Originally written on The Sports Headquarters  |  Last updated 8/31/12

The Rams have struggled in the years since the “Greatest Show on Turf” days of the late 20th century.  They have a very talented running back in Steven Jackson who only experienced the playoffs in his rookie season and probably won’t as long as he is still playing, unless new Head Coach Jeff Fisher can turn this once proud ship around.  To make matters worse for the Football Diehards in St. Louis, the franchise has been on the short list to relocate back to Los Angeles.  Now to turn to brighter things, the Rams have two of the leagues best at their positions in Linebacker James Laurinaitis and Defensive End Chris Long.  It’s a shame that the parts around these stellar players aren’t stronger or the Rams could transcend into a Top 10 Defense.  QB Sam Bradford had a superb rookie campaign but has regressed due to injuries and a substandard receiving corps.  Protecting him in 2012 will be LT Rodger Saffold, LG Quinn Ojinnaka, C Scott Wells, RG Harvey Dahl and RT Barry Richardson.

Left Tackle Rodger Saffold was a 2nd round draft pick of the Rams in 2010.  He, like Bradford, had a great rookie year allowing only 3.5 sacks protecting Bradford’s blindside but in only 9 starts in 2011, he gave up a whopping 9 sacks and was penalized 9 times.  He needs to get his play back to the 2010 level or he may be expendable.  Coach Fisher won’t tolerate that level of poor play.


Left Guard Quinn Ojinnaka was a 5th round draft choice of the Atlanta Falcons in 2006.  He has had stints with the Falcons, Colts and New England before landing in St. Louis.  He definitely has good height for a Guard but is one of the lightest Offensive Linemen in the league.  He makes up for his lack of weight with excellent balance and speed.  In his last 17 starts he has only allowed 1 sack and incurred 2 penalties.


Center Scott Wells was a 7th round selection of the Green Bay Packers in the 2004 draft.  He was the starting Center for the Pack until getting a free agent contract with the Rams.  He is the absolute prototypical size for a Center and is extremely durable.  In his last 32 games he has only allowed 3.5 sacks and taken only 3 penalties.  Bullish and effective, he will be counted on to reduce the number of sacks the Rams allowed in 2011 (55) back to a more normal number.


Right Guard Harvey Dahl was an undrafted Free Agent snatched up by the Cowboys in 2005.  He played with Dallas and Atlanta before landing in the Gateway to the West.  He can play Tackle or Guard and has done so throughout his career.  In his last 32 games he has only allowed 5.5 sacks but was flagged for 13 penalties which is a number he must reduce.  This unit will be under constant pressure in 2012 so Dahl must be at his best.


Right Tackle Barry Richardson was selected by the Kansas City Chiefs in the 6th round of the 2008 NFL draft.  He played with K.C until this year when he was signed by the Rams.  He doesn’t have a flashy skillset but he will get the job done efficiently.  His main knock is that he must jump out of the stance quicker to cut off fleeter pass rushers.  He may need help from the Guard or chips from the blocking Tight Ends like Matthew Mulligan at times.


Now to analyze the numbers…..


The Rams ranked 30th in Total Run Blocking in 2011 allowing Steven Jackson, Cadillac Williams and Jerious Norwood to run for 4.22 yards per carry which was below the NFL average of 4.31.  They were stopped at/or behind the line of scrimmage on 20% of their attempts which was just above the 19% league average.  The RB’s achieved first downs on 3rd/4th down runs only 48% of the time in 2011 which was way below the NFL average of 62% and ranked 2nd last in the league.  The Rams ran the ball 375 times in 2011 and Steven Jackson had 260 of those carries.  They had their least success running outside of the RT position as they only averaged 3.23 yards per carry.  They had much more success running outside of the LT position as they galloped for 5.12 yards per carry which ranked 4th best in the NFL.  From a Fantasy perspective, the Rams still have an elite back in Jackson but he is approaching the danger age for running backs with a ton of mileage like he does.  Recent draftee Isiah Pead will provide much needed rest for Jackson and can also be a change of pace back if need be.  Jackson chipped in with 42 catches last year but expect Pead to be involved in the passing game as well so Jackson’s PPR value will most undoubtedly drop.  The bottom line is that you will want to target Jackson early and if you are a handcuff guy, you most likely will be able to get Pead off the waiver wire or if you lust after him, take him in the extremely late rounds.


The Rams ranked 28th in the NFL in Pass Protection allowing Bradford, A.J Feely and Kellen Clemens to be sacked on 9.1% of their dropbacks which was well worse than the NFL average of 6.7%. Bradford has been dealing with nagging injuries and is still not 100% but don’t count him out.  He is a better talent than he showed last year and if any of his motley crew of receivers can elevate their play, Bradford may be a sleeper.  The Wide Receivers are Danny Amendola, Brandon Gibson, Steve Smith and newly drafted Brian Quick.  Put it this way, if the uber talented Brandon Lloyd only had 51 grabs for 683 and 5TD’s, I would not hold much hope that any of these guys can be even viable WR2′s.  Amendola may have some value in PPR leagues, but I really don’t have him valued high there as well.  Tight End Lance Kendricks frustrated the bejeebers out of Fantasy Owners in 2011.  He found open lanes but had way too many concentration drops.  I have faith that he may be able to be Fantasy relevant in 2012 albeit from the waiver wire as a bye week acquisition or a matchup play.  The moral of this sad story is draft Bradford as a backup who may break out and avoid everyone else except S Jax.


Thanks explicitly must go to www.footballoutsiders.com for the statistics.


Next team is the Tampa Bay Buccaneers


You can follow me on Twitter @ChrisGoodinTSHQ or email at fantasyfootballwriter@gmail.com


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