Tre Mason Is Building Something

Strength of schedule matters. For running backs, match-ups really matter. Jonathan Bales discovered that, outside a handful of “match-up proof” top-tier running backs such Matt Forte, Le’Veon Bell, DeMarco Murray, and Jamaal Charles, week-to-week volatility at the running back position skyrockets. Non-elite running backs are less consistent, because they typically play in low volume, low scoring offenses, have yet to earn a majority share of team running back touches (due to a lack of versatility or the presence of another quality back(s) on the roster), or run behind a poor run-blocking offensive line. Opposing defenses drive running back fantasy performance more than other positions, and furthermore, running backs outside the top-tier are particularly sensitive to difficult match-ups and face inordinately high weekly elasticity based on the team defense that they face.

To illustrate this point, in week 12, Isaiah Crowell ran for 88 yards and two touchdowns on 12 carries vs. an Atlanta defense that allows the most fantasy points to running backs. He followed up that performance by running for 29 yards on 17 carries vs. Buffalo’s stout run defense in week 13. Additionally, all three of Jeremy Hill‘s 100-yards games (154, 152, 148) this season have come against bottom-10 defenses in fantasy points allowed to running backs (JAX, NO, CLE).

Which sub-elite starting running back has thus far faced the most difficult match-ups? Tre Mason. Since emerging as St. Louis’ lead rusher, Mason has faced the following team defenses:

Week 6: SF (-2.02 fantasy points allowed above/below the mean)

Week 7: SEA (-3.02)

Week 8: KC (-2.12)

Week 9: SF (-2.02)

Week 10: ARI (-4.62)

Week 11: DEN (-4.02)

Week 12: SD (-1.72)

Week 13: OAK (+5.78)

Week 14: WAS (-4.52)

Week 15: ARI (-4.62)

Tre Mason has faced seven of the twelve defenses that allow the least number of fantasy points to running backs, including two games against Arizona and San Francisco. Mason’s 2014 match-ups represent one of the most improbably difficult schedules a fantasy running back has ever faced.

How did Tre Mason perform in his one easy match-up? Against Oakland in week 13, he compiled 164 total yards and three touchdowns and was the no. 1 running back in fantasy football.

Regardless, Tre Mason’s exceedingly difficult schedule has throttled his fantasy value throughout the season — currently $6500 on FanDuel and $4600 on DraftKings. This week, Mason faces a New York Giants team defense that allows the eighth most fantasy points to running backs. The Giants will be only the second team that Mason faces this season that allows an above-average number of fantasy points to running backs.

While Tre Mason’s valuation makes him an exciting play in daily leagues this week, his talent profile makes him an even more exciting dynasty league trade target. His prospect profile on PlayerProfiler is as follows:

  • College Dominator: 31.7-percent (65th percentile)
  • Breakout Age: 19.1 (85th percentile) note: he just turned 21 years old
  • 40-time: 4.50 (71st percentile)
  • Burst Score: 128.5 (88th percentile)
  • Agility Score: 10.85 (94th percentile)
  • Athleticism Score: 103.8 (84th percentile)

Tre Mason was hugely productive in the SEC at a young age, and then his prospect profile was bolstered by the extraordinary athleticism he displayed at the NFL Scouting Combine.

A below average supporting cast has limited Tre Mason’s NFL productivity against a gauntlet of elite team defenses, but in his lone opportunity to shine against a lesser rush defense, he shredded it. Furthermore, Mason’s athletic profile suggests his sublime performance against the Raiders was no fluke.

Matt Kelley (@fantasy_mansion) is an XN Sports contributor and founder of RotoUnderworld (@rotounderworld) and, which distills a wide range of advanced metrics into a single player snapshot.

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