+Stats- 1193 yards and a 5.9 yards per carry against SEC competition
+Truly unnatural power for size
+Yards after contact
+Passing game (mostly as a blocker)
-Tiny at 5’9, 208lbs
-Speed and agility are only average
-Some injury issues in the past
-Mediocre outside runner
I’ve been scouting for 4 years now. In my first year of scouting, I said that Antonio Brown was the most underrated prospect of the draft. Over the next 3 years, I saw a lot of underrated prospects that I really liked (K.J. Wright, Terrell Manning, Torrey Smith), but none of them compared to Brown. But, in 2013, I may have found a prospect more underrated than Brown was a few years ago. Before I talk about him, I’d like to lead in with this trivia question:
In 2011, who led the SEC with a 5.94 yards per carry, among all running backs who had 15 carries per game or more?
Trent Richardson? Only a 5.93 yards per carry. Vick Ballard? Not enough carries. Marcus Lattimore? Nope. Michael Dyer? Nope. Spencer Ware? Nope.
Would you have ever guessed Vanderbilt running back Zac Stacy?
Okay, you probably would have guessed Stacy, given the fact that this is a scouting report about him. But, if you didn’t know that Stacy was the subject of this article, you never would have guessed that he got that he led the SEC with a 5.94 yards per carry in 2011. He got 1193 rushing yards last season on 201 carries. On Vanderbilt. Seriously.
Think about what Stacy did last year. He played on a crappy offense. He had no supporting cast whatsoever. He played the toughest teams in the nation. You could actually make a pretty good case that Vanderbilt had the strongest schedule in college football during the regular season (did Trent Richardson ever have to face that menacing Alabama defense?). Yet, somehow, in spite of a horrible supporting cast and incredibly tough competition, Zac Stacy managed to get 1193 rushing yards on 201 carries last season. Truly amazing. But, right now, he isn’t expected to be drafted in 2013, according to most NFL draft websites.
Are you kidding me?
The stats alone make a pretty amazing case as to why Stacy is underrated. Watching him on film is truly a pleasure. If nothing else, there might not be another player in college football who is as fun to watch (and root for) as Zac Stacy.
Stacy doesn’t have great measurables. He is only 5’9, but he has respectable bulk for a short running back at 208lbs. He also has respectable, albeit unspectacular speed for a guy his size with a 4.49 40 yard dash.
Stacy has average athleticism. He has mediocre top speed, but he seems to reach top speed pretty quickly, which helps him as an inside runner. He isn’t incredibly shifty, but his above average change of direction skills combined with his fantastic vision makes him very dangerous when reversing his field and on halfback cutbacks.
Stacy probably has the best vision of any back in this year’s draft class. Not only does he seem to have a knack for finding the hole, but he seems to have an uncanny instinct that tells him how long it will be until a certain a hole plugs up. One thing that I have always believed is overrated is the idea of “patience” needed for a running back. If a running back spends an extra 2 seconds in the backfield waiting for a hole to open up, he’ll get tackled for a loss. If a hole isn’t there when you get the ball, chances are it won’t be there 2 seconds later. Stacy has an uncanny knack for not only finding a hole, but knowing where holes are bound to develop. His vision is truly fantastic.
Stacy has absolutely ridiculous power. I cannot emphasize this enough; 5’9, 208lbs running backs are not supposed to be as powerful as Stacy. 5’9 running backs shouldn’t be able to carry an entire SEC defense on their back. Stacy sized running backs shouldn’t be able to get as many yards after contact as Stacy. I would seriously say that he packs roughly as much power as Trent Richardson does into his tiny, 5’9, 208lbs pound frame. I know, it sounds ridiculous. But I have never, ever seen such a small, powerful running back in my entire life. It truly defies logic. I can’t believe what I see whenever I watch Stacy push the pile with will. To be honest, he is frequently the victim of shoestring tackles. He seems to have no awareness of his ankles, he doesn’t have great balance, and he is frequently tackled by some diving defender way behind him. When I watched him play, I couldn’t help but feel that big, strong defensive linemen who get a lot of contact on him struggle to bring him down, while defensive backs have success just by diving at his legs. In general, in order to tackle Stacy, you need to try to take out his legs. His core is simply too strong to bring him down any other way.
What’s also pretty fun about Stacy is his absolutely fearless running style. Stacy by no means plays with a chip on his shoulder. It would be more accurate to say that Stacy plays with a block on his shoulder. Most undersized backs rely on quickness and agility to get yards. They try to evade defenders, not run over them. Stacy is pretty much the one exception. I don’t think he has ever juked anybody out in his entire life. The fearless running style is fun to watch, but I have a feeling it is going to do him harm down the road. 2011 was the first healthy season in his career. He had a head injury in 2010 and ankle problems in 2009. His fearless running style, combined with his lack of size, is an excellent recipe for injury issues. He’s had them in the past, and I fully expect him to have them in the future.
Stacy is an extremely valuable asset on pass plays. He is good at catching the ball, but his best asset on pass plays is easily his blocking. Again, Stacy plays like he is 230lbs. In spite of his lack of size, he has phenomenal strength and has proven time and time again to be a great pass blocker. More than anything, I’m not sure if I have ever seen a running back so good at picking up the blitz. He reads defenses and diagnoses blitzes like a quarterback. Seriously. His ability to read blitzes and his strength as a pass blocker is huge for Vanderbilt quarterback Jordan Rodgers, who has no pocket presence or awareness whatsoever. Stacy might be the best pass blocking back in college football.
Ultimately, I absolutely love Stacy. I can’t help but root for an undersized back that plays with ridiculous on field intensity. If people are right when they say that he would be lucky if he got drafted, then he is the most underrated player I have ever seen. If people come to their senses, that title will remain in the hands of Antonio Brown. I think he is going to have a great career.
NFL Comparison: Mark Ingram
Grade: 90 (deserves to be a late first round to early second round pick)
Projection: 42 (will be a late 6th round pick)