In the National Football League it's often as much about opportunity as it is talent. That was the case last year in Washington, where a little-known but hard-running tailback from Florida Atlantic turned his chance to start into over 1,600 yards on the ground.
In 2013 the stage is set for another late draft pick to take the NFL by storm, this time in the Gateway City.
That running back is Zac Stacy of the St. Louis Rams, who has an excellent chance to be the 2013 version of Alfred Morris, who came from nowhere a season ago to finish second in the NFL in rushing.
The similarities between the two ball-carriers are numerous.
For starters, Morris and Stacy are built very similarly. Both backs pack quite a bit into a compact frame. Morris tips the scales at 5'9" and 218 pounds, while Stacy is a virtual carbon copy at 5'8" and 216 pounds.
If you examine the statistics from each player's last season in college, the commonalities continue.
As you can see, Stacy's production from the 2012 season at Vanderbilt is very similar to Morris' numbers from 2011 at FAU. If anything, Stacy's output is the more impressive of the two, as he did his damage in the Southeastern Conference. Comparing the SEC to the Sun Belt is a bit like comparing the NFL to the SEC.
It's not just on paper where one can see a resemblance between the two running backs. Neither player has breakaway speed, nor are they especially elusive in the open field.
However, they make up for that with a trait that can be even more important for players at their position. They're decisive runners. There isn't a lot of time and energy wasted dancing around in the backfield. When Morris and Stacy see a hole they hit it with authority. It may not make for huge gains, but it also doesn't result in getting hauled down for a loss with regularity.
One other similarity between Alfred Morris and Zac Stacy jumps out when viewing the "highlight reels" for the two players.
Oftentimes, the first player to make contact isn't the defender that brings them down. Arm tackles aren't cutting it with this duo.
That isn't to say that there aren't also significant differences between the pair. The biggest, of course, is that Morris has already shown that he can be a productive runner in the National Football League.
Only Adrian Peterson of the Minnesota Vikings gained more yardage on the ground last year than Morris. His, 1,001 yards after contact according to Pro Football Focus (subscription required) ranked third in the league.
Stacy, much less Morris, may get an opportunity early to showcase what he can do. No one expected Morris to be the Redskins' starter last year, but the youngster earned that right with a strong training camp and preseason.
Stacy could easily get that same chance in St, Louis. 2012 starter Steven Jackson is now in Atlanta. Last year's second-round pick, Isaiah Pead, was a massive disappointment as a rookie and is now suspended for the season opener after violating the NFL's substance abuse policy. 2012 seventh-rounder Daryl Richardson was capable a season ago, but he's hardly a world beater.
Just like last year's clouded backfield situation in Washington, the starter's job in St. Louis is wide open.
The hole is there. All Zac Stacy has to do is run through it.
Granted, he may not gain 1,600 yards (that's a tall order), but the talent is there with Zac Stacy. So is the situation.
All he is to do now is use one to take advantage of the other.
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