Zac Stacy vs. Benny Cunningham: Fantasy Outlook After Isaiah Pead's Injury

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Zac Stacy vs. Benny Cunningham: Fantasy Outlook After Isaiah Pead's Injury
Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images

St. Louis Rams running back Isaiah Pead went down after a non-contact injury during Saturday's preseason game against the Green Bay Packers.   

Following tests to determine the significance of Pead's injury, Rams coach Jeff Fisher revealed unfortunate news on Sunday, per the team's official Twitter account:

Bleacher Report's Dave Siebert, M.D., weighed in on the scary situation as it unfolded:

Pead was a 2012 second-round draft pick and was vying to make more of an impact entering his third season after having a minimal role in the offense before.

Now the onus falls even more on prospective No. 1 back Zac Stacy to shoulder the majority of carries, but Benny Cunningham ought to command more carries in light of this disappointing development as well. The team depth chart lists Stacy as the top back, with Cunningham at No. 2 (h/t StLouisRams.com).

Stacy made a surprise impact in his 2013 rookie season as a fifth-round draft choice, running for 973 yards and seven touchdowns in 14 games. The former Vanderbilt standout flashed further fantasy upside with his 26 receptions. With a firm hold atop the depth chart, the bruising ball-carrier is bound to have a 1,000-yard season in 2014.

As for Cunningham, he did well in limited work last year, posting an impressive 5.6 yards per carry and 261 yards on the ground. Offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer likes to run the rock, so Stacy figures to be one of the best value picks in fantasy this year, but Cunningham offers modest value even in deeper leagues.

This simple yet effective quote from Fisher says it all about how St. Louis plans to utilize Stacy:

What is Zac Stacy's fantasy ceiling?

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No matter who lines up in the backfield, though, a lot of the Rams' success is likely to be predicated on how quarterback Sam Bradford fares. The former No. 1 overall pick tore his ACL last season, and is out to prove he is the face of the franchise after an uneven career to date.

St. Louis could use more balance and better explosiveness in the passing game to get more out of Schottenheimer's run-heavy system. That's especially true in an NFC West division that features three strong defenses in Seattle, San Francisco and Arizona.

These circumstances make it trickier to determine just how strong of an option Stacy will be. It's rather safe to assume that his physical style will translate well, and if he improves on his first-year success, he can be a reliable No. 2 running back option.

Unless the Rams reveal plans to give Cunningham more of a chance, it's hard to rely on him for any type of steady production, especially with former Auburn star and rookie Tre Mason being in the mix for more touches.

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