QB Sam Bradford
With Josh McDaniels at the controls and Sam Bradford coming off an impressive rookie season, there were high hopes for the Rams offense entering 2011. Unfortunately, the offense fell flat as Bradford struggled through an injury marred campaign and McDaniels stubbornly refused to alter his offensive approach despite having an array of offensive players ill-suited to carry out his marching orders. Bradford missed six games with a high ankle sprain but struggled mightily in his ten starts, throwing for just 2,164 yards and six touchdowns. McDaniels was fired after the season and replaced by former Jets offensive coordinator Brian Scottenheimer. Scottenheimer will employ a version of the west coast offense and that bodes well for Bradford, who excelled as a rookie in Pat Shurmur’s WCO. While Bradford is expected to take a leap forward in 2012, it is doubtful he will be a useful fantasy option. The Rams scored 16 touchdowns last season and lost their top wide receiver (Brandon Lloyd) and the offensive line has significant issues once again. How many touchdowns are in order for the Rams in 2012? Can’t be too many more than 16. That makes it pretty hard to predict a breakout season for Bradford in 2012. He remains a solid option in dynasty formats but he is a low end QB2 in redraft formats.
RB Steven Jackson
If you’re looking for consistent fantasy production at running back, look no further than the Rams Steven Jackson. The man known as “Sjax” has piled up seven consecutive 1,000 rushing yard seasons, the longest active streak in the league, and has been the focal point of the team’s offense for the last several years. While Jackson has been a workhorse back since 2005, averaging almost 340 touches per season, the team used a second-round pick on Isaiah Pead and the plan is for Jackson to see his touches go down slightly in 2012. However, given the state of the team’s crop of wide receivers and tight ends, Jackson is expected to carry the team’s offense once again and the offensive philosophy of new head coach Jeff Fisher and new offensive coordinator Brian Scottenheimer has been to pound the opposing defenses into submission using a power rushing attack. The only knock on Jackson’s fantasy production has been in the touchdown department, as he has averaged six touchdowns per season over the past five years and hasn’t hit double-digit touchdowns since his career-year in 2006. Sjax rates as a low end RB1 or upper tier RB2 in 2012.
RB Isaiah Pead
At long last, the Rams finally addressed the backup running back position by drafting Pead in the 2nd round of this year’s draft. The 5’11”, 200-pound Cincinnati product was a workhorse back in college but significant questions remain about his ability to fulfill that role in the NFL given his size. With the Rams in 2012, that isn’t going to be an issue since Pead will play behind Steven Jackson, a true workhorse back who has carried the Rams offense for the past several seasons. Jackson rarely comes off the field and when he does, he doesn’t usually stay off of it for long. And Sjax’s injury reputation is overblown since he has missed just one game over the past three years. While Pead was an intriguing selection for the Rams, his fantasy value in 2012 is as Jackson’s handcuff. However, with Jackson at 29 years of age and having averaged 336 touches over the past seven seasons, Pead’s combination of speed, elusiveness and future opportunity make him a solid dynasty league option.
WR Brian Quick
With the first pick in the 2nd round of the draft, the Rams swung for the fences with the selection of Quick, a physical specimen from tiny Appalachian State. The 6’4”, 220-pound Quick possesses solid, if not outstanding speed, a massive wingspan and was highly productive during his last season in college with 71 receptions for nearly 1,100 yards and 11 touchdowns. Whether or not his combine measurables and college production translates into success in St. Louis is the issue. Given the low level of competition he faced, Quick figures to get out of the gates slowly in 2012 even if he begins the season in the starting lineup… a reasonable probability given the state of the team’s depth chart at wide receiver. Quick isn’t worth drafting in re-draft leagues but is a decent prospect in dynasty leagues, especially those that use PPR scoring.
WR Brandon Gibson
After coming to St. Louis in a mid-season trade in 2009, Gibson was reasonably impressive as a rookie, catching 34 passes for 348 yards in just ten games. He followed that up with marginally better production the following season (53 for 620 and two touchdowns) but regressed in 2011 and was basically an afterthought by season’s end with just five targets in his last four games. With the Rams having drafted four wide receivers in the last two years and the free agent signing of (the other) Steve Smith, Gibson is little more than an insurance policy.
WR Danny Amendola
You could easily make the argument that the beginning of the Rams 2011 offensive collapse began when Amendola was lost for the season in Week 1 with an elbow injury. Operating out of the slot in 2010, Amendola was the team’s most productive receiver, catching 85 passes for 685 yards and three touchdowns. With Amendola out, the Rams lost their best chain moving option and several players tried unsuccessfully to operate out of the slot as his replacement. Amendola is ready to roll in 2012 and with the Rams receiver depth chart loaded with unproven young players and journeyman veterans, he should be in line for plenty of work this coming season. He is clearly a poor man’s version of Wes Welker but without the 100-reception upside. Since Amendola isn’t as quick and shifty as Welker, he isn’t as solid of an option in the red zone and it doesn’t help that the Rams as a team don’t spend much time there. He is, however, quarterback Sam Bradford’s go-to receiver, catching 69.1% of his targets in 2010. Amendola rates as a WR4 in standard scoring leagues and as a WR3 in PPR leagues.
WR Danario Alexander
In the life isn’t fair category, we present Danario Alexander. In college, the 6’5”, 220 pound Alexander looked like a poor man’s Calvin Johnson. In the pros, he has flashed his play-making ability in several games over his two-year career but has been unable to remain healthy due to a degenerative knee condition. The Rams have drafted four receivers over the last two seasons and Danny Amendola owns the slot position so Alexander will likely have to beat out Steve Smith to earn a roster spot. Given his poor durability, the Rams may decide to part ways with Alexander barring an outstanding performance in training camp.
WR Greg Salas
The Rams 2011 4th round pick was enjoying a moderately productive rookie campaign, replacing the injured Danny Amendola as the team’s main slot receiver, before a fractured fibula ended his season in Week 9. He finished the season with 27 receptions for 264 yards on just 38 targets but was benched for several games after fumbling a punt and making a key drop in a Week 2 loss to the Giants. Salas outplayed fellow 2011 rookie Austin Pettis but will need to hold him off to back up Amendola in the slot. Despite his 6’1”, 210 lbs frame, he wasn’t used much outside in 2011 so his upside for 2012 is minimal. However, Amendola is playing on a restricted free agent deal and may not be back in 2013 so Salas has some value in dynasty leagues.
WR Austin Pettis
Pettis had some promise entering 2011 as a rookie 3rd round pick out of Boise State but ended up having a miserable season. He was beat out by 4th round pick Greg Salas in the preseason, only to be reinserted into the lineup when Salas struggled. Once there, Pettis did precious little to suggest he was worthy of being a 3rd round pick, catching just 27 of 48 targets for 256 yards and showing little explosion or after the catch ability. To top it off, he was suspended for four games for using performance-enhancing drugs and that will cost him the first two games of this season. He’s not worthy of owning in re-draft leagues and his dynasty value is basically nothing unless he has a superb preseason.
WR Steve Smith
Smith joins the Rams in 2012 after a one-year stint in Philadelphia where he struggled to rebound from a serious knee injury he suffered in 2010 while with the Giants. Unable to supplant Jason Avant to become the Eagles third receiver, Smith appeared in just nine games with one start, catching 11 of his 20 targets for 124 yards and a touchdown. Back in 2009, Smith put together a Pro Bowl season with 107 receptions for 1,220 yards and seven touchdowns but he will struggle to make the Rams roster in 2012. St. Louis is hardly loaded with proven receiving options so Smith has an outside chance to emerge from the pack during the preseason but the odds are stacked against him.
WR Chris Givens
Lacking an established big play threat at wide receiver, the Rams used a 4th round pick in this year’s draft to acquire Givens. He has blazing speed but had maturity issues at Wake Forest and will need to polish his route running in the pros. Look for Givens to battle with second-year player Danario Alexander to be the team’s big play threat in 2012. He isn’t worth owning in redraft formats and is a lower tier option in dynasty formats.
TE Lance Kendricks
The Rams had high hopes for Kendricks entering last season. The 2011 2nd round pick displayed an ability to get open in the preseason and quickly gained a rapport with quarterback Sam Bradford. Unfortunately, he spit the bit once the season began, showing a propensity to get open but then drop easy catches. The team’s quarterbacking situation didn’t help but Kendricks was constantly nicked up and by season’s end had caught just 28 of his 58 targets for 352 yards and no touchdowns. Kendricks clearly has upside but he is no more than a low-end TE2 in 2012. He has more value as a dynasty option but even then his upside may not be that of a fantasy starter.