Earlier in the offseason Shawn Siegele wondered if Zac Stacy is the most underrated player in fantasy. I’m updating my RB targets this weekend and definitely putting Stacy on my list of early round RB targets based on Shawn’s reasoning, along with some other factors.
Let’s start with two of those factors: Brian Schottenheimer and Jeff Fisher. They both have an extended history of being run heavy coaches. Consider the following tables which show each of their histories in Pass Tendency:
Jeff Fisher Pass Tendency History
Brian Schottenheimer Pass Tendency History
There are 19 unique seasons shown in the two tables and only four of them landed on the side of being pass heavy (pass heavy is a positive PASSTEN, or Pass Tendency).
The Rams have been stocking up on the defensive pieces to be run heavy as well. In fact they came in 2nd in the index I created to measure the drafting of defensive talent. They’ve been molding their team to create an opportunity to win while not having to score a bunch of points. It might be worth noting that based on Jeff Fisher’s history as a coach, that’s probably not an actual optimal strategy – Fisher is the king of .500 – but they seem to think it works. As long as I’m on this tangent I feel like it’s worth mentioning that the rash of success that teams have had running the ball has also been accompanied by efficient passing QBs who pick up first downs with their legs. Nobody that mentions the success of running the football ever draws that distinction.
In addition to the Rams defensive young talent, they drafted Greg Robinson in May and they’re planning on playing him at guard. At a minimum this is a tell that they want to be able to run, but it’s also possible that the move actually does help them run.
There’s probably some reason to expect that the Rams could be more competitive in their own division this year as well. The Seahawks can probably expect some natural regression in addition to the number of pieces that they lost in free agency (Chris Clemons, Red Bryant, Walter Thurmond, Clinton McDonald). We’ve also written about how the 49ers probably can’t be as good on defense in 2014.
It’s also possible that the Rams offense could be more efficient this year. Consider the way that their 2013 season unfolded. Early in the year they couldn’t run the ball and had a bunch of negative value run plays holding them back. Then in the middle of the year they lost Sam Bradford and were forced to get more conservative on offense. Luckily Stacy helped them improve their run game, but they only had a few games where they both had Sam Bradford and had an effective run game. It’s worth noting that the Rams played both CAR and SEA over that stretch.
I think it’s fair to wonder whether the Rams drafting of Tre Mason signals that they don’t like Stacy. First, I think that question is probably more relevant in dynasty and I’m not actually going to address that here. But I think it’s pretty easy to see a scenario where Stacy easily leads the team in carries and Mason comes in to spell him because they do plan to run a lot. For re-draft purposes the Mason pick doesn’t scare me. I would look for Mason to compile around 100 carries while Stacy is the workhorse and also gets the (increased from 2013) goal line work.