2014 Fantasy Draft Values: St. Louis Rams
I know what you’re thinking: “It’s too early to be talking fantasy football, my girlfriend already has the next 12 weekends of my life booked with apple picking and craft shows.” Fair enough. I’m sure you’re either still glowing in your championship glory, disappointed in your underachievement, or trying to forget that you passed up Jamaal Charles for C.J. Spiller with the No. 3 overall pick in your work league. That last statement is certainly nothing I did in 2013. I have also been known to fib on occasion. But, now is as good a time as any to get the wheels turning for 2014.
For the serious fantasy player, it’s never too early to think about next season, and part of the fun in fantasy football is getting a leg up on your opponents by researching early and often. Every fantasy season is filled with surprises, and the 2013 season was no different. Last summer, it would have been nice to have guys on your draft board like that second-year player who played on one of the worst offensive teams in the NFL yet still led the league in receiving after a two-game suspension; or Mike Vick’s backup, who not only led the league in passer rating, but also had one of the best runs at the position in NFL history; or LaDainian Tomlinson’s replacement, who not only finally looked like a reliable fantasy starter, but would also be a top-five back during the playoffs.
All three did so because of opportunities that came for various reasons – mainly coaching changes – but their paths were set before that in the talent they flashed when given chances. I’m going to put together a series of pieces on players from current rosters that could be drafted at a value in next year’s fantasy drafts. These guys may not be available in all dynasty leagues, but in the league’s they’re not available, they can be targeted for trades. Most should be available late or for a value in redraft leagues.
In late April it’s impossible to predict whether these players will get a bigger role, or be downgraded because of rookies, a new scheme, guys coming off injuries, or free agent signings. But, there are plenty of players who showed flashes of potential in 2013 that could carry over to 2014 success.
St. Louis Rams
The Rams are one of those teams we always hear about being on the cusp of something big. This is the year Sam Bradford’s going to be healthy. This is the year Bradford’s got weapons. This is the year the offensive line isn’t decimated. This is their year that… We hear it often, and although they’ve looked the part for the last couple of seasons, things just haven’t panned out. Key guys continue to get hurt, free agents continue to look average, and their best weapons leave for greener pastures – well, Danny Amendola did, anyway.
Bradford’s been basking in the sun of the last rookie quarterback to receive a huge contract on the old collective bargaining agreement, but he’s hardly lived up to it. In his 49 career games over four seasons, he’s compiled an average of 2,766 yards, 15 touchdowns, and 10 interceptions per year while averaging around 12 starts. Certainly nothing you could count on in fantasy.
The start to 2013 was the best of Bradford’s career: 1687 yards, 14 touchdowns, four interceptions, and a 90.9 passer rating through seven games. Then Bradford did what Bradford does best: went on the injured reserve. The Rams again competed. They hung in for some close games against tough division rivals – all but beat the Seahawks in St. Louis – and beat a couple of playoff teams in the process. But, with Kellen Clemens at the helm, they just could not muster a passing game.
While Bradford was under center for those seven games, things seemed to be progressing nice with his upgraded receiving corp. In fact, Bradford was a top 10 fantasy quarterback during those seven games:
|Opp||Result||Com||Att||Yds||TD||Int||FTSY – PTS||Rank||PFF Pass Cov. Rank|
An average of 241 yards, two touchdowns, and just a half an interception per game. Not bad. And we can see that Bradford had the displeasure of playing three of the top six coverage defenses in football during his seven game stint in 2013. To be fair, he did also get three teams ranked in the bottom 12 of the league to balance things out a bit. If we extrapolate his 2013 numbers to an entire season, he holds onto that top 10 ranking he had. He would have ranked ahead of the likes of Tony Romo, Colin Kaepernick, Matt Ryan, and Nick Foles. Those aren’t names you’d expect to be ranked behind Bradford in fantasy football.
|14||Alex D. Smith||265.6|
The reason for the mild success in those first seven games was due in part to Bradford’s new receiving targets. Jared Cook started out with a bang in week 1 with 141 yards and two touchdowns, and Tavon Austin had 18 catches and a couple touchdowns in the first three weeks. He still had guys like Chris Givens and Austin Pettis to go to, and a guy named Zac Stacy was licking his chops at the opportunity to become the starter in the backfield.
Bradford’s never going to give you Manning type numbers, he just isn’t that kind of quarterback, but what he does provide is a solid late round option for you that your league mates will most likely pass over. For a guy whose average draft position right now is the 10th pick of the 12th round, he’s a great value if he can hold or improve onto his 2013 average. His division foes are murderer’s row for opposing quarterbacks unfortunately, but with the additions to the team last year, Bradford is a solid starting quarterback that can be had for peanuts. He’s a late round guy to target so your focus in earlier rounds can go elsewhere.
Of course, all of this comes with a caveat: Bradford is not proven, and he’s not durable. If you’re going the late quarterback route – which PFF’s Josh Colacchi has shown us, can work– be sure that you know what you’re getting yourself into. He’s a quarterback that doesn’t care for going down the field, won’t take a lot of chances, and will very rarely wow you. He’s very Alex Smith-like: passes close to the line of scrimmage, little risky throws, and a better game manager than gunslinger.
In saying all of that, Bradford now has more weapons than he’s ever had. He’ll presumably be healthy, and he has to know that no matter what the Rams organization says, he’s not exactly on a long leash. If Bradford is ever going to excel, it’s going to be in 2014. He’s got young talent like Austin, Stedman Bailey, and Givens to make plays, he’s got a solid – albeit not spectacular – tight end in Jared Cook to help with intermediate routes, and he’s got a free-agent wide receiver with a ceiling through the roof in Kenny Britt. He’s never been surrounded with talent like this, so this could be the year Bradford puts everything together. You just have to decide one thing: is relying on him, his mediocre past, and injury history worth the risk? If so, go Rams!
Gary Althiser is a diehard 49ers and San Francisco Giants fan. He feels weird talking about himself in third-person, but if you want to find him, he usually spends his free time on Twitter irrationally arguing about Alex Smith, or sobbing after NFC championship games. @NFLGary