The Rams have toiled in mediocrity and sub-mediocrity for over a decade, failing to produce a single winning season since 2004. That was the last time Mike Martz coached a full season in St. Louis. In those 11 years, they have sputtered to a 57-118-1 record, which included a one-win season (2009) and a two two-win seasons (2008, 2011). The best they were able to do in that span was an 8-8 finish in both 2004 and 2006.
Jeff Fisher has brought some respectability back to the Gateway City in his three years as head coach, though they still have a long ways to go. Drafting Greg Robinson and Aaron Donald last year was a nice start, and Todd Gurley will give them a top, young back for years to come. Their offense is a work in progress, but the defense is already one of the best units in the NFL.
Playing in the difficult NFC West makes the Rams prospects look a little bleak, but this is a team that will keep improving each year, eventually earning themselves a winning campaign.
The five-year Sam Bradford saga has officially ended — and it couldn’t come any sooner. While he possessed the potential, the former Heisman Trophy winner has dealt with numerous knee injuries, limiting him to just 49 games since he was taken No. 1 overall by the Rams in 2010. In a rare swap of quarterbacks, the Rams shipped Bradford to the Philadelphia Eagles in exchange for Nick Foles, who will now man the position in The Lou.
Foles missed half of 2014 with a fractured collarbone, but he’s fully recovered and ready to lead the Rams’ O. The 26-year-old former Arizona Wildcat had an excellent 2013, completing 64 percent of his passes for 2,891 yards, 27 TD and just two interceptions after taking over for the injured and ineffective Michael Vick.
The Rams, of course, have a much different offense than the Eagles, so don’t expect 2013 Foles numbers. Though the Rams did average just 24.7 carries per game last year — good for 24th in the league — he’ll be less involved in the offense than he was in Philly. The Rams are going to lean on Tre Mason, and eventually Todd Gurley when he returns from his ACL injury, and the Rams receivers aren’t exactly Jeremy Maclin and DeSean Jackson, either.
The Rams took Tre Mason with the 75th pick in last year’s draft. The third-rounder out of Auburn had his ups and downs during his rookie season. He rushed for 113 and 117 yards against the Broncos and Raiders in Weeks 11 and 13, respectively, but his rest-of-season output (3.9 YPC) was a steep drop off from the 5.3 YPC he achieved in those two games. Mason is a good runner, and a decent pass-catcher as well, but drafters need to be aware that Todd Gurley looms.
The Rams have conceded that Gurley will likely begin training camp on the NFI list (non-football injury), which means he’ll be behind the curve a bit. If his knee isn’t where they want it to be come September, there’s also a chance he begins the season on the PUP list, making him ineligible for the Rams’ first six games. However, whenever he does play, he’ll start to dip in to Mason’s workload. The Rams didn’t take Gurley with the 10th overall pick to wait to unleash him in 2016; they’ll want to integrate him into the offense this year. That said, the Rams won’t overload Gurley either, which means Mason should still see plenty of looks even beyond the rookie’s activation.
Mason, like some other Rams, has tremendous late-round value in fantasy drafts. He’s currently the 36th RB off the boards in standard leagues and the RB34 in PPR leagues, falling behind guys like Isaiah Crowell and Tevin Coleman, who aren’t even guaranteed starting jobs right now. Once Gurley is ready, Mason’s value takes a hit, but in the sixth round, he’s worth adding as your RB3/4. There’s really only one running back being selected after Mason that has a starting job locked up (Chris Ivory, 98 ADP).
As for Gurley, his ADP of 46 is far too high for me right now, and I’m avoiding him in all re-draft leagues. He’s my No. 1 rookie in dynasty formats, but there’s too much uncertainty to draft him where he’s going in re-drafts. I’d much rather have Shane Vereen, Giovani Bernard, T.J. Yeldon or Ameer Abdullah, all of whom are being drafted after the former Georgia Bulldog, and are healthy. His talent isn’t the issue — like I said, he’s my top dynasty rookie — it’s that he could miss a third of the season with his ACL recovery. I’m not wasting a late third-round pick on a player I may not be able to put in my lineup till November. Of course, this could all change if Gurley is deemed a full-go for Week 1, but for owners drafting now, he’s a risky proposition.
If you’re looking for value later in drafts, the Rams’ receivers have got you covered. With ADPs of 129, 207, 251 and 272, Brian Quick, Kenny Britt, Tavon Austin and Stedman Bailey have the “late-round receiver” tag on lock down.
Quick is deserving of being the No. 1 guy of those four, as he offers the most upside. Prior to his season-ending shoulder injury, the former second round pick had racked up 39 catches for 375 yards and three touchdowns. Those numbers surpassed his 2013 totals, and he did so in just seven games — with Shaun Hill and Austin Davis at quarterback. Quick is a deep threat, and in 2013, Nick Foles led all NFL QBs with passes over 20 yards. That changed for Foles last year, but he could be back to his old ways again with his new team. Quick would be the direct benefactor of Foles’ penchant for throwing the deep ball.
As a possible WR1, Brian Quick represents tremendous value at his late 10th-round ADP, as Dwayne Bowe is the only other “WR1” (I’ll use that loosely since I like Andrew Hawkins more) remaining on the board. Rams beat reporter Nick Wagoner thinks Quick has a chance to be be ready by Week 1, and if he can stave off the shoulder issues, he can be a key factor to any fantasy team’s bench receiving unit.
As for the other three pass catchers, well, let’s just say I’m not in love. After Quick, Bailey is the only other Rams receiver I’d be targeting in 12- or 14-team leagues. Bailey came on strong in the second half of 2014, with 89-, 100- and 74-yard performances in Weeks 12, 13 and 15 versus the Chargers, Raiders and Cardinals, respectively. I think he could be a nice complement to Quick and Britt, while Austin is destined to keep being the gadget-type player he’s shown he is — and that’s all he is.
Jared Cook is a big man, but his 6’4″, 235-pound frame hasn’t quite translated to big numbers. After spending his first four seasons with the Titans, Cook came to the Show Me State on a five-year, $35M deal with $16M guaranteed. That’s just gross. Cook has been quite average in a Rams’ uniform. His first two seasons look like this: 51/671/5 and 52/634/3. Plus, his ’13 season totals were padded by an atypical seven-catch, 141-yard, two-TD performance in Week 1.
His numbers aren’t likely to get much better, and a 50-60 catch, 600-700 yard season seems in the cards again. He’s right near the bottom of the tight ends in ADP (TE30), and that’s a reasonable range for him. He’s not draftable in 12-team leagues, but has appeal as a second or third tight end in MFL10s.
The Rams win games on defense, and that doesn’t change in fantasy. Last year, they finished as the No. 5 D/ST in fantasy football, and they’re being drafted accordingly in 2015. Their secondary isn’t great, but as a team they force fumbles (7th), get sacks (13th) and run back kicks well (2 TD). Their front line is as imposing as it gets, with Robert Quinn, Chris Long and Aaron Donald wreaking havoc on opposing quarterbacks, and their linebacking corps is a solid group led by James Laurinaitis, Alec Ogletree and new addition Akeem Ayers.
Look for the Rams to dominate teams like Cleveland, Tampa Bay and Washington, as well as keep division foes Seattle, San Francisco and Arizona in check. They are worthy of their top five status in drafts.
Player to Watch
Todd Gurley is the Rams future. The dynamic back is so good, that the team used a top 10 draft pick on him despite his knee injury. I have little doubt he’ll blossom into a great football player, but he makes for one of the more interesting side stories in early fantasy drafts.
Is it possible he could be ready for the season? If he goes on the PUP list, will he be handed the starting gig as soon as he returns? Can Tre Mason maintain value through all of this? Gurley is being over-drafted right now, but he could make owners look smart if they’re willing to wait to reap the benefits.
Rams’ record in games where Robert Quinn recorded a sack: 4-2
Rams’ record in games where Robert Quinn failed to record a sack: 2-8
If the Rams defense is the key to their success, so must be their best player on that side of the ball. Having totaled 19 sacks in 2013, it was disappointing to see him follow that up with 10.5 sacks. But if you look at how he finished 2014, there’s a lot of optimism to be had. The then 24-year-old failed to record a single sack in the Rams’ first five games, meaning all 10.5 came in Weeks 7-17 (with a bye in Week 4). That’s just under 1.0 sacks per game, which would be a solid number over a full season. The Rams defense goes as Quinn goes; hopefully he doesn’t start 2015 the way he did 2014.