Benny Cunningham vs. Isaiah Pead: Updated Fantasy Outlook for Rams RBs

Matt FitzgeraldCorrespondent IIIOctober 2, 2013

ST. LOUIS, MO - SEPTEMBER 26: aCorey Lemonier #96 of the San Francisco 49ers tackles Benny Cunningham #36 of the St. Louis Rams at the Edward Jones Dome on September 26, 2013 in St. Louis, Missouri.  The 49ers beat the rams 35-11.  (Photo by Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images)
Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images

It looks as though the St. Louis Rams' already shaky running back situation will have an even gloomier outlook entering Week 5.

The Rams do face the consensus worst NFL team in the Jacksonville Jaguars at home, but will be without starting running back Daryl Richardson, who tweeted on Tuesday evening that he wouldn't start:

However, Rams coach Jeff Fisher added to the confusion surrounding the starting job Thursday, by telling reporters he hadn't picked a starter, according to Jim Thomas of The St. Louis Post-Dispatch:

“Haven’t decided yet,” Fisher said when asked who was starting against Jacksonville. “We’ll probably play most if not all of the running backs who are active.”

The starter, Fisher continued, “depends on what package we’re in, you know, when we start the game. ... We’ve got different things, and different style runners, and we’ve got different things for different backs.”

Richardson’s since-deleted tweet came in response to a fan asking him if he was starting this week. “Not this week, man,”was Richardson’s reply.

“That was just brought to my attention,” Fisher said, at his post-practice media session. “I was surprised about that. But we haven’t gone in one direction or the other right now.”


Thus, it could come down to Isaiah Pead and undrafted rookie Benny Cunningham as to who will shoulder the load in St. Louis' rushing attack, which ranks dead last in the NFL with an average of 47.3 yards per contest.

ST. LOUIS, MO - AUGUST 29: Isaiah Pead #24 of the St. Louis Rams rushes against the Baltimore Ravens during a pre-season game at the Edward Jones Dome on August 29, 2013 in St. Louis, Missouri.  (Photo by Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images)
Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images

Neither dimension of the offense is functioning well, and a lot of that blame falls on former No. 1 overall pick Sam Bradford, who just doesn't look like a franchise quarterback at this point.

Without a reliable passing game to keep defenses honest, opponents should continue showing eight-man fronts and daring Bradford to beat them—something he hasn't been able to do.

In terms of who has more fantasy upside between Cunningham and Pead, though, it has to be the latter player.'s Nathan Zegura believes Pead should be in over Richardson as it is. He professed that after Mike Clay of Pro Football Focus pointed out how Pead has averaged 4.4 yards per carry in his brief career:

Cunningham is an unproven commodity with 10 carries for a measly 22 yards this season.

Expectations were high for the Rams entering 2013, even in the difficult NFC West division. Jeff Fisher's bunch hasn't come close to reaching them, though, dropping consecutive games in blowout fashion and falling to 1-3 on the year.

For whatever reason, Fisher had Pead deactivated in the 35-11 loss this past Thursday to the San Francisco 49ers. Pead attempted to explain, per Joe Lyons of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch:

[Fisher and I] had a private conversation and there was an understanding. In the game plan, they wanted to use Tavon (Austin) a little more. Like I said, it was a coach’s decision. It’s over and I’m attacking the week, like I try to do every week.

For the Rams' sake, hopefully the 2012 second-round pick gets a chance to attack rather than Cunningham.

Pead was a high investment for a running back by general manager Les Snead. This is a chance to see what the team truly has in him.

Between his strong career yards per carry, excellent receiving ability and the fact that the Jags sport the worst rush defense in the league, Pead is the clear-cut best fantasy option, both this week and moving forward.