The St. Louis Rams got a head start on Tuesday’s NFL trading deadline by acquiring wide receiver Brandon Lloyd from the Denver Broncos.
In return, published reports indicate the Rams will ship a conditional 6th round pick to Denver that becomes a 5th round pick provided Lloyd catches 30 passes over the Rams final 11 games.
With Denver making the decision a week ago to insert second year player Tim Tebow into the starting line up at quarterback, the Broncos have clearly moved into rebuilding mode. The decision to trade Lloyd comes as little surprise given that he is in the final year of his contract and the Broncos were not willing to sign him to an extension with young players such as 2010 1st round pick Demaryius Thomas, 2010 3rd round pick Eric Decker and 2008 2nd round pick Eddie Royal on the roster.
In St. Louis, Lloyd will be reunited with offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels, who coached the Broncos during the 2010 season when Lloyd enjoyed a career year after languishing on several rosters during the first seven years of his career. With McDaniels leading a pass first offense, Lloyd caught 77 passes for 1,448 yards and 11 touchdowns.
With the offense becoming more conservative under new head coach John Fox, Lloyd had seen his opportunities, and production, diminish. During four games this year, he had accumulated just 19 receptions for 283 yards and no touchdowns.
Almost assuredly, Lloyd immediately becomes Sam Bradford’s top target in St. Louis. It will also be no surprise if free agent signee Mike Sims-Walker is given his release. Sims-Walker has been a bust for the Rams, dropping several passes which led to him being a game day inactive during this week’s game against the Packers.
The question isn’t so much whether Lloyd can duplicate his 2010 success with St. Louis (he can’t) but whether he can provide the Rams and Bradford with the true number one wide receiver they have lacked for years. On that count, Lloyd should be successful although he doesn’t rank amongst the top wide receivers in the league.
Consider solid a low end WR2 or high end WR3 for the balance of the season. If that seems too low, consider the current state of the Rams offense, which has scored two touchdowns in the last three games and put up just three points this week against the Packers.
With Lloyd in town, Danario Alexander’s six-reception, 91-yard performance this week got a whole lot less exciting. Nonetheless, it’s hard to imagine the Rams scaling him back too a minimal role given his enormous upside. He rates as a low end WR4 for 2011 but remains a solid dynasty prospect provided his gimpy knees holed up.
The biggest losers from the Lloyd acquisition are Sims-Walker and Brandon Gibson. While Sims-Walker was a long shot to see action on game day barring injury, Gibson may become an afterthought with Lloyd in town and the emergence of Alexander and rookie fourth round pick Greg Salas (eight for 77 this week).
In Denver, another fantasy loser is Tebow. The inexperienced signal caller’s job gets a whole lot tougher with his best wide receiver shipped out of town. While Eric Decker has looked solid thus far in 2011, he benefitted from the additional attention that Lloyd drew playing opposite him.
Thomas is expected to take Lloyd’s place in the starting line up but he has had trouble staying on the field, much less being productive. He missed six games last season due to injury as well as the first five games of this season. Expected to be placed on the physically unable to perform list due to a ruptured Achilles tendon suffered in 2010, Thomas proved healthy enough to play in the preseason but broke a finger on his first day of practice.
Decker becomes the Broncos top threat at wide receiver but remains a low end WR3. Thomas remains a solid prospect in dynasty leagues but there’s no point in grabbing him off the waiver wire in redraft formats unless you are truly desperate.
As for Tebow, let’s hope you weren’t relying on him in the first place.