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Volume will get you everywhere in fantasy football.
It’s when we spot a guy, particularly a running back, with something close to a guaranteed heavy workload in an offense with few play-making options that we capitalize on our opponents’ obsession with talent.
Many times these high-volume players — running backs who see a ton of carries or receivers who are peppered with targets — aren’t the kind of guys who blow away fantasy owners with game-changing ability.
Enter Zacy Stacy, who fit the mold oh-so-nicely in 2013.
The Rams’ rookie, fantasy’s ninth highest scoring running back during the second half of the season, emerged from the team’s stockpile of uninspiring runners. The bowling ball of a runner was fed the rock in earnest after Sam Bradford was lost for the season with a knee injury, as St. Louis reverted to an offense with the complexity of your local flag football team.
The 5-foot-8, 225-pound runner averaged 23.2 carries per game over the season’s final eight contests, with a smattering of receptions in the Kellen Clemens-led attack (if you could call it that). Stacy was a workhorse, plain and simple, and a waiver wire gem in many leagues.
Stacy’s production with massive volume of opportunity certainly skewed his 2013 stats, and I think many fantasy owners might fail to examine the runner in that context.
Context, after all, is everything, especially when you’re investing a high draft pick.
It will be critically important for those high on Stacy to remember that the Rams’ offense in September and October was anything but the conservative monstrosity it became in November and December. Bradford was averaging an hefty 40.5 drop backs a game before he shredded his ACL in Week 7 — only six quarterbacks had dropped back to pass more.
Thanks in part to a 55-throw effort against Atlanta in Week 2, Bradford averaged 43.2 attempts over the season’s first five weeks. Perhaps this pass-happy scheme was dictated by the Rams’ lack of viable running options. In any case, there was hardly a more pass-prone offense in the NFL.
Stacy’s peripheral stats are also a bit frightening. Context is important here too, as defenses didn’t exactly fear Clemens and his sub-par pass catchers, focusing instead of stopping the run.
Stacy, who is never going to be fleet afoot, forced 29 missed tackles during the 2013 campaign, posting an elusive rating — Pro Football Focus’ measurement of missed tackles and yards after contact — of 26.6, or .5 higher than Rashard Mendenhall. Old man Maurice Jones-Drew posted an elusive rating of 30.3, for the record.
Stacy averaged .42 fantasy points every time he touched the ball during the season’s second half, in line with Jones-Drew and the then-slumping Reggie Bush. Thirty-one running backs averaged more fantasy points per touch during that eight-week span.
Some good news on the peripheral stat front: Stacy averaged 2.45 yards after contact per rushing attempt in 2013, ranking eighth among qualifying backs. Marshawn Lynch ranked just ahead of Stacy at 2.5 yards after contact. It’s good news for a runner who wasn’t built to be elusive.
I’m certainly not imploring you to cross Stacy off your target list in 2014. He could see a nice workload, and if the Rams magically bolster their offense with receivers like Stedman Bailey — the team’s best wideout — defenses might not be able to focus so singularly on halting Stacy through the middle.
Stacy is going at the end of the second round in way-too-early mock drafts, with 10 runners going ahead of him. That sounds about right to me for the moment. Things will change over the next few months, and if Stacy sees an average draft position (ADP) jump, I’m going to remain leery of the second-year runner as a cornerstone fantasy option.
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