How A STacy Injury Impacts The Rams
Stacy was 27 yards shy of 1000 during his rookie year. Keep in mind that Stacy earned his totals in a 14-game span where Sam Bradford missed half of the season, the offense was in the midst of a scheme transition, and there hasn't been any stability at wide receiver or tight end for several years. All things considered, Stacy's 3.9 yards per carry was better than it appeared and most fantasy owners value Stacy appropriately as a solid fantasy RB2 heading into the 2014 season.
If Stacy misses significant time this year St. Louis lacks an experienced versatile threat on the depth chart and the Rams will have to count on a committee of backs to manage Stacy's responsibilities. This assessment of the depth chart doesn't sound good from a fantasy perspective, but don't get too caught up in the statement that the Rams need a committee to replace Stacy.
There are two backs on this depth chart with the skills to help fantasy squads -- one as a borderline RB2/flex and another as a bye-week option. If Sam Bradford can stay healthy, the passing game could be just potent enough to keep defenses honest and the help the ground game remain a productive facet of the offense.
A reason for further optimism is the Rams' acquisition of veteran backup Shaun Hill, a quality reserve capable enough that opposing defenses won't have as easy a time crowding the line of scrimmage and daring St. Louis to throw the ball. In other words, Bernie Kosar wouldn't have many derogatory things to say about Hill even if he escaped from the dark equipment shed that the NFL has bound and gagged him after last year's on-air verbal beat-down of Kellen Clemens.
RB Tre Mason - There's no position in fantasy football that inspires more hope or over-projection of performance than that of a rookie running back. Mason, the first-year Ram from Auburn, has physical dimensions, athleticism, and a running style similar to Ray Rice. Unlike the Ravens' star, Mason is not an accomplished third-down player. Unless he surprises the Rams by learning a number of pass protection techniques and concepts faster than most rookies that have displayed his lack of development, Mason will -- at best -- force a committee situation with a healthy Stacy if performs between the tackles as he did at Auburn.
If Stacy gets hurt, Mason has the best interior skills to earn the lead role on run downs or earn some targets as a receiver. However, it's a good bet to anticipate the Rams rotating Benny Cunningham (and possibly Isaiah Pead) into the lineup. It means, Mason's outlook in the Rams offense this year is as a fantasy RB3, at best. If he takes to third-down duties faster than expected then Mason will be worth the excitement that some share for him and he'll have similar upside as Stacy. Buy Mason, but don't overpay.
WR Tavon Austin - During his rookie year, Austin earned 151 yards and a touchdown with only 9 rushing attempts in 13 games. There are echoes of Darren Sproles to Austin's game and offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer told the media that the Rams will move Austin around the formation, getting Austin the ball as both a receiver and runner. If Stacy gets hurt, Austin's opportunities in the Rams' backfield won't increase significantly in number, but the rise in touches should be helpful to his overall fantasy production. Austin was mentally behind the curve for much of last season, but reports from camp indicate that he's far more comfortable with the offense and he should be a major focal point of the scheme.
QB Sam Bradford - You're probably not counting on Bradford as your starter, but there's no doubt that you see a glimmer of hope for Bradford to fulfill his promise this year if you made him a late pick in your re-draft league. Bradford has been banged up, but from he hasn't had the decision-making wisdom beaten from him like Trent Edwards, Kevin Kolb, or David Carr. The addition of Kenny Britt, better years from Tavon Austin and Jared Cook, and the potential for a great defensive front could make life easier for Bradford and the Rams. If these components click, an injury to Stacy may hurt the team in the red zone and short yardage situations, but it won't hurt the passing game. In fact, it might require the Rams to throw more.
WR Kenny Britt - There's a reasonably strong chance that Britt will begin the season as the team's primary receiver. He's healthy, in shape, and performing well in camp. The only thing overshadowing Britt's talent as a receiver is his talent for poor off-field decisions. Considering that Britt posted an adult video on Twitter during the NFL Draft that starred him and his girlfriend, it's easy to remain skeptical of the Rams receiver when it comes to his off-field life. But as a talented late-round pick, Britt is worth holding onto if he performs well -- especially if an injury to Stacy could mean more targets. As long as you treat Britt as a player who could be cut any week and you remain vigilant about seeking a viable substitute in your starting lineup, holding onto Britt isn't a bad idea. Just keep in mind that it's not always cost effective to own two players to feel comfortable about one.
TE Jared Cook - The ultra-athletic tight end will provide at least a game or two of elite production in a given season, but he has not put it all together and it becomes less likely he will with each passing year. If Cook sees an uptick in performance with a Stacy injury and that performance occurs versus teams that are stingy against tight end play, Cook could provide quality production.
No one - As it stands today, a Stacy injury would not precipitate a selloff of any Rams skill player. However, there are two players that might be good options to sell high: Tre Mason and Jared Cook. If Mason struggles mightily in pass protection during training camp and the preseason it could be worth selling Mason high if Stacy suffers an injury and your league mates aren't great at keeping up with these details. The rookie won't see as much time as some will anticpate and they'll be willing to overpay for his skill as a runner.
Cook is another consideration because he has shown enough big-play ability to entice fantasy owners that are suckers for bright and shiny toys (big, fluid athletes). Cook's best fantasy season came last year and he was only the 11th-best tight end in leagues. The positive is that Cook could be even better in 2014 with a healthy Bradford or veteran Hill. However, Cooks could be a a good sell-high if he hasn't started strong and his production rises against competition vulnerable to tight end play after Stacy gets hurt .
RB Benny Cunningham - The free agent rookie from Middle Tennessee State is a downhill runner with power, but not a lot of burst. Cunningham might gain additional acceleration in Year Two because his college career ended with a leg injury that typically takes a full year to heal. Cunningham has the edge over Mason when it comes to experience in this offense and it could mean Cunningham forces a committee with the rookie runner if Stacy misses time. Cunningham is only an add as a bye-week option or desperation play, but these type of players can keep fantasy teams afloat until the owner finds a more suitable replacement.
WR Stedman Bailey - Without Stacy and potentially a deficit of pass protectors at the RB position, the Rams could opt for more empty sets and Bailey could figure prominently as a third or fourth option. Bailey will serve a short suspension this season, but he has flashed potential as a route runner and pass catcher. Although not in Austin's tier as a runner, he is a nifty player with the ball in his hands, too.
WR Brian Quick - The third-year project has shown some prowess in the red zone, but not enough to get excited about as a permanent fixture on a fantasy roster. Even so, more empty sets for the offense means more opportunities for the tall, athletic Quick. Remember that NFL teams also like to talk up a player to the media as a ploy to boost that player's confidence. This sounds ridiculous to some, but it does happen a lot with players that teams invested an early pick and the player remains behind the expected development curve. Keep that in mind when reading about his camp performances. If Quick looks good in the preseason, he's worth adding in season if Stacy falters and the Rams use more pass-oriented alignments.
RB Isaiah Pead - The University of Cincinnati star is another disappointing performer. Injuries and a slow transition to the mental side of the NFL has impeded Pead's development. He was known for his third-down skills as a collegiate performer. Based only on what all three runners behind Stacy ont he Rams depth chart did as collegians, Pead projects as one of the better third down backs on the team. This reason alone could be enough to consider Stacy as a bye-week option on the waiver wire if Stacy gets hurt. Although Pead has more athleticism than NFL runner Chris Ogbonnaya, think of the former University of Texas runner if trying to match Pead's fantasy potentials as described above.