For those of you who haven't yet conducted your fantasy football drafts, I encourage you to take a closer look at the St. Louis Rams' roster.
For those of you who've got your team set, I encourage you to take a closer look at the St. Louis' Rams roster.
No, that's not a misprint. Whether you've already drafted your players or not, chances are high that some promising young Rams starters are available to help your depth chart. Trust me; as a guy who's already participated in five drafts,
Three Rams have average draft positions in the top 150 overall NFL players (according to CBSSports.com's Fantasy News): quarterback Sam Bradford, running back Steven Jackson, and wide receiver Danny Amendola. Several other potential contributors will be available via the waiver wire as the season progresses.
Steven Jackson — Jackson is the sure-fire pick for St. Louis, maintaining an average draft position of 22nd overall. He is regularly a top-ten back on the field and in the fantasy game, rushing for over 1,000 yards in each of his first eight seasons while running behind a shoddy offensive line at times and missing games to injury. He was also voted the 37th-best player in the league by his professional peers, through NFL Network's “The Top 100” series.
Bottom Line: Don't be afraid to draft Jackson; he is a reliable and consistent fantasy starter.
Sam Bradford — Bradford has had ups and downs in his short time with the Rams. The Heisman Trophy winner from Oklahoma catapulted St. Louis back into the national spotlight with a stellar rookie campaign, breaking the rookie passing yards record held by future Hall-of-Famer Peyton Manning. Last season, however, saw a notable decline in production — often tagged the sophomore slump — as Bradford struggled with injuries, the same makeshift line and dropped passes from receivers. With new weapons added in the draft and free agency, and a offense returning healthy under a stable new coaching staff (head coach Jeff Fisher, offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer), Bradford looks to return to the form that earned him the #1 overall pick in 2010.
Bottom Line: We'll have to wait and see if Bradford can ascend into the upper-echelon of quarterbacks this fall, but for now he's still good enough to warrant a pick in the later rounds as a quality bye-week replacement.
Danny Amendola — Returning from a season-ending elbow injury, Amendola is surely anxious to impress again and prove he is a top receiver in the league. Amendola is almost a mirror image of prolific New England Patriots pass-catcher Wes Welker: small in stature but big in heart, and quick enough in and out of breaks to get open for five to 10 catches a game. Bradford utilized the Patriots’ model as such in 2010, hitting Amendola 85 times for 689 yards and three touchdowns.
Bottom Line: For a team lacking a reliable #1 receiver, Amendola is the only guy in the lineup Bradford has a history of comfort with. However, returning starters Brandon Gibson and Lance Kendricks (along with new additions Steve Smith and Brian Quick) will be vying for Bradford's affection as well. A lot of people have been drafting Amendola because of his success two seasons ago, but he's only worth a late flier at this point. Much like Bradford, only time will tell.
TAKE A SECOND LOOK
All of the expected young contributors for the Rams' offense survived roster cuts this weekend, as expected. While none of these players are expected to go in most drafts (outside of dynasty leagues), a good start to the season could see some of them becoming hot waiver wire pickups. If you're of the school of thought to hold backup tight ends and kickers on your roster, then look no further for sleeper candidates than the St. Louis Rams.
Lance Kendricks — Kendricks flashed top-tight-end ability last fall before falling victim to the dreaded rookie wall, partly due to inconsistent quarterback play and partly attributed to lapses in concentration (drops, poorly run routes, etc.). Proving to be the Rams' most-complete option at the position with both blocking and receiving ability, he earned 10 starts and played in all but one game.
Bottom Line: Expect much of the same this year, as Bradford has already targeted Kendricks several times in the preseason and looks to rely on him and Amendola heavily on third downs.
Greg Zuerlein — Whether referred to as “Greg the Leg” or “Young GZ”, just know that the former Missouri Western standout kicker is here to stay. Zuerlein has already garnered the aforementioned praise from teammates, personnel and opponents as a rookie, fearlessly taking on 60-yard attempts in the preseason and knocking through mid to high 50-yarders with ease.
Bottom Line: While impulse (including mine) says go with the Leg as a primary kicker, understand the offense is still a question mark at this point in the season. Kickers already go in the final rounds of fantasy drafts, so you might just want to go with more proven options.
Isaiah Pead — The heralded rookie runner from Cincinnati took a while to acclimate himself to the pro game last month, but showed promising progress in each preseason game. Losing carries to another rookie, seventh-round pick Daryl Richardson, surely motivated the second-rounder Pead to figure things out quicker than he probably expected. While Richardson made the roster (and more of an impact than many anticipated), he still hasn't done enough to warrant taking Pead out of consideration to be the Rams' primary spell back behind Jackson.
Bottom Line: NFL teams don't make picks in the second round that they don't expect to play early. Pead is a change-of-pace back that will nicely compliment Jackson and take some of the workload off his shoulders. Although he's sure to steal some touches as a backup, this won't necessarily be a two-back system, so Pead should only be viewed as a handcuff at this point.
The receiver shuffle — Smith and Gibson figure to be the starters with Amendola when the Rams open at the Detroit Lions next Sunday. With Amendola moved to the slot, the free agent-pickup Smith will surely be the “number one” option out wide with Gibson on the weak side; it doesn't seem like the Rams went after Smith to just be another option.
Although serving the final two games of a suspension to open the season, Austin Pettis had a great preseason and finished the 2011 campaign as a top target for the Rams' offense. His big-play potential far outshines that of Gibson, who — although relatively consistent in his first three years in St. Louis — struggles to translate his quality performances in training camp to the regular season.
Rookies Brian Quick and Chris Givens look to challenge for playing time early, but only Quick has gotten substantial preseason looks as the projected starters haven't done anything to give him or Givens the upper hand.
Bottom Line: None of these players has actually proven to be ‘the guy’ for Bradford. Smith comes from the New York Giants as a slot receiver, and has shown lack of comfort in a new alignment. Gibson has left many a fan disappoint with big drops in key situations, and Pettis has been inconsistent on and off the field. Quick and Givens need more time to polish their raw ability, so just keep an eye on this group right now until one or more players emerge in the early weeks.
Be sure to check out other great articles at Sports Media 101.
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