In 2013, Zac Stacy was a waiver-wire stud once he took over as the starting RB for the St. Louis Rams. However, we’ve seen plenty of RBs experience sophomore slumps in the recent past with guys like Trent Richardson and Doug Martin. So is Stacy a solid RB1 in fantasy football going into 2014, or should he be avoided going into the draft?
There are three main factors to consider in determining Stacy’s performance this year. There is the offensive line, the QB play and his competition at the RB position. Let’s break down each of these factors in turn.
First, the Rams boast a strong offensive line that was already ranked 13th in the league by Pro Football Focus in 2013. The Rams further bolstered the line by selecting OT Greg Robinson out of Auburn University with the second overall pick in the 2014 NFL Draft, so Stacy should have decent blocking up front. But despite the strong offensive line play, Stacy only averaged 3.9 yards per carry (YPC) last season.
Part of this is due to the potent run defenses he faces in the NFC West. However, his YPC is disconcerting as Frank Gore, Marshawn Lynch and Andre Ellington averaged 4.1, 4.2 and 5.5 YPC in 2013, respectively, despite playing in the same division with the same tough run defenses (Ellington is somewhat of an outlier as he had far fewer carries in 2013 than the rest of the aforementioned RBs).
In games against divisional opponents last year, Stacy only averaged 3.0 YPC. According to Football Outsiders, Stacy averaged 2.5 yards before contact in 2013. This means that while the line blocked well, Stacy only rushed for 1.4 yards on his own. This leads me to the next factor.
Sam Bradford tore his ACL in Week 7 against the Carolina Panthers last year. In the three games where Bradford started and Stacy was the main back, Stacy averaged 4.4 YPC. Though two of these were against softer run defenses like the Jacksonville Jaguars and Houston Texans, Bradford’s presence definitely aided the run game.
After Bradford was placed on IR, Kellen Clemens didn’t exactly strike fear into the hearts of the Rams’ opponents following Bradford’s injury. Most defenses focused on stopping the run after Bradford’s injury in Week 7. Bradford’s return in 2014 should help take some of the focus off Stacy and give him more room to work.
Finally, there is the matter of the Rams drafting Tre Mason in the third round of the draft this year. Mason is a very talented rookie RB and has a lot of big-play potential. While Stacy is most likely the starter going into the season, it’s possible that Mason could show flashes as the backup and eventually steal the job away.
However, it’s paranoid to think that Mason will step in and automatically oust Stacy. Assuming Stacy can increase his YPC in 2014 and lead the Rams to victory against their divisional rivals, he should stay the lead back in St. Louis. Mason’s presence is merely something to take note of at this point in the offseason.
It seems that many are divided on Stacy going into 2014. In mock drafts, I’ve seen him taken as early as the early second round and as late as the mid-third round. Personally, I think that Stacy should improve on his 2013 performance with a strong offensive line and Bradford back as the starting QB. However, it wouldn’t shock me if Mason cuts into his carries midway through the season. I wouldn’t take Stacy as a top-10 RB, but if you believe in him, you’d better reach for Mason as a handcuff later in your draft.