2013 Fantasy Football Team Preview: The St. Louis Rams
Note: This piece was originally written on July 14th by Adam Ganeles and is one of many unique pieces that can be found in our 2013 fantasy football draft guide. None of this information has been updated since it was originally published.
With Jeff Fisher laying the pavement for success, the Rams finished 7-8-1 in 2013 behind a predominantly rebuilding roster against a #3 adjusted strength of schedule. Home wins over Washington, Seattle and San Francisco highlighted the campaign. The offensive depth chart isn’t saturated with marquee names per say, but there is no shortage of intriguing and versatile young talent.
Quarterback: After taking a beating behind center in 2011, Sam Bradford stayed healthy for the full 16 games in 2012 and finished 16th among QB’s in total fantasy points (244). Improved offensive line play allowed for more slow developing, double-move routes, which predictably resulted in more explosive passing plays. It also opened up more opportunities for Bradford’s bread and butter: the play-action game. 22% of Bradford’s 551 pass attempts came off PA, with a 25.4% Defense-adjusted Value Over Average (DVOA), as opposed to 2.8% DVOA on non-PA.
Running Back: A group of young backs, all 23 or younger, will likely try to replace Steven Jackson by committee. Second-year back Daryl Richardson has the most experience in the group, but it’s becoming increasingly evident that the Rams view him as the game breaker on the perimeter (two 40+ yard runs) rather than a workload runner. Isaiah Pead, another second-year back (traded up in the 2nd round to get him), possesses a highly intriguing skill set. However, his professional resume is blank after struggling to grasp the NFL game as a rookie. He’s already begun to wow the coaching staff this off-season with his speed, willingness to run between the tackles and aptitude as a receiver taking center stage. He’ll miss the season opener serving a one-game marijuana suspension. Rookie Zac Stacy (discussed below) will also be in the mix.
Wide Receiver: Speed on the outside has long since been MIA at the Edward Jones Dome, but the current depth chart holds promise. The Rams traded up to snag Tavon Austin and his 4.25 speed, and he’ll surely line up all over the formation for optimal touches. Austin will join emerging second-year wideout Chris Givens who developed into the team’s primary playmaker. Of Givens’ 42 receptions last season, five went for 40+ (tied for fifth in league). Brian Quick looks the part of an elite WR at 6’3 220. At this stage it’s a matter of developing confidence in his route running and overall experience level. He makes for an attractive own in dynasty and keeper leagues. Austin Pettis and Stedman Bailey will serve as possession receivers with limited upside.
Tight End: Despite never realizing his potential in Tennessee, the Rams threw a hefty chunk of change at Jared Cook to the tune of five years and $38 million. It’s not hard to see what they like: Cook runs a 4.4 at 6’5 and possesses as much big play potential as any TE around. He’s a true vertical threat in a position that continues to evolve. Cook has both the speed to line up outside and the strength to shed defenders on the interior. Look for a minimum 20-reception jump and increased usage in the red zone.
Defense: BUY. The Rams are loaded with individual talent and highlight fillers on the defensive side of the ball. With youth overflowing, this unit still managed to finish eighth in scoring defense at 18.7 PPG. Their pass rushing trio of Chris Long, Robert Quinn and Michael Brockers combined for half of the team’s league leading 52 sacks. Tackling dynamo James Laurinaitis (142) will get help on the outside from rookie and athletic freak Alec Ogeltree. 24-year old Janoris Jenkins is an elite playmaker at DB, concluding his introductory campaign with four defensive scores.
Player to Watch: 5’8 rookie Zac Stacy has the appearance of a scat back, but he’s anything but. Stacy runs with power behind a low center of gravity, displays excellent vision and makes quick, decisive cuts. Vanderbilt used him frequently in the “wildcat” to best utilize his see the hole/hit the hole mastery. First string offense is not an unreasonable ambition for Stacy.
Key Stat: Rams quarterbacks were sacked 55 times in 2011, down to 35 in 2012, down to __ in 2013? Bradford has proven to be a very effective quarterback when upright and awarded a clear pocket to throw from. The arrival of Jake Long via free agency and an influx of youthful speed at the skill positions should open up new doors for what has been a relatively vanilla offensive unit.