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Rams' running back roulette
Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - For the past nine seasons, an analysis of the St. Louis Rams running back situation has been pretty easy - Steven Jackson. The former Oregon State star, when healthy, had been the team's primary weapon on the ground for almost a decade.

Jackson was a dominant fantasy force too, surpassing 1,000 yards for eight of the nine seasons. His finest fantasy performance was in 2006 when he rushed for 1,528 yards and 13 scores and hauled in 90 passes for another 806 yards and three touchdowns. He led the NFL in yards from scrimmage that season with 2,334 yards.

But life moves forward despite all our efforts to keep things the same.

Jackson, a free agent, signed a three-year deal with Atlanta to replace Michael Turner. If healthy, Jackson should continue his string of 1,000-yards seasons.

The hole he left in the St. Louis backfield, however, is large and the Rams don't appear to have any one player on their roster who can fill it.

They do have three running backs to choose from - second-year backs Daryl Richardson and Isaiah Pead and rookie Zac Stacy.

Fantasy owners would hope that one of the three can grab the opportunity by the throat and make it his, but all indications are that it won't happen.

That's because each guy has skills, but none have the all-around ability to become the team's workhorse back.

Pead was the higher of the two draft choices last season ... and the bigger disappointment. He admits to not knowing the playbook well enough. And he's not a great blocker which won't make the coach or his quarterback very happy. He's also suspended for the first game of the season for violation of the league's substance abuse rules. But he is probably the best inside runner of the trio.

Richardson was a pleasant surprise last season, earning the backup role to Jackson and performing well. He rushed 98 times for 475 yards (4.8 ypc) and caught 24 balls for 163 yards. He's too small to be a full-time workhorse at 5- foot-10, 195 lbs and coach Jeff Fisher sees him more of a guy you try to get in space, a.k.a. a change-of-pace guy. He's the best receiver of the group.

Stacy is the rookie. He rushed for more than 1,100 yards and 10 touchdowns in each of his last two seasons at Vanderbilt. However, he's not a great receiver. As the "new" guy, he'll have to earn the confidence of his offensive coordinator (Brian Schottenheimer) and his quarterback, but he should get plenty of work in preseason and he will see game action in Week 1 with Pead unavailable. Although only 5-foot-8, at 216 lbs he's the best running option near the goal line and by season's end we like him above the other two backs on first and second down.

Still, we don't think any of the three are worthy of a draft day selection before the seventh round.

Player Projections
Player Ru Att Ru Yds Ru TDs Rec Rec Yds RecTDs Fantasy Pts
Zac Stacy 161 756 6 6 51 0 122
Daryl Richardson 98 478 1 42 428 2 109
Isaiah Pead 110 506 2 12 80 0 70





Comments? Criticism? Applause? Contact Steve Schwarz at sschwarz@sportsnetwork.com.

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