Roulette is a casino game named after a French diminutive for little wheel. Players may choose to place bets on either a single number or a range of numbers, the colors red or black, or whether the number is odd or even.
This game is similar to what fantasy owners must do in certain position battles that remain unclear at this point in the offseason. In this series Rushing Roulette we will examine some running back corps around the league and determine which numbers are best to play. Today we'll look at the St. Louis Rams.
Earlier this offseason the Rams lost long-time starting running back Steven Jackson in free agency to the Falcons. Jackson had been with the Rams since he was a first-round pick in 2004. Now that he's gone the Rams have to look elsewhere to find a starter. They currently have three options on the roster.
Isaiah Pead was selected in the second-round (50th overall) of the 2012 NFL draft. He was coming off a strong senior season at Cincinnati where he rushed for over 1,200 yards on the year. Pead impressed me at the Senior Bowl in January 2012 and ended up winning the game's Most Valuable Player award. At the 2012 Scouting Combine, Pead displayed why scouts thought he was one of the fastest backs in this class. His 4.47 40-yard dash time tied him for fifth among 28 running backs.
Pead is a natural runner with good straight line speed and is a threat to score once he's in the open field. He has good field vision and the footwork to hit a cutback lane that opens up away from the playside. Pead is a versatile player who can be used effectively on inside runs, outside sweeps, or on draw plays. He can also be relied on as a consistent receiver out of the backfield as evidenced by his 39 catches as a senior at Cincinnati.
Last year Pead could barely get on the field and only recorded 10 carries for 54 yards as a rookie for the Rams. He also chipped in a mere three catches for 16 yards on the season. Pead lost out to fellow rookie Daryl Richardson to be the primary back behind Jackson. This season he'll compete for playing time and is in the mix to win the starting job. Pead is arguably the most versatile of this group but he looked lost during his limited snaps in 2012.
Isaiah Pead has a current average draft position of RB41 and he's coming off the board in the middle of round nine.
Daryl Richardson was also selected in the 2012 NFL draft, but much later than Pead. The Rams took Richardson off the board in the seventh-round (252nd overall). Richardson is the cousin of RB Bernard Scott (Bengals) and like Scott, also came out of Abilene Christian. I watched Richardson from field level and was impressed with his speed during the week of practice for the 2012 Players All Star Classic in Little Rock, AR. Richardson is known as a burner but he also showed the capability to cut at speed and not have to slow down when doing so.
Richardson is dangerous when he gets into the open field. He gets to top speed in the blink of an eye and can beat defenders to the corner. Even cornerbacks who have good angles on him are taken surprise by his elite speed. Richardson likes to toy with defenders and can leave would be tacklers grabbing for air. He lacks ideal size (5'10 and 195 pounds) for a full time position but is a willing inside runner with the patience to press the hole and cutback if needed.
In 2012 Richardson beat out Pead for the primary backup position behind Steven Jackson. He ended the season with 98 carries for 475 yards, and added 24 catches for 163 yards. With those numbers he is now the most experienced running back on the Rams roster. This year he may enter training camp as the favorite at the position but will have to hold off both Pead and rookie Zac Stacy (Vanderbilt).
Daryl Richardson has a current average draft position of RB31 and he's coming off the board right at the top of round seven.
Zac Stacy was selected by the Rams in the fifth-round (160th overall) of the 2013 NFL draft. A two time All SEC selection at running back, Stacy leaves Vanderbilt as the team's all time leading rusher. I watched Stacy at the 2013 Shrine Game earlier this year in Tampa, FL. Like Alfred Morris the year before at the Shrine Game, Stacy immediately jumped out to me as a player who could make an impact at the pro level. During that week of practice he ran with good burst, stayed low and balanced when cutting, and showed patience when running inside.
Stacy has the perfect style for a Jeff Fisher offense. He's built low to the ground (5'9 and 216 pounds), is a no nonsense runner who continually fights for the extra yards after contact. His lower body is powerful and he can run through arm tackles with ease. Stacy is a slippery runner with subtle moves to trick defenders and create his own space. If Fisher wants to get tricky he can use Stacy to throw the ball out of the backfield, and the rookie also has experience taking direct snaps as a Wildcat quarterback. Stacy is not a burner but did record a 90-yard touchdown run against Wake Forest in 2012. He can accelerate quickly and is a load to bring down in the open field.
This season we'll see Stacy compete for the starting job in training camp. He's not as fast as Richardson, but better built to be a starter. He's just as versatile (if not moreso) than Pead and could easily pass him on the depth chart. Stacy might be considered the third player in the competition at this time but that could change quickly in the preseason.
Zac Stacy has a current average draft position of RB44 and he's coming off the board in the middle of round ten.
Roulette requires the players to set chips on the numbers they think will win. When I look at this situation in St. Louis, the skill set of the three potentail starters, and the current average draft position, I put my chips on Stacy. We'll see if he can win this job in training camp. Even if he is the starter, the Rams are still likely to use Richardson as a change of pace runner and receiver. In that event Stacy would still outperform his current ADP and could finish the season as a mid-range RB3 for your fantasy team.
More from Cecil Lammey:
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The Audible: 2013 Beat Writer Tour - Interview with Chargers Beat Writer Michael Gehlken - June 25
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