Isaiah Pead vs Benny Cunningham: Fantasy Outlook After Daryl Richardson's Injury

Rob GoldbergFeatured ColumnistSeptember 23, 2013

August 18, 2012; St. Louis, MO, USA; St. Louis Rams running back Isaiah Pead (24) rushes as Kansas City Chiefs wide receiver Jeremy Horne (11) defends in the second half at the Edward Jones Dome. The Rams won 31-17. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports
Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports

Daryl Richardson began the regular season as the St. Louis Rams' starting running back, but a foot injury raises the fantasy value of his backups.

Jim Thomas of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch first reported prior to Sunday's game that the running back was dealing with an injury:

While Richardson was active and started the game, he did not last long:

The Rams ended up accomplishing very little offensively against the Dallas Cowboys without their lead back, losing 31-7.

Considering the team has a short week before playing Thursday night against the San Francisco 49ers, it seems unlikely Richardson will be able to suit up. This means that either Isaiah Pead or Benny Cunningham will get an opportunity to showcase his ability.

Due to the nature of Sunday's contest, St. Louis was forced to abandon the run early on. Therefore, the two backups only combined for 10 carries on the day, managing only 36 rushing yards combined. However, Nick Wagoner of ESPN provided this important distinction between the two running backs:

Additionally, Pead found a big role in the passing game, grabbing catches on all seven of his targets for a total of 43 receiving yards.

The Rams utilized Richardson a lot out of the backfield in the first two games. The second-year player had 10 catches for 78 yards entering Week 3, which helped overcome less-than-stellar numbers on the ground.

Aug 8, 2013; Cleveland, OH, USA; St. Louis Rams running back Daryl Richardson (26) runs the ball in the second quarter against the Cleveland Browns at FirstEnergy Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports
Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

If Pead is able to step into this role, he could be worthwhile in fantasy as someone who can rack up yards consistently. He also earned a big first down on a 4th-and-1 late in the game, which should give the team confidence in some goal-line carries going forward.

The former Cincinnati player was actually highly touted coming out of college and was selected by the Rams in the second round of the 2012 draft. However, Richardson—drafted in the seventh round—passed him on the depth chart.

This injury could give Pead a chance to finally reach his potential with the offense. He certainly has a bigger likelihood of breaking out than Cunningham, who is still new to the system after going undrafted last April. He has some explosiveness on kickoffs, but he does not yet have the trust of the coaching staff or the strength to be an every-down back.

Aug 29, 2013; St. Louis, MO, USA; St. Louis Rams running back Benny Cunningham (45) rushes against the Baltimore Ravens during the second half at the Edward Jones Dome. The Rams defeated the Ravens 24-21. Mandatory Credit: Scott Rovak-USA TODAY Sports
Scott Rovak-USA TODAY Sports

While the rookie might get some touches while Richardson is out, Pead should be the go-to player out of the backfield, and he is worth an add in standard fantasy leagues. Considering the 49ers have allowed 351 rushing yards and five touchdowns in the past two games combined, he is even worth a start in Week 4 if you need a running back.

Even if you keep him on the bench, a strong performance by Pead could give him a bigger role in the Rams offense for the rest of the season, making him a solid fantasy player going forward.


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