAs haven’t even started for the St. Louis Rams, and potential “camp battles” are about as juicy as it gets right now…

  • MichaelNupe Thompson

    I feel what you’re saying it’s just. Stacy was there when none of the other backs were stepping up. Stacy took a line that was bad at run blocking and still found day light. Until the line eventually got it together. Stacy isn’t the back that’s going to break away fit a big run often. It will rarely happen. He only had one break away run for a td, it was a 40 yard run. With mason he could brake off fit a big run at any point. Mason reminds me of a smaller lynch. A beast with speed. Idk though. Could be a great opportunity to make the offense more dynamic.

  • pboi619

    i feel that this whole situation is getting blown up to more than it really is…I have no reason to full believe that Stacy is the better back we say he doesnt have break away speed but I’ve seen him break some big runs and the lack of production during the seahawks game was due to a line not being able to handle the NFC west lines…but with that said i see Mason getting a lot of Snaps he is a better pass catcher than Stacy ho i see it they will split Stacy 70% Mason 30% give or take or i see us being a 2 back system now so it can be 60% 40%

    • Gary Stewart

      i have been on record saying 15 carries per game for zac and 10 per game for tre thats 25 carries at 4 ypc total 100 ypg and 1600 for the season plus the out of the backfield catches mix in maybe 150 yards from tavon in the run game and maybe 50 for bailey and you get 1800 yds running and zac and tre remain fresh with fish and co occasionally sticking with the hot back any given game!!

      • pboi619

        I’m pretty sure we are going to run it more than 25 times a game just because how our O-line is set up…..i also doubt that Bailey gets rushing yards the reason why is thats Tavons field not Stedman he took that route because Tavon was lost at the end of the season…but I’m telling everybody right now Stedman Bailey will be our #1 Wr he was the only WR toward the end of the season who was beating coverage and “HE DOESNT DROP THE BALL”…sucks that he has a 4 game suspension

        • Gary Stewart

          pboi you may have noticed i had bailey at 50 yards thats 1 or 2 double reverses in the whole season to get 50 yards and tavon thats maybe 10 carries a season to keep the defenses game planning and dividing their attention i didn’t mention benny but he should get some carries maybe 2-3 per game added to the 25 for zac and tre and the 1 per game for tavon and bailey that now adds up to about 30 runs per game total if we don’t go hurry up and use clock 30 carries per game plus 20-25 pass plays including the basically long hand off toss sweep type stuff we should be able to control clock and if our 4 minute offense flourished in the 4th quarter we should wrap up a few of those close games we used to find a way to lose

  • Klondike

    Stacy broke long run after long run in the SEC and didn’t get run down that much. He ran a 4.5 at the combine. The athletic ability difference is not what you think it is.