QB Sam Bradford
(2012 QB Rank – #19, 18.0 FPts/G)
Entering 2013, Rams quarterback Sam Bradford faces a pivotal year as he attempts to establish himself as an upper-tier quarterback. Hopes are high that Bradford, with a bevy of speed receivers and a second consecutive year under the tutelage of offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer, will put together a career year in 2013. Of course, he will have to accomplish that without the services of Steven Jackson and Danny Amendola, both of whom departed in free agency, and Schottenheimer has never been mentioned as one of the league’s top offensive minds. Despite a leaky offensive and a cast of receivers that was among the league’s worst in 2012, Bradford set career highs with 3,702 passing yards and 21 touchdowns with just 13 interceptions. However, he threw for less than 200 yards five times and had just three 300-yard passing games. The lack of explosive games (partly caused by a lack of playmakers at the skill positions) caused him to finish the season as a mid-tier QB2, but he could be in for a breakout season in 2013. Rookie Tavon Austin offers plenty of potential at wide receiver, Chris Givens will look to establish himself as a big-play threat, and tight end Jared Cook is one of the league’s most athletic tight ends. If the Rams can get solid production from their running backs, Bradford could emerge as a low-end QB1. But that’s a lot of ifs. Consider Bradford a mid-tier QB2 once again this season.
RB Daryl Richardson
(2012 RB Rank – #51, 4.0 FPts/G; #46 PPR, 5.5 FPts/G)
A rookie seventh-round pick in 2012, Richardson got off to a fast start as Steven Jackson’s backup, racking up 451 rushing and 117 receiving yards over the Rams’ first 11 games. Then he crumbled like a cookie, with 16 rushes for 24 yards and eight receptions for 46 yards over the team’s final five games. The Abilene Christian product will enter 2013 as the Rams’ starting running back, but there are serious concerns whether his 5’10”, 196-pound frame is built to handle the lead role in St. Louis, or whether he would be best utilized as a change-of-pace back. While the speedy Richardson proved to be effective running outside the tackles, he struggled mightily once opposing defenses coordinators figured out he wasn’t much of an inside runner. However, with disappointing 2012 second-round pick Isaiah Pead and rookie fifth-round pick Zac Stacy as his only competition, Richardson has the starting role almost by default. We expect the Rams backfield to be a fantasy mess in 2013, with the hot hand getting the touches. Richardson rates as a low-end RB3.
RB Isaiah Pead
(2012 RB Rank – #126, 15.4 FPts/G; #126 PPR, 1.3 FPts/G)
Many felt the Rams finally addressed the backup running back spot behind Steven Jackson with the 2012 selection of Isaiah Pead in the second round of the draft. However, seventh-round pick Daryl Richardson stole that backup role and is expected to be given the first chance as the Rams starter in 2013. Pead rarely saw the field as a rookie, rushing just ten times for 54 yards and catching three passes for 16 yards. He didn’t endure himself to the Rams coaches with his lack of knowledge of the playbook, and then he was suspended for the opening game of the 2013 season for violating the league’s substance abuse policies. Looks like he has a lot of learning to do both on the field and off. While that might be the case, Richardson struggled at the end of the 2012 season and there are doubts that he can hold up as a starter. Don’t be surprised if Pead gets a shot in that role at some point in 2013, making him worth taking a flier on.
RB Zac Stacy
(2012 RB Rank – N/A)
The Rams used a fifth-round pick in this year’s draft to acquire Stacy, and he will be given an opportunity to earn a role in 2013. With neither Daryl Richardson nor Isaiah Pead having done much to establish themselves as consistent producers, Stacy could even earn the starting role at some point in his rookie season. While the 5’9”, 210-pound Vanderbilt product lacks upside because of his lack of speed and shiftiness, he was an effective inside runner in college, and neither Richardson nor Stacy have proven efficient in that role as pros. At worst, Stacy figures to get some yardage looks, so that makes him worthy of a late-round flier in your fantasy draft. Just don’t go mistaking opportunity for talent if you are thinking about grabbing Stacy in your dynasty league. He doesn’t have the feel of a long-time NFL starter even if he earns a few starts in 2013.
WR Tavon Austin
(2012 WR Rank – N/A)
With a lack of playmakers at the offensive skill positions and Danny Amendola having departed in free agency, St. Louis moved up in this year’s draft to select Austin with the eighth overall selection. The West Virginia product displayed outstanding playmaking ability during his collegiate career, effectively utilizing his shiftiness and 40 speed of 4.34, mainly working out of the slot. He will fulfill that role in St. Louis, and with quarterback Sam Bradford having shown an affinity for utilizing slot receivers, Austin could be a PPR demon in his rookie season. He figures to be a tough matchup out of the slot, with opposing defenses having to respect his blazing speed. Unfortunately, the Rams offense could struggle with no proven threat at running back and an offensive line that has been trouble for years. While that dampens our expectations for Austin in his rookie season, he is an outstanding dynasty league prospect and a player that should produce as a WR3 with upside in his rookie season.
WR Chris Givens
(2012 WR Rank – #52, 5.9 FPts/G; #58 PPR, 8.7 FPts/G)
The Rams hit a home run with the acquisition of Chris Givens with a fourth-round pick in the 2012 draft. The Wake Forest product used his blazing speed to emerge as St. Louis’s top receiving weapon, catching 42 passes for 698 yards and three touchdowns, with 689 of those yards and all three touchdowns coming in his last 12 games. At this point of his career, Givens is a less-established version of the Dolphins’ Mike Wallace but with plenty of upside. A one-trick pony for the first half of his rookie season, Givens was effectively used on intermediate routes over the latter part of 2012. In 2013, he may have even more room to operate due to the acquisitions of Tavon Austin and Jared Cook. Look for Givens to improve on his rookie season and make for a solid WR3 this year.
WR Austin Pettis
(2012 WR Rank – #82, 3.9 FPts/G; #81 PPR, 6.2 FPts/G)
Entering his third year in the league, Pettis figures to open the season in the Rams starting lineup for the first time in his career. A third-round pick out of Boise State in 2011, Pettis needs to beat out disappointing second-year player Brian Quick, but that appears to be a mere formality. Given that Pettis has averaged 9.1 yards per reception, he’s going to need plenty of targets to be a decent fantasy option. Unfortunately, he will rank as quarterback Sam Bradford’s fourth best receiving option behind Jared Cook, Chris Givens and rookie first-round pick Tavon Austin. Even though Pettis was a solid red zone option with four touchdowns on just 30 receptions last season, he isn’t worth owning in the majority of leagues.
WR Brian Quick
(2012 WR Rank – #111, 2.0 FPts/G; #121 PPR, 2.8 FPts/G)
After being taken with the first pick in the second round of the 2012 draft, Quick was a major disappointment as a rookie, catching just 11 of his 27 targets for 156 yards and one touchdown. After being targeted four times in Weeks 7 and 8, Quick became a forgotten man in the Rams offensive game plans. And that doesn’t figure to change in 2013. With the Rams taking Tavon Austin with the eighth selection in this year’s draft, Chris Givens locking down a starting spot after an impressive rookie season, and Jared Cook signing in free agency to start at tight end, Quick will need to beat out Austin Pettis to become the fourth best receiving option on the team. And offseason reports indicate that battle isn’t going Quick’s way. Quick isn’t even worth a late-round flier, and his dynasty prospects are sinking like a stone.
WR Stedman Bailey
(2012 WR Rank – N/A)
The Rams used a third-round pick to acquire Bailey in this year’s draft, and the expectation is that the West Virginia product will open the season buried deep on the team’s depth chart. Bailey lacks size at 5’10” and 195 pounds but has solid speed, having been clocked at 4.4 seconds in the 40-yard dash. He will open the season fifth on the depth chart with a chance to unseat the disappointing Brian Quick. He rates as a lower-tier prospect in dynasty formats.
TE Jared Cook
(2012 TE Rank – #19, 5.9 FPts/G; #21 PPR, 9.3 FPts/G)
Even after a disappointing four-year run with Tennessee, Cook was one of the most sought after free agents on the market this offseason, signing a lucrative multi-year contract with the Rams. In St. Louis, he figures to be a key cog in an up-and-coming passing attack that has struggled to find a consistent big-play presence for years. Now, with Cook and wide receivers Chris Givens and Tavon Austin, the team now has the ability to line up plenty of speed across the board in the passing game. As the most proven of that trio, Cook figures to reach a career-high in targets (his previous was 81 during the 2011 season), after being underutilized in Tennessee. As well as being one of the fastest tight ends in the league, Cook has solid size at 6’5” and 248 pounds, so a career year seems to be in order in 2013. The question is whether he will blow away his previous production or merely take it a notch higher. Consider Cook a mid-tier TE1 with upside.
TE Lance Kendricks
(2012 TE Rank – #20, 4.7 FPts/G; #23 PPR, 7.4 FPts/G)
A second-round pick in the 2011 draft, Kendricks struggled as a rookie but showed marked improvement last season, catching 42 passes for 519 yards and four touchdowns in 14 games. However, a closer look revealed that outside of his four-reception, 119-yard, one-touchdown performance in Week 16 against the Buccaneers, Kendricks was only marginally productive, failing to top 50 receiving yards in any other game. The Rams upgraded the tight end position this offseason with the signing of former Titan Jared Cook, and that will move Kendricks to a backup role in 2013. His fantasy prospects are looking pretty dim.