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Tre Mason Fantasy Gem 2014

Tre Mason

Tre Mason Fantasy 2014

The 2014 NFL Draft brought many new stories to the game of football. Located in the center of one of the bigger storylines were the St. Louis Rams, who drafted the first openly gay professional football player, Missouri defensive end Michael Sam. While the acquisition of Sam garnered most of the national spotlight and media attention, the Rams were able to fly under the radar and nab a potential game breaker with their third round pick, Auburn running back, Tre Mason. Mason and Sam have a lot in common: they earned Offensive and Defensive Player of the Year honors in the Southeastern Conference respectively, and they both participated in the conference’s championship game.

During the SEC Championship game, Mason put up video game numbers, with 304 yards and four touchdowns, but still slipped all the way to the third round. The yardage set the SEC Championship game record, shattering the previous mark of 201 by LSU RB, Justin Vincent. This game, combined with an excellent showing in a losing effort in the National Championship, capped off an amazing career for the Palm Beach County native. Mason broke many of Bo Jackson’s records at Auburn and contributed at a very high level on special teams. With earth-shattering numbers and a squeaky clean background, why did Tre Mason slip all the way to the third round?

First off, there is a growing NFL trend among the league’s general managers to avoid selecting running backs early. Top running backs were previously a lock to be drafted in the early going. However, due to the success of non-first round draft picks, like Matt Forte and DeMarco Murray, and undrafted players such as Arian Foster and Fred Jackson, many draft strategists have determined that using a top pick on a ball carrier is unnecessary. For the second consecutive year, a running back was not selected in the first round, something that had happened during each of the previous fifty drafts.

Additionally, Mason’s ball security and capability of adequate blocking skills were deemed questionable by many draft analysts. While Mason was tabbed as the most “electric” runner in the draft, it is becoming increasingly important that RBs are able to block and catch in the NFL, which has clearly become a passing league. Added onto those question marks was the rumor of a lingering wrist injury, one which Mason immediately refuted, causing a cloud of uncertainty to his draft position. Leading up to the draft, Tre Mason was viewed as anywhere from a very late first round pick, to a fourth round pick by many speculators.

Tre Mason NCAA Stats Rushing Receiving Scrimmage
Year School G Att Yds Avg TD Rec Yds Avg TD Plays Yds Avg TD
2011* Auburn 12 28 161 5.8 1 0 0 0 0 28 161 5.8 1
2012 Auburn 12 171 1002 5.9 8 7 86 12.3 0 178 1088 6.1 8
2013* Auburn 14 317 1816 5.7 23 12 163 13.6 1 329 1979 6 24
Career Auburn 38 516 2979 5.8 32 19 249 13.1 1 535 3228 6 33

(*Bowl stats included)

On the day of the 2014 NFL Draft, the St. Louis Rams drafted Mason with the 75th overall pick, a nice value in the middle of the third round for both the team and prospective fantasy owners. This is a unique situation, where Mason will be paired with former Vanderbilt star, Zac Stacy, who showed a ton of promise during his first NFL season. Also to be mentioned, is how Mason’s athleticism plays in the dome setting, similar to that of the Edward Jones Dome. As I previously stated, Mason rushed for 304 yards and 4 touchdowns in the SEC Championship game, his last game in a dome. Is it realistic that he can mirror those numbers throughout his eight home games for the Rams? Of course not. But it is fair to say that he can be an immediate game changer to a team that has struggled in the passing game. While the team does not need to rush Mason into their plans, they can increase his workload as his pass protection skills continue to develop. Even as a change of pace back, Mason has fantasy relevance. Similar to the way that the Cincinnati Bengals used both BenJarvus Green-Ellis and rookie RB Giovani Bernard during last year, the Rams could choose to use the SEC duo. Being that Stacy is considerably more talented than Green-Ellis, this would vault both Stacy and Mason into the top 20 fantasy running backs, especially in PPR leagues, where I have always viewed Mason as an underrated threat as a receiver.

Before the 2013 NFL season, Daryl Richardson was a popular sleeper pick among fantasy owners. Prior to this years’ draft and currently, Zac Stacy holds late first to high second round value in many fantasy leagues. While I completely believe that Stacy is capable of living up to those expectations, I feel that Mason can hold a ton of value as a complimentary RB, even taking snaps away from Stacy. Both of these SEC workhorses have a ton of mileage on their legs, but neither have shown signs of slowing down any time soon. With the aforementioned struggles of Sam Bradford and the Rams air game, each of these backs can see significant carries and create a dynamic aspect to a previously anemic offense. With the Rams looking to alleviate the pressure from their former top pick Bradford, a two RB set with Stacy and Mason could be both the quarterback’s and fantasy owners’ best friends. The Rams newly bolstered offensive line, featuring Mason’s collegiate teammate, Greg Robinson, is also one that can create nice holes for both of the backs to burst through.

For those of you in Dynasty leagues that own Zac Stacy (as I do), drafting Tre Mason (as I did) is an essential key to having a successful rookie draft. In redraft leagues, I see Stacy worthy of a ninth or tenth round handcuff pick with a ton of upside. Tre Mason’s current ADP is 11.09.

The Rams will be interesting to watch this season, with the added speed of Tre Mason and 2nd year Tavon Austin, fantasy owners may be caught off guard with the sudden boost in offensive firepower.

-Dear Zac Stacy owners,
While the NFL is an unpredictable league, the Rams are one of the more unpredictable teams, which we all found out with Zac Stacy’s emergence last season. While he is still developing certain parts of his game, Mason is a dynamic player, loaded with talent in both the running and passing games. Make sure to grab him before someone else walks away with your potential difference maker.
Sincerely,

Trace Lanson

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