Rams Fantasy Beat with Nick Wagoner
Mike Clay has taken to the airwaves to host a Pro Football Focus fantasy football show on Sirius XM Fantasy Sports Radio (10 a.m. ET weekdays – Sirius 210 & XM 87). In addition to his strategy and insight, Clay has had the opportunity to bring in beat writers around the nation to provide an insider fantasy spin on the teams they cover.
This week, he had the chance to speak with ESPN NFL Nation reporter Nick Wagoner, who covers the St. Louis Rams’ beat. You can find Nick on Twitter @nwagoner
Gurley’s Time Could Come Sooner Than Anticipated
Every fantasy owner wants to know when we can expect the breakout for Todd Gurley. Mike didn’t waste any time – he kicked off the show asking Wagoner if Gurley will play in Week 1 and in what capacity.
“It’s hard to project whether he’s ready Week 1 at this early stage,” Wagoner said. “Plan is to work him in slowly. I don’t think he will be going full speed when they open camp. He will probably do individual drills and sit through team portions. The fact that he’s on active roster shows that he might be slightly ahead of schedule and has a good chance to be ready in Week 1. They will probably ease him in, but it will depend on how many carries he gets in the preseason, and how far along he is when they get to Sept. 13 and I would bet he is ready to go Week 1.”
Mike followed up with Wagoner and gave him a date – will Gurley be the feature back after the Rams come out of their Week 6 bye?
“I think it will happen before that bye week,” Wagoner added.” If he’s active and an 8-10 carry guy Week 1, I think they turn the reins over to him in Week 4 or 5. When they drafted Todd Gurley, Jeff Fisher called him a running back of the future. They want to make sure he’ll be good not only this year but for the years beyond. The time is going to come when he will be the focal point of offense.”
Our projections have Gurley finishing for around 240 carries, even if he starts off in a committee. One factor for the high total is the Rams’ projected offensive approach. Clay asked Wagoner if it’s fair to expect a more run-heavy approach in 2015.
“I think so. His history is building his teams around a strong defense and running game. The Rams haven’t been good enough under Fisher in the run game. That’s why you saw them draft Gurley, spend four draft picks on offensive linemen and draft another offensive linemen in supplemental. With the youngest offensive line projected in the league, they will have to find a way to protect their quarterback. Most of that is turning around and handing the ball off 30-35 times a game.
Don’t Forget About Quick
Brian Quick was on the verge of a true breakout season before the shoulder injury in 2014. Mike asked Wagoner if Quick will be ready to go for Week 1.
“Yes, unless there have been setbacks that I’m unaware of. Quick is ahead of the curve. During OTAs he participated in individual drills and not team. He will ease his way back and I expect him to be full go mid-preseason and ready to go Week 1.”
Later in the interview, Mike asked Wagoner to pinpoint a potential breakout player in Frank Cignetti’s new offensive scheme. Wagoner pointed to Quick, who he believes will benefit from Nick Foles and the Rams’ approach to “use play action and get the ball down the field.”
Is It Time To Give Up On Tavon Austin?
The Rams’ third wide receiver spot seems unsettled, but early coach-speak has pointed to Tavon Austin claiming a real role in the offense. Mike asked Wagoner if he sees a role for Austin coming to fruition.
“He could be a speedy change of pace to a power-running approach,” Wagoner asked. “He hasn’t proven capable of running routes consistently and he has trouble getting off jams. They insist he’s going to play more receiver and not be as much of a gadget guy. One of the missions for Cignetti is to find ways to get Austin involved in ways that work for him.”
Austin has struggled at the wide receiver position, but if he’s ever going to realize his potential, it will be under Cignetti. The new offensive coordinator is hoping to find ways to get him involved in a Percy Harvin-esque role.
Dan Schneier is a staff writer at PFF Fantasy and he covers the NFC East beat for FOX Sports. You can find him on Twitter @DanSchneierNFL. You can also add him to your network on Google+ to find all of his past material.