St. Louis Rams Roster Preview – Running Backs


Running Backs on Roster (8): Malcolm Brown, Benny Cunningham, Terrence Franks, Todd Gurley, Tre Mason, Isaiah Pead, Chase Reynolds, Trey Watts. Fullback Zach Laskey

The St. Louis Rams hit a home run in the 2014 NFL Draft when they selected Tre Mason out of Auburn with the 75th overall pick. He brought a legitimate running presence to a team that was in desperate need of one after losing Steven Jackson, their all-time leading rusher, ahead of the 2013 season.

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Despite his big rookie season, Mason will likely be a backup in 2015. This is because the Rams used the 10th overall selection in the 2015 NFL Draft to select Georgia running back Todd Gurley. With the pick, general manager Les Snead selected an elite talent that was the best player available on the board over team need — a common practice in the NFL Draft.

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With the selection the Rams now have a loaded backfield that could be an essential piece in their ability to compete in the hard-nosed NFC West in 2015.

Gurley was widely considered as one of the top players in all of college football throughout his career before a torn ACL ended his final season. Gurley boasts great size (6’1″ and 227 pounds) speed and toughness. He hits the hole quickly, has the ability to run over defenders with the speed to get around them. Gurley is also a very good receiver out of the backfield, hauling in 65 receptions in three years at Georgia.

Gurley is the complete package and will benefit greatly from the revamped Rams offensive line. The major question will be around when Gurley will be at 100-percent in his recovery. After tearing his ACL in November, Gurley is yet to return to full football activities.

“The biggest thing is just being patient,” Gurley said when he addressed the media about his injury after being drafted. “You wanna just keep moving forward and doing other stuff. But, just keeping patient.”

Gurley was also asked if he was past the worst part of the rehab process. He drew a laugh as he responded, “I hope I am.”

If Gurley is slowed or unavailable by the start of the season, the Rams have a very good backup plan in Tre Mason. Mason was the team’s leading rusher in 2014, compiling 765 yards in 12 games. While the overall number is not overly impressive, Mason’s 4.3 yards per carry was quite impressive with the struggles of the Rams offensive line in front of him.

Mason, much like Gurley, hits the hole hard and fast. He came on late in the year, especially in a 117-yard three-touchdown performance against Oakland in Week 13. Mason also showed a decent ability to catch the ball out of the backfield late in the season, but remained primarily a runner.

Behind Mason is a big group that will be fighting to serve as the likely 3rd down back for 2015. The group includes Benny Cunningham, Isaiah Pead, Trey Watts and others. Of that group Cunningham is most likely to assume the 3rd down back role. He is entering his third year with the Rams, and is coming off a very successful season. Cunningham ran for 246 yards and three touchdowns, but proved to be a very good receiving option out of the backfield.

He hauled in 45 receptions on 52 targets for 352 yards and one touchdown. Cunningham’s 45 receptions were tied for the 7th most amongst running backs in the NFL with Pierre Thomas. His route running ability and elusiveness in the open field make Cunningham a great candidate to add a different dimension to the Rams backfield. His quickness also makes him a decent threat in the run game, when needed.

Behind Cunningham could be a good battle for a change-of-pace back between Pead and Watts. Pead will be entering his 4th year in the NFL and looking to rebound after missing 2014 with a torn ACL. Pead is a bigger contributor on special teams, but provides a good pass catching ability and great speed out of the backfield. Watts has an extremely similar game to Pead. Both are smaller players with great speed and good pass catching ability. Watts also has a good return ability, and will be entering just his second year in the NFL.

St. Louis Rams running back Tre Mason (27) carries the ball against the Seattle Seahawks at CenturyLink Field. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

It is likely that the Rams will also elect to keep another running back on the roster in Chase Reynolds. He will not factor into the running back depth chart, but rather on special teams. Reynolds has carved out a role as a core special teams player in St. Louis, making him a valuable roster player for Jeff Fisher.

The Rams also have two rookie running backs on their roster – Malcolm Brown and Terrence Franks. Brown is a short-yardage back who could carve out a role due to his size, strength and possible special teams ability.

Brown could be a solid back to help wear down teams late in games, pushing forward for yards on a consistent basis. Franks is of a similar build, but would likely be nothing more than a special teams player.

Finally, the Rams are currently carrying one fullback on their roster – Zach Laskey. Laskey is looking to become the first true fullback for the Rams since the 2010 season. He played B-back in a triple option system at Georgia Tech, proving that he also has good running ability. The major question lies in Laskey’s blocking ability.

If he is able to prove himself as a reasonable blocker, the Rams would likely jump at the opportunity to have a fullback lining up in front of their new investment in the backfield, Gurley. It will benefit Laskey to be in a Jeff Fisher system as he is known for loving hard-nosed, grinding football.

Projected Depth Chart

RB1 – Todd Gurley

RB2 – Tre Mason

RB3 – Benny Cunningham

RB4 – Isaiah Pead

RB5 – Chase Reynolds

FB – Zach Laskey

Not on the Roster – Trey Watts, Malcolm Brown, Terrence Franks

Next: St. Louis Rams Roster Preview: Quarterbacks

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