St. Louis Rams
|By Shawn Larabee, Wednesday, August 21, 2013|
QB Sam Bradford - Sleeper (undervalued)
Bradford's arrow is pointing up after the Rams finally committed to getting him some pass protection and receiver help. The improvements began in 2012, while this offseason saw the big name additions of Jake Long, Jared Cook and Tavon Austin. Coaching consistency helps too. This year, for the first time since he turned pro, Bradford won't have to learn a new offense under yet another new coordinator. With Steven Jackson now plying his trade in Atlanta, this is Bradford's team.Injury Status: Injured Reserve
RB Daryl Richardson - Quality Backup
Richardson did a fine job backing up Steven Jackson last season. The lightly regarded 7th-round pick rolled up 475 yards on just 95 carries while pitching in 24 grabs for 168 yards. Though he's the RB on the roster with the most NFL game experience, he's probably best suited to a 3rd-down role. We expect him to be locked into an eventual time-share with the team's more rugged between-the-tackles rushers like Isaiah Pead and rookie Zac Stacy.
Update: 8/10 Daryl Richardson has been named the team's starter and looks every bit the part as he's flashed extremely well in camp. We could be looking at a breakout candidate if this continues through the preseason. Keep an eye on him in Week 2 and 3 of the preseason. If he continues to shine, his stock will continue to rise to somewhere in the mid 6th or 7th round. Intriguing prospect to take a flier on, especially if you started wide receiver heavy in your draft.
RB Isaiah Pead - Super Sleeper (high risk/potential)
Despite a disappointing rookie season, there's reason to be optimistic about Pead's fantasy prospects. He's a better interior runner than Daryl Richardson and his extra year of experience gives him a leg up on Zac Stacy. Pead will have a chance to earn a major role in the now wide-open Rams backfield competition. His Week 1 suspension for violating the league's substance abuse policy is a minor setback.
RB Zac Stacy - Dynasty Only
St. Louis traded up in the draft to grab Stacy, now a popular fantasy dark horse. Vanderbilt's record-holder could force a messy training camp battle for the rights to the team's top running back duties. At the very least, he'll be in line for shares in a backfield committee.
WR Tavon Austin - Gamble (high risk)
His pure athleticism is nearly unparalleled and he will undoubtedly be the star of numerous highlight reels this season. When watching him in person, his speed is hard to believe. The question is: can Tavon Austin possibly live up to the immense hype in his rookie year? Those managers buying in will need to burn a top pick in order to find out just what the undersized dynamo can do when he faces professionals for the first time. It will likely take Austin very little time to adjust to life in the NFL. Take him as your WR4 with confidence.
WR Chris Givens - Sleeper (undervalued)
There was a five game stretch last season during which Givens recorded a catch of 50 yards or more in every contest. His over-the-top speed is superb, but it was his late-season development following the Danny Amendola injury that showcased the versatility Givens possesses. This season he'll be a starter on the outside and could benefit in the matchup game as defenses focus on stopping fellow burner Tavon Austin.
Update: Chris Givens continues to catch the deep ball with ease. There's arguably not a better deep ball receiver in the league right now. Torrey Smith comes to mind, but Givens seems to do it with such consistency; the only factor holding him down is amount of targets. We think Bradford knows now that Givens is the most reliable target on the field and will begin to use him as such. He's a nice pick, especially as your 4th wide receiver.
WR Brian Quick - Bye Week Fill-in
Quick projects as the starting flanker and is expected to make a huge leap in production this season. He could develop into a valuable possession receiver on a team that is now blessed with speed, but lacking in size.
WR Stedman Bailey - Dynasty Only
Bailey was Tavon Austin's West Virginia teammate and actually had the better receiving stats in college. Nevertheless, his small stature and mediocre speed are likely to place him at fourth or lower on the initial WR depth chart. He'll be a contributor in the return game.
WR Austin Pettis - Deep-league Only
Pettis is a complementary player and unlikely to play a heavy number of snaps. He was the no. 4 WR for the Rams last season and the talent ahead of him has improved since then.
TE Jared Cook - Solid/Safe Pick
The Rams won the bidding war for one of this year's most sought after free agents. Cook's $35-million dollar contract puts him among the elite at his position, though he has yet to prove he can be an elite fantasy commodity. The speed, size and skill are givens; now it is just a matter of St. Louis being able to use him more effectively than Tennessee did.
Update: 8/15 - So, apparently Jared Cook has looked better than anyone in the entire NFL this pre-season (according to Peter King). We've heard this story before, however it doesn't take much to see that Jared Cook can be a Top 10 tight end in this league. This is the year we here at FFToolbox are saying, "Go Get Cook" as your starter, just don't pay a crazy price to do it. If you're not getting Jimmy Graham, Witten, Gronkowski or Gonzalez, Cook falls into the next tier of tight ends that's about 10 deep. Feel free to pick him off the board right after the names listed above are gone.
TE Lance Kendricks - Deep-league Only
Kendricks is a big, fast receiver who displayed improved hands last season and became a matchup challenge for opposing defenses. Unfortunately for him, the Rams went ahead and signed a bigger, faster TE with impecable hands. Kendricks will take a backseat to Jared Cook, but should still see some playing time in this pass-focused offense .
PK Greg Zuerlein - Sleeper (undervalued)
Zuerlein made headlines his rookie year when he became the first NFLer to convert two field goals of 58 yards or more. He stayed perfect through five games before suffering through a three-miss game in Week 6 that seemed to rattle his confidence. If he can re-gain his mojo, he'll be a worthy fantasy asset this season.
St. Louis Defense - Sleeper (undervalued)
For all the improvements on offense, the up and coming Rams defense is often overlooked. Last year it was largely thanks to strong defensive play that St. Louis split its series with Seattle and went undefeated against both San Francisco and Arizona. In fact, no NFC West opponent scored more than 24 points against the Rams all year.