Fantasy Fliers: St. Louis Rams
An important part of success in any fantasy football season is being able to find the diamonds in the rough, the players your opponents know nothing about, the guys you can get for $1 at auction or $2,500 on daily fantasy sites who’ll outperform their counterparts going for more than two or three times that price.
An important part of finding those players is paying attention to teams most don’t even consider when looking for fantasy starters; the also-rans, the non-contenders or even the fairly consistently mediocre teams under the national radar.
Case in point: the Rams. After spending more than 10 years out of the Super Bowl hunt, the Rams have been nationally relegated in the minds of fantasy owners to “do not play” status; a mediocre offense, no real “stars” to speak of and lack of explosive production means Rams starters rarely find their way onto fantasy rosters.
That said, knowing the potential breakout candidates on a team like the Rams can make the difference between hoisting your league’s championship trophy or getting a tattoo like these.
I’ll look at the under-the-radar candidates who can either be sneaky-value draft picks or easily available fill-ins during the season when the inevitable injuries occur.
Brian Quick, WR: Quick posted decent numbers in his seven games last season before injuring his shoulder (25/375/3), and that was with Austin Davis and Shaun Hill at quarterback. Quick could make a solid 10th-14th round bench pick, especially in deeper leagues where there might be slim pickings in the later rounds. New QB Nick Foles has experience going downfield to speedy receivers with good hands (see Jackson, DeSean, 2013), so the Quick-Foles connection could pay modest-to-impressive dividends this season.
Kenny Britt, WR: Britt is the de facto leader of the receiver group in St. Louis by virtue of his veteran experience, and he too had a modest year in his first with the Rams (48/748/3) with replacement-level guys under center. Britt has great hands, knows how to read defenses, and can keep a zone defense honest by finding the holes for short and medium gains to keep the sticks moving.
I think he’s slightly more valuable in a PPR league, as Foles will be looking to him early and often to help establish his confidence in a new system. He’s still someone you’ll want to target in the later rounds, as he’s certainly not worth a reach, but he is certainly a low-end WR3 who should be rostered in 10-team or larger leagues.
Tré Mason/Todd Gurley, RB: Obviously, the running back situation in St. Louis has been a bit of a quagmire since Steven Jackson left town, as Jeff Fisher has no problem running a RBBC (running back by committee) and simply going with the hot hand (or, in this case, feet. I’ve never liked that cliché for running backs.) Zac Stacy had a great rookie campaign, then was supplanted by Mason in Week 5 last year.
Most expect the same from Mason and Gurley this season, as Gurley’s status for the season is still unknown. My thoughts are such: by the time most of us draft in late August, we’ll have a better idea who the Week 1 starter will be, and whomever that is should be a mid-round pick as a mid-level RB2.
The offensive line may not the best (in fact, it might be straight junk) but Fisher has proven he will run the hell out of the ball. If you have a spare bench slot, pick up the other RB in the later rounds as well, as the last two seasons have shown a mid-season switch isn’t entirely out of the question.
Potential Injury/Bye Week Pickups:
Nick Foles, QB: We all remember his ridiculous 2013, right? 27 and 2? Then, he followed it up with 13 and 10 in eight games last season before injuring his collarbone. So, which Foles are the Rams getting? The guy who was a product of Chip Kelly’s quick-step-and-throw system or the guy who simply couldn’t find a rhythm without a running game?
Remember, in the eight games Foles played for the Eagles in 2014, LeSean McCoy only averaged 78 yards per game on the ground on a stunningly horrible 3.7 YPC. Foles simply had to deal with a pass rush who knew the Eagles couldn’t move the ball on the ground and was coming for him on every play.
Also, the Eagle’s pass defense was so shockingly outclassed, Foles was dealing with a lot of shootouts, and that’s not his strength. He can be a fairly safe bye-week fill-in, with a solid running game behind him and a solid game plan to limit his turnovers.
Plus, consider this line: 325-513, 63.3%, 3,658 yards, 20 TDs, 16 INTs. That’s the production from Austin Davis (a second-year guy) and Shaun Hill (a career journeyman backup) combined, simply trying to keep the offense afloat. That’s literally the floor for Foles this season, provided he stays healthy.
Rams D/ST: After building what many considered one of the best potential defensive lines in football, the Rams disappointed last season, only recording 40 sacks and 25 turnovers. However, another year of experience for the younger players and a full season of a healthy Chris Long paired up with reigning Defensive Rookie of the Year Aaron Donald and Robert Quinn (not to mention a healthy and in-shape Nick Fairley) could make the Rams’ D a solid waiver pickup if you’re in the streaming defense business, as I often am.
Let them prove it first, then if they do, they do have games against Cleveland, Washington, Chicago and Tampa Bay on the schedule to feast on bad quarterbacks.
Tavon Austin, WR: Seriously, as a Rams fan, I cannot stress this enough: stay the hell away from Tavon. In two NFL seasons, Austin’s recorded 71 receptions for 660 yards and four touchdowns; his gimmicky skill set has also led to 45 carries for 375 yards and three additional scores.
If he could do both of those in a single season? Golden, right? Definitely WR2 material.
Except, for all their hemming and hawing about integrating Austin’s unique talents into the offense, this is a power-running, smash mouth and quick-slant kind of scheme with no room for Jet Sweeps and end arounds and all the stuff Austin used to make undersized college linebackers and corners look silly at West Virginia.
He’s had a chance, and he’s disappointed, and I don’t have any reason to believe that will change in 2015.