Tre Mason 2014 Fantasy Football Outlook
Mason started a bit of a frenzy at the end of May, leaking to the media that the coaches said he’d be able to compete with Stacy for the starting job. Some have taken off and run with that tidbit, while others have brushed it off as nothing more than coach speak.
It’s true, it’s only June, so speculating on a rookie coming in and taking over a quality runner’s seemingly concrete roll might be a bit of a knee-jerk reaction. Then again, the Rams got Mason for a pretty nice steal in May’s draft and now have a better number two running back than they’ve had in a while.
More specifically, Mason is already probably the most complete and most talented Rams running back and if all went well, that supposed competition just might end up being pretty darn close. Of course, there’s nothing on the surface right now to suggest it’s legit. Only Mason has really made it known, and until something more credible comes of it, all it will be regarded as is some camp talk.
More fodder for the cannon, to be sure. Still, Mason is a special talent that the Rams drafted for a reason, so it’d be lazy of us to not think about what might happen with him in Fantasy Football this year. To help us get a better idea of Mason’s 2014 fantasy value, let’s break things down from all perspectives:
An explosive runner with excellent agility and short area burst, Mason is a fairly special back with loads of upside. He’s not the biggest or strongest back, but does have the build that offers more bulk while being able to retain top level speed. While not an elite burner, Mason has very solid long speed and acceleration, and has displayed the ability to hit holes and spring long runs.
Mason’s solid overall athleticism is undoubtedly what made him most attractive to the Rams, while he proved he could handle a huge workload at Auburn in college. He also has the potential to be a very solid receiver out of the backfield, which gives him the natural versatility needed to eventually become a true every down back.
Whether or not that happens as a rookie and this competition with Stacy becomes a reality, however, hinges on his main flaws. Those flaws happen to be his ball security issues (eight fumbles the past two seasons) and his inconsistency in pass protection. Even to come onto the field on third downs, Mason is going to have to show a lot of progress in blitz pickup, while any problems with ball security are sure to give him a short leash.
St. Louis did let go of Daryl Richardson after bringing on Mason, so it’s clear they like their rookie back a lot and trust he can wipe away the flaws he’s entering the league with. Doing so with both and beating out Stacy, however, might be a bit of a reach for the first-year back.
Mason’s Supporting Cast
Zac Stacy appears to be entrenched as the Rams’ lead back for the moment, which should give him the bulk of the carries as the team’s early down back. He’s also probably the more physical runner, which should give him the inside track to retain goal-line duty. Mason is the more explosive runner and arguably the more versatile overall threat, however, so he could cut into Stacy’s time on the field on third downs and clear passing situations, as well as spell him for some early down work.
Elsewhere, the Rams should be a lot better in the passing game if Sam Bradford can remain healthy. With him under center, hopefully for the entire year, the Rams have a real shot at taking off via the air. Tavon Austin‘s development is pretty key, while the passing game as a whole has the talent on the surface to lift off and help alleviate some pressure from the running game. In turn, life might be a little easier than originally thought for Mason and the rest of the running backs.
This is key for Mason when it comes to his role as a receiver. The only problem there is we have no clue what that role will be just yet. The good news is that if he does win that third down gig, his talent will give him some serious upside. That could potentially mean decent Flex value based on matchups, even if he doesn’t compete to start.
Mason’s Overall Fantasy Value
In Dynasty formats, Mason probably has to be a first round pick. Stacy isn’t as impressive of a talent and doesn’t have near the upside. In fact, Stacy seemed to really hit a wall down the stretch last year, and tended to resemble a pure volume back. In a sense, he was as effective as just about anyone else would have been given his role.
This could be one of the reasons the Rams opted to go get another talented back. While that might not necessarily mean Mason takes over with a monster role from day one, that line of thinking could keep the door open to an over throw later in the year. At the very least, that makes Mason a worthwhile handcuff and a guy to roster in deeper leagues.
In redraft leagues, though, we can only go as nuts as logic allows us. For now, Stacy’s job doesn’t appear to be in imminent danger, which should have fantasy owners holding off on taking Mason too early in fantasy drafts this summer.
Right now, mock drafters aren’t really buying into Mason’s upside in the fantasy realm, as he’s being taken off boards around the 11th round in standard fantasy mock drafts. That would make him roughly the 47th best running back. That’s a number that could quickly shift depending on how he fares in camp.
More importantly, if his non-existing competition with Stacy suddenly becomes a reality, Mason’s fantasy value could shoot through the roof. Suddenly, he just might be ascending up the ranks with borderline RB2 fantasy value.