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Stakes Is High: Tre Mason, Zac Stacy and Price Sensitive Investment

NFL: St. Louis Rams-Rookie Minicamp

When Tre Mason was 3 years old, his father’s rap group put out one of the most influential hip hop albums of the decade. The titular track, Stakes Is High, was an overarching diss to the rap community… a year in which we saw Jay-Z release his best album, OutKast released ATLiens, and Nas’s second studio effort. Everything is comparative; while Plug Three and his De La brothers weren’t pleased with the rap music of the day, if Reasonable Doubt dropped between Chief Keef and Drake’s new albums in 2014, it would be a welcome oasis.

When them stakes is high you damn sure try to do anything to get the piece of the pie

In 2013, we urged you to buy loads of Zac Stacy. Outside of a few stragglers (mostly myself) a majority of the staff thought that Stacy was the most talented back on a Rams roster that included Daryl Richardson, Isiah Pead and Benny Cunningham. That turned out to be correct, incredibly so. Perhaps no one beat the drum for Stacy more than Mr. Banana Stand himself, Shawn Siegele. Shawn put Stacy in the same category as Christine Michael and Latavius Murray last offseason. In fact, when the Rams took Stacy in the 5th round, it was actually predicted by Matt Freedman in his excellent series on the Rams backfield.

Last season’s Rams backfield was fairly unique in terms of fantasy football, as evidenced by the amount of coverage we gave it on the site. There was a coach, Jeff Fisher, who was a stern believer in the ground game and was only armed with a mediocre (slightly above average?) quarterback and only 1 WR who had the RotoViz stamp of approval. There was a completely muddy situation in the backfield with the presumed favorite being 1) terrible and 2) suspended for the first week of the season due to a weed suspension. Daryl Richardson existed and I was really the only one to buy in to any serious degree, but he did end up with a 4th round ADP after he started the Rams preseason games instead of Pead. Benny Cunningham was a very deep sleeper who multiple RV writers liked. All of that noise made Stacy incredibly cheap in  redraft leagues, but still required a first round rookie pick in most dynasty drafts.  2014 and the draft equity invested in Mason is forcing us to analyze this situation yet again, with a different lens.

All of that is a very exhaustive way to make this point: everything has changed. In a comparative lens, Stacy is in a different situation and must be analyzed as such. Stacy seems locked into the starting role and there is very little talk of competition coming out of OTA’s in St. Louis. If you want Zac Stacy on your roster this year, you’re going to have pay a 2nd round premium, according to MFL ADP. That’s a far cry from the value proposition that Stacy offered last season. Jeff Fisher is quoted as saying he wants Stacy to get “70% of the carries” in the Rams offense, but the team did spend a 3rd round pick on Tre Mason, so I think it’s fair to wonder if there is profit potential where he is currently going in drafts.

Yes, competition try to troupe my way
I sing the song you never heard before
I feed the famine in your mind
So mind ya manners baby

An astute RotoViz reader asked in our new and awesome forums asked what impact we should expect Mason to have on Stacy’s fantasy performance. I think the best way to start is to compare them athletically.

Name Height (in) Weight (lbs) Speed Score 40 Yard Bench Press Vert Leap (in) Broad Jump (in) Shuttle 3Cone
Tre Mason 68 207 101 4.5   38.5 125 4.15
Zac Stacy 68 216 101 4.55 27 33 122 4.17 6.7

There is evidence for both sides of the argument here. Stacy isn’t such a transcendent athlete that one would say there is absolutely no way Mason has a physical advantage on him, but the same could be said about Mason. What made Stacy such an interesting prospect was his incredible agility score at such a massive size and we don’t have a complete agility score for Mason. In his final season, Stacy recorded a nQBDR of 52%, while Mason had 65% of the non-QB rushing yards for Auburn. It’s probably safe to say Mason was better in college, but I’m reticent to use that as a point in saying Mason will chip into Stacy’s work significantly as Stacy has already been above average in the NFL.

I’m holdin’ the clue to perfection, it doesn’t seem to matter what direction, I look I find people setting traps tryin’ to find the goal without having any maps

So will Mason have an impact on Stacy’s carries? In terms of probabilities, I would err on the side of no. Fisher’s coaching history will show that he has a tendency to stick with a runner when they are effective. Daryl Richardson wasn’t effective, so Fisher replaced him; but when Stacy was gaining yards at a steady clip, the touches for Pead and Benny Cunningham were limited. Despite the draft resource the organization used to acquire Mason, I don’t see that as an overwhelming sign that Mason should be considered anything more than the lower half of a timeshare. More importantly, Stacy caught 26 passes as a rookie, an area that Agility Score predicted he would excel in. Six of those catches came on 3rd down, where as a fantasy owner, you want Stacy playing. The RB Sim Score App is particularly bullish on Stacy in 2014.

StacySimScores

In fact, that app projects Stacy for a semi-transcendent season and it doesn’t look like Mason is going to stop him.

Standard Half PPR PPR
Low 9.9 10.9 11.2
Median 12.2 13.6 14.6
High 15.2 15.9 16.7

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