The tale of St. Louis Rams’ running back Isaiah Pead may end up being a short one.
Pead was taken by the Rams with the 50th overall pick of the 2012 Draft, eights spots ahead of stud linebacker Lavonte David and ten picks ahead of corner Casey Hayward. There would’ve been no reason to doubt the Rams selection at the time, after all, the University of Cincinnati product was an electrifying running back in college and performed very well in the pre-draft combines. The 5’10”, 200-pounder finished fourth among all RBs in the cone drill (6.95) and had the fifth-best 40 time at the position (4.47). Pead went into camp that year looking to compete, but quickly fell behind Steven Jackson and Daryl Richardson on the depth charts, finishing with just 10 carries for 54 yards during his rookie season.
2013 was supposed to be his breakout. Fantasy football owners pegged him as a guy who could be taken later in drafts, yet had fantasy starter capability. With Jackson signing in Atlanta, Richardson was the starter on paper, but he could easily be overtaken. Pead’s sleeper status grew exponentially during the off-season, until a suspension for substance abuse derailed that somewhat. He was forced to miss the Rams’ season opener and never regained any of his momentum from training camp. Coach Jeff Fisher saddled Richardson with the bulk of the ball-carrying duties for the first couple weeks of the season, limiting Pead’s upside. Pead received only one carry in Week 2, turning that into just one yard. He had two catches for 18 yards as well, but he was clearly behind the eight ball. During Week 3 vs. Dallas, Pead rushed for 20 yards and caught seven balls for 43 yards — a pretty productive game. Things were looking up for the second-year back — or were they?
Unfortunately, just as there seemed to be some promise on the horizon, the Rams’ Week 4 division showdown with the Niners became the end of the line for Pead. That week, Pead was a healthy scratch, completely ceding the RB role to Richardson and Benny Cunningham. The Rams’ Week 5 matchup vs. the Jags is when rookie Zac Stacy broke out, receiving 14 carries and turning that into 78 yards. Stacy would never relinquish the job, becoming one of the NFL’s top offensive rookies in 2013. When all was said and done, Pead ended up dressing for only 10 games, most of which were either spent on the sidelines or on special teams.
Enter 2014. Stacy, of course, had the starting gig locked up, but Pead was back, and hungry. The backup running back spot was up for grabs in St. Louis. The team drafted Tre Mason, but he had been having lots of trouble in pass protection. Cunningham was also there, but he was a less-than-ideal option. That left Pead with a chance to stake his claim. But on Saturday, in a preseason game vs. the Packers, Pead tore the ACL in his left knee. His season would be over before it even began.
It’s been a tough go of it for the 24-year-old back, and it’s possible this could be the last we see of the talented, yet troubled native Ohioan. He clearly has/had the talent to succeed in the league, but his own personal demons, plus his recent devastating injury, make his future as a professional football player very murky. What does this mean for fantasy owners? Well, it moves everyone else up the Rams’ depth chart. Cunningham, who has really outplayed Mason of late, may have a firm grasp on the No. 2 spot behind Stacy. The way Mason has looked in preseason games suggests he may not be ready for primetime yet. Dynasty league owners should hold onto him, but he won’t likely factor into redraft leagues this season. As for Stacy? His hold on the top spot in St. Louis got even stronger. When the Rams drafted Mason, a lot of people speculated it could mean a possible reduction in snaps for the Vanderbilt alum. As the summer has progressed, we’ve seen that this is not the case. In fact, there was so much negative talk around Stacy’s role in the Rams’ backfield that it caused his ADP to fall to 32. Right now, he is the 15th RB off the board in PPR leagues, which is a steal given the Rams improvement on their offensive line, as well as the return of QB Sam Bradford. I’m not reaching for Stacy, but I prefer him over fellow running back Doug Martin (ADP of 28), and because I’m a “late-round quarterback” kinda guy, I’d draft him over the Big Three QBs (Peyton Manning, Drew Brees, Aaron Rodgers) any day of the week.
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