The St. Louis Rams had a big question over who would be their No. 1 running back this season with the offseason departure of Steven Jackson, and the first four weeks of the season have none brought any clarity to the situation. Daryl Richardson had a somewhat promising Week 1 performance against the Arizona Cardinals, with 20 carries for 63 yards and five catches for 33 yards, but a foot injury basically kept him out of Week 3 against the Dallas Cowboys and a dismal performance against the San Francisco 49ers in Week 4 (16 yards on 12 carries, one catch for eight yards) has him on tenuous footing as the lead back for the Rams.
Isaiah Pead was a healthy inactive for the 49ers’ game, which head coach Jeff Fisher chalked up to wanting to use rookie wide receiver Tavon Austin out of the backfield more. That is flimsy reasoning to be sure, but without clarity about a possible injury or disciplinary issue it’s all anyone has to go on.
Richardson responded to a fan on Twitter on Wednesday and said he wouldn’t be starting on Sunday against the Jacksonville Jaguars, but Fisher would not confirm that is the case. That opens the door for a full-blown running back by committee for the Rams, with Richardson and Pead as well as rookies Benny Cunningham and Zac Stacy possibly in the mix. Cunningham (10) and Stacy (one) have combined for only 11 carries so far this season, and Richardson’s stock is falling. So can Pead emerge as a fantasy contributor in Week 5?
The Jaguars enter Week 5 allowing 17.5 fantasy points per game to opposing running backs (10th-most in the league, ESPN scoring), including the third-most rushing yards (509) to the position. It’s worth noting that each of Jacksonville’s first four opponents had one running back with at least 16 carries in the game, so if the Rams don’t use one back primarily some good production could wind up being split fairly equally, to the detriment of all involved.
I think Pead and Richardson are both usable as a flex option in 12 and 14-team leagues this week, particularly for owners whose running back depth is being tested by a bye week (Adrian Peterson, Doug Martin and Alfred Morris idle) or injuries. Pead is still an unknown quantity with just 17 career carries, but I like his upside potential in a favorable matchup this week and he may get an opportunity to prove he deserves a bigger role going forward.
Brad Berreman is a contributing writer at Rant Sports.com. Follow him on Twitter @bradberreman24.