Note: I recently exchanged 2007 fantasy football analysis of the St. Louis Rams with my SB Nation colleague VanRam who writes the Rams blog, Turf Show Times. After reading his excellent one first, head over there for my analysis.
On the surface it seems kind of paradoxical, but Rams head coach Scott Linehan's more conservative approach to the offense has actually benefited fantasy players relying on Rams starters. I'll give you time to clean up the coffee on your monitor while you spew invective about the days of 45-39 point games and how things could possibly be better, form a fantasy standpoint. Got it all wiped off? Good.
The offensive line is young and hungry and proved themselves more than capable of protecting Bulger and opening up running lanes for the 10-cylinder engine that is Steven Jackson. If Bulger, with more protection from the line and a legit running threat to recall the good days of Marshall Faulk, stays healthy and is thus making passes, he will be racking up yards and doing all those other things that will make him a steal at QB in your draft this summer. I'm not going to tell you that he'll top the 4300 yards and 24 TDs from last season, but I won't be surprised if he adds a few more TDs to that number with two new red zone threats in the form of Randy McMichael and Drew Bennett.
Speaking of McMichael and Bennett, they'll spread out some of the fantasy counting stats that Holt and Bruce once racked up in bundles, but they could still be plenty valuable as their sole purpose for being brought in was their size and skills in the red zone and those short yardage trench battles. Bennett will get some TDs and some decent yardage when mediocre secondaries are forced to concentrate on the Torry Holt, who's still unquestionably the Rams' number one wide receiver.
Steven Jackson, I think we've all figured out, is a first round, top five pick. When Frank Gore's getting stuffed, fumbling or on the shelf with injury or when gray-beard Shaun Alexander's foot starts hurting, Steven Jackson will still be running and running and running...
Although Jackson's declared his intent to shatter the single season yards from scrimmage record currently owned by his Ram predecessor, Faulk, it just might not happen thanks largely to the presence of second rounder Brian Leonard and his ability to catch the ball. He won't be a fantasy asset for you, but he's worth keeping an eye on as Linehan and Offensive Coordinator Greg Olson will surely run a number of two back attacks with Jackson sure to draw the most attention of opposing defenders.
In his breakdown of the Rams fantasy outlook, Eric pointed out the team's consistency among Rams performers. Note the numbers for the #1 WR. Torry Holt's been a stud for many a fantasy team over the years, and there's no reason to think he'll stop now. With Bennett and McMichael on board now, there are two players that theoretically should take away some of his numbers. That may very well happen, but I don't think it will be at a level where you'll be disappointed in having Holt as your number one WR. Bruce's numbers will likely suffer the most, and Bennett's probably a better choice for your fantasy team than Bruce is heading into the season. Per Eric's advice, Bruce still probably merits a pick over Jeff Wilkins, as he's a legit threat for 800 yards, just know that there's going to be a few games where he nets you little in the way of fantasy points - the Rams just have too many weapons now to get the kind of game-to-game consistency from a #3 wide out that fantasy owners crave!
The biggest question mark fantasy-wise for the Rams is the good old DST issue. Early on last season, when they were on their way to being one of the most porous rushing defenses in the league, the Rams still managed to get turnovers. Defensive coordinator Jim Haslett will be aggressive with the blitz this season thanks to some personnel changes, and they will still actively seek to force turnovers. Already the defense has improved over 2006, with the additions like Adam Carriker and James Hall, and the return units should be fairly productive with the addition of Dante Hall and some stout special teams guys. They might even get a TD or two if things break right. Still, not even a devoted fan such as myself would risk starting the Rams in my DST spot until I had seen a few games to know what they're capable of.
Training camp's not much more than a month away now, so be sure to swing over to the Turf Show Times ahead of your fantasy draft as we get further into how things are shaping up with the Rams and the fantasy players you'll be counting on to wreck what otherwise might be an enjoyable Sunday of watching football, drinking beer, and eating Nachos.