Thursday, May 1, 2014
Rams draft preview: Running backs
By Nick Wagoner
The NFL draft is set to begin May 8 and the St. Louis Rams hold 12 picks. For the next week and a half, we'll take a look at a different position every day with what the Rams have in place, what they need, when they might address it and possible fits.
We continue the countdown with a look at this year's crop of running backs.
In place: Zac Stacy, Benny Cunningham, Daryl Richardson, Isaiah Pead, Chase Reynolds
What's needed: The Rams' two best backs in 2013 were added without spending much in the way of draft capital. Stacy was a fifth-round pick and clearly emerged as the starter despite issues with nagging injuries. Cunningham was an undrafted free agent but once he returned to health became the primary option behind Stacy in the pecking order. Richardson dealt with injury issues early and never fully got back up to speed after winning the starting job in camp. Pead can't seem to figure it out and was used sparingly until taking on a special teams role late in the season.
Stacy is expected to handle the starting role again this year and coach Jeff Fisher has indicated he'll get the bulk of the carries. Whether the Rams need a running back depends on how you view the players behind Stacy and how much value you put on the carries Stacy isn't likely to get. The Rams are high on Cunningham and he should be better in 2014 now that he's another year removed from injury. Pead and Richardson are fine as third backs but it seems extraneous to keep both around so they could be competing for one spot. Special teams could make that decision depending on whether the Rams want to carry Reynolds, who is only a special teams player, again.
If the Rams do have a need, perhaps it's for a speedy type of complement to Stacy and Cunningham. Cunningham is faster than Stacy but maybe not a speed back in the true sense of the word. Finding a back with home-run ability who only needs a few touches per game would make sense -- unless the Rams plan to use Tavon Austin more in that role in 2014.
Possible fits: There has been almost no sign of any interest in any running backs for the Rams in the pre-draft process, which seems a solid indication that they are pleased with what they have in place. They did do some legwork on a few backs in their scouting combine interviews, including a chat with Auburn's Tre Mason, but it seems unlikely the Rams will spend any of their earlier picks on a back. If they do go the running back route, options who could fit the bill as a speedy change-of-pace type include Missouri's Henry Josey, Baylor's Lache Seastrunk, Georgia Southern's Jerick McKinnon and Oklahoma's Damien Williams.
Verdict: The Rams have a dozen picks in this draft and assuming they keep all of them or add more by a trade down, it wouldn't be a surprise to see them grab a back late in the draft like they did last season.