The St. Louis Rams will have a changing of the guard at running back in 2013, with Steven Jackson, who spent his first nine NFL seasons with the team, signing with the Atlanta Falcons this offseason. There is not a clear-cut replacement currently in place, but the Rams used a fifth-round pick in April on Zac Stacy and he will join 2012 draft picks Daryl Richardson and Isaiah Pead in a battle for playing time during training camp.
Stacy is Vanderbilt’s all-time leading rusher (3,143 yards), and he served as the workhorse back for the Commodores over his junior and senior seasons, rushing for 2,334 yards on 408 combined carries with 24 touchdowns on the ground. Stacy drew high marks during the pre-draft process for his decisiveness as a runner and comfort in blitz pickup, so his NFL learning curve may not be all that steep.
Pead will be suspended for the first game of the season after violating the league’s substance abuse policy, but Rams’ head coach Jeff Fisher has said it will not affect his status in any preseason position battle. Richardson had a couple of productive games early last season, but his carry total basically evaporated completely late in the season and he may be used in strictly a complementary role this season.
The time between now and when most fantasy drafts occur should bring clarity to the Rams’ running back situation, assuming someone does emerge as a clear-cut top option. Fantasy owners should not draft any of the three with the intent of finding an every week starter, regardless of how things look going into Week 1, but I think Stacy has the most upside potential and is worthy of a late-round pick in 12 and 14-team leagues.
Brad Berreman is a contributing writer at Rant Sports.com. Follow him on Twitter @bradberreman24.