The Rams 1999-2001 offense is arguably the greatest offense in the history of the NFL. Any time you're the "greatest" at something, you're setting the standard that you'll continue to do well in that area. You've got a reputation to uphold.
The Rams were first in scoring and first in yards in all three of those seasons, and had numerous Hall of Famers. Nobody could expect them to continue to be that good, nor did they expect that things could get so bad. The Rams won 6 games total between 2007 and 2009 and finished 30th on average in scoring each season. Finally, they had a breakthrough under new QB Sam Bradford.
Despite missing a whole season at Oklahoma with injury, the Rams drafted Bradford first overall, and right out of the gates he was successful. The Rams fell one win short of the playoffs, and the offense (while still being bad) improved significantly.
They have hired Josh McDaniels as their new offensive coordinator, and no matter how much criticism he takes for being a head coach, he should be just fine as an OC. He's finally got his real "franchise QB" to work with, the Rams re-loaded in skill position players, and the team is ready to get to work. How many fantasy options do the Rams have this season? Who are potential breakout players? Is this team finally ready to get back to offensive domination?
He won the NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year after setting the rookie record for completions last season. Bradford completed 60% of his passes for over 3,500 yards, 18 TDs and 15 INTs. Statistically, it's more than you could ever hope for from a rookie, especially one who had so much time off and did not have much to work with in St. Louis. This season he's a year older, a year more experienced, and the Rams added several interesting upgrades in the wide receiver and tight end department. Additionally, we saw how often McDaniels liked to throw it in Denver. Bradford has a real opportunity here to jump into that next level of NFL QBs and be a top 10 guy, so that means you're getting great value for Bradford if you can snag him in the 10th round or later to be your backup QB. Even if you want to load up on skill players and take Bradford as your starter, that's not a terrible idea. It could be a great steal. He could easily top 4,000 yards and 25 TDs this season.
Jackson is as steady as she goes in terms of NFL running backs, how much does he have left in the tank? One of the reasons that I stress caution on an over-draft of Arian Foster or Jamaal Charles is Jackson. Is he one of the best running backs of the last decade? Yes. Jackson has averaged 1,175 yards rushing per season in the last 4 years. But those last four years were preceded by a season in which he rushed for 1,528 yards, 13 TDs, 90 catches, 806 receiving yards and 3 more TDs. He easily led the NFL in yards from scrimmage with a dominating performance and he was only 23-years-old. So, follow-up would be no problem right?
Of course its a problem, he just had one of the most dominating performances of the last decade! He rushed for 1,002 yards, 5 TDs and had 38 catches in 12 games. Not great for a number one pick. Look, you take your chances, but winning a championship is often about finding that 1,500 yard back in the fourth round, not with the #1 pick. Does that make it a bad pick? Not necessarily, but if somebody is going to expect 2,300 yards from scrimmage out of a player pre-season, then maybe I'll draft and trade that player because those expectations are ridiculous. Jackson is still only 28. He doesn't score a lot of TDs and he won't come close to 90 catches ever again. Expect 1,100 yards, 8 scores (at most perhaps), and 40 catches for 300 yards. Good as a RB2 drafted late round 2.
I spoke a little about Williams when I did my Bucs preview as a word of caution. He's hardly been fantasy noteworthy since 2006. He's the backup on what will be a pass-first offense. He's still got Cadillac Williams injury-prone legs. He's 29. Williams will get a few carries in relief, but even if Jackson got hurt, I wouldn't want to rely on Williams as one of my starting running backs.
The Rams officially parted ways with Donnie Avery, the 33rd player chosen in the 2008 draft. So you won't be seeing his comeback story in St Louis any time soon. So, who will step up in what could be a pass-happy offense? Brandon Lloyd saw his career take an amazing turn for the better in Denver last season under McDaniels, could there be another Lloyd reclamation on the horizon in St. Louis?
Amendola caught 85 passes last year but only for 689 yards. Even in a PPR-league, that will leave you wanting more. That's especially interesting considering that Amendola is a kick and punt returner as well, so where's that big play ability when you really need it? His longest catch of the season was 36 yards. Things could turn out much better this season with McDaniels as the OC and some better options to distract defenses away from Amendola. Potentially, he's a good sleeper if you make him one of your WR bench options.
He is Washington State's all-time leading receiver and the Eagles drafted him in the 6th round in 2009. However, the Eagles didn't see him as part of their future and he was traded to St. Louis later that year. Gibson had a very good follow-up season in 2010 when he caught 53 passes for 620 yards. He's not the fastest receiver in the NFL, but he's reliable and has great hands. In McDaniels offense he could breakout for a huge year, and he caught an 80-yard TD pass in a preseason game this year. Gibson is just one wide receiver on St. Louis who will be on the waiver wire to start the year, but could have a breakout year. In PPR leagues, he'll be even more valuable, as he could be good for 70+ if he's Bradford's true #2.
He was a fantasy favorite in 2009 when he came out of nowhere to catch 47 passes for 694 yards and 6 TDs in his first 8 games that year. He slowed down for the rest of the season, and though he had a couple of big games in Jacksonville last season, he mostly fell out of favor with fantasy owners and then with injury concerns, the Jaguars let him go. He is now quietly a Ram and being drafted 118th on average. Is he this years Brandon Lloyd?
Pettis was a great WR for Boise State and the Rams drafted him in the third round. He's a very deep sleeper.
At Missouri, Alexander led the nation with 1,781 yards and 14 TDs on 113 catches. But surgery on his knee pre-draft caused him to go undrafted and he was signed by the Rams. He had limited duty, but three times topped 70 yards last season. Just another example of how many really interesting options the Rams have at WR, but to know which ones will step will be determined as the season goes on.
The Rams picked Kendricks in the 2nd round of the 2011 draft, and he's probably the most talked about sleeper tight end prospect in fantasy this year. Bradford targeted tight ends almost as any other QB in the NFL last season and Kendricks was one of the top tight ends in this years draft, coming out of Wisconsin where he caught 43 passes last year. If you completely want to punt TE and take Kendricks very late, you can do that. I mean, there's definitely something interesting about him and being in this situation. Just another example of how many interesting options Bradford has, even if none of them are known to be elite yet.
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