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.
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.