2012 Fantasy Football Sleeper: Rams RB Isaiah Pead

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Isaiah Pead joins St. Louis on the heels of a massive transformation that is destined to alter the Rams’ recent culture. That development will revitalize the franchise, which is necessary considering their unsightly 15-65 record since 2007. Their woeful resume also shows four last place finishes in the NFC West during those five seasons, including last year’s unfortunate 2-14 campaign. That resulted in the arrival of Jeff Fisher, who now brings a proven track record of success, and a new attitude that can only benefit the organization. He also renovated the Rams’ coaching staff, including the hiring of former Jets OC Brian Schottenheimer, who will serve St. Louis in that same capacity. The tandem must now rejuvenate an abysmal offense that was dead last in scoring last season, barely achieving 12 points per game (12.1). The unit also ranked 31st in yardage, averaging only 283.6 YPG. Their rushing attack fared somewhat better, finishing 23rd with 104.2 YPG. What success their running game did achieve can be attributed to Steven Jackson, who manufactured his seventh consecutive 1,000+ yard season.  

But Jackson has now amassed an exhausting 2,138 rushing attempts in his career, including an average of 305 in the past three years. That creates a legitimate concern as to whether he can navigate through another 16 game regular season without being sidelined by injury. That unwelcome possibility, coupled with the desperate need for additional playmakers, led the Rams to select Pead in the second round, making him the 50th overall pick.

The 5’10’, 190 pound Pead will bring exceptional speed and impressive collegiate credentials to St. Louis. He was named the Big East’s Offensive Player of the year in 2011, after leading the conference in rushing with 1,259 yards, and 12 TDs. He also exhibited his playmaking ability as a receiver, by collecting 319 additional yards, and scoring three more times. At the combine, he displayed his quickness once again, by delivering  a 4.47 40.

While he will be an outstanding addition to an offense that has a vast need for big plays, his fantasy value this season is extremely dependent upon Jackson’s ability to remain healthy. The nine year veteran has rushed for over 9,000 yards (9,093), and scored over 50 TDs (52). Yet, he will initially be asked to handle a sizable percentage of the touches once again. Adding the new allotment to the sizable amount of punishment that he has already endured, could make him susceptible to injury during the season.

If Jackson is suddenly jettisoned to the sidelines, Pead will quickly inherit a considerable workload. And his primary asset will be speed, which contrasts greatly to the style that has made Jackson so formidable to opposing defenders. Otherwise, the Rams will likely take advantage of Pead’s elusiveness by utilizing him as a third down back. He has the potential to excel in that role, as he is a proficient receiver who has the quickness to generate long gains. Plus, he is also a capable and willing blocker. His involvement could expand as the season progresses, with Fisher and Schottenheimer employing him as a change of pace back for a small collection of series during each contest.

Jackson’s contract is up in 2014, and Pead’s value should be significantly higher at that time. But for now, the speedy rookie should be considered a third down back, unless Jackson’s status changes.  That makes Pead a great handcuff option for Jackson owners, and he should be available in the latter portion of all drafts.

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