Fantasy football draft season is fast approaching. Prep to win your league with SI.com's ongoing preview, including team-by-team breakdowns that examine each club's key fantasy storyline and much more.
Key fantasy storyline
After three years in the league, the Rams still aren't totally sure what they have in Sam Bradford. He had the best year of his career in 2012, completing 59.5 percent of his passes and racking up 3,702 yards, 6.7 yards per attempt and 21 touchdowns against 13 interceptions. That seems like an underwhelming best year, mainly because it is, but the Rams haven't exactly put him in a good place to succeed.
Bradford has had a new offensive coordinator every year, and hasn't exactly been surrounded by the best weapons. Danario Alexander was squeezed out of the lineup before leaving town and finding success in San Diego. He developed a great relationship with Danny Amendola, but the diminutive receiver managed to play just 12 games the last two years due to injury. Despite the fact that the Rams lost Amendola and Steven Jackson during the offseason, Bradford has been generating some serious sleeper buzz, as he has the best collection of talent around him in his time with St. Louis.
The Rams made a splash in free agency, luring Jake Long away from Miami to protect Bradford's blind side. They further shored up the line in the draft, selecting guard Barrett Jones out of Alabama in the fourth round. The additions of Long and Jones could turn what was a weakness into a strength this year.
Three rounds before taking Jones, the Rams made Tavon Austin the first receiver taken in the draft, nabbing him with the eighth overall pick. The West Virginia product was a monster in his final two years in Morgantown, catching 215 passes for 2,475 yards and 20 touchdowns. He was widely seen not only as the best receiver in April's draft, but the best skill-position player, and he has a real chance to make an impact right away.
If that weren't enough, the team signed Jared Cook, a tight end who looked on the verge of a breakout campaign with the Titans last year before Jake Locker went down with an injury. Reports coming out of Rams' training camp say that Bradford and Cook have been inseparable, and that has shown up on the field. Cook gives his quarterback another weapon, and is a great sleeper in his own right.
Jackson may be in Atlanta now, but that doesn't mean the Rams are devoid of talent at running back. Second-year man Isaiah Pead was a beast in college at Cincinnati, averaging 6.1 yards per carry in 545 career totes. As a senior, he ran for 1,259 yards and 12 scores, while adding 319 yards and three touchdowns through the air. Rookie Zac Stacy, who ran for 2,334 yards and 24 touchdowns in his final two years at Vanderbilt, the SEC's perennial doormat, joins him in the backfield. And then there's Daryl Richardson, who ran for 475 yards in just 98 attempts last year and actually tops the depth chart.
Finally, and perhaps most importantly, for the first time in his career, Bradford will not be working with a new offensive coordinator. The familiarity Bradford has with Brian Schottenheimer should make him more comfortable than he has been at the start of any other season he has been in the league.
Add it all up, and Bradford looks poised for the best year of his career. He's a prime sleeper candidate, and an especially great target for those of you in two-QB leagues.
|St. Louis Rams' 2013 schedule|
|Including a look at how the Rams' upcoming foes fared defensively in fantasy last season|
Stats via FFToday.com
The NFC West presents the Rams with a huge challenge. The Seahawks and 49ers boast two of the best defenses in the league, and the Cardinals were one of the strongest units against the pass last season. That makes for six tough games, and the Rams also draw the Bears out of the NFC North. If you manage to make it to the playoffs with a Ram on your team, he could end up being huge for you. The Rams play the Saints and Buccaneers, two of 2012's worst defenses, in Weeks 15 and 16.
QB: Sam Bradford, Austin Davis, Kellen Clemens
RB: Daryl Richardson, Isaiah Pead, Zac Stacy
WR: Tavon Austin, Chris Givens, Austin Pettis, Brian Quick, Stedman Bailey
TE: Jared Cook, Lance Kendricks, Cory Harkey
K: Greg Zuerlein
|St. Louis Rams' 2012 defensive rankings|
The Rams get overlooked in their own division, but they actually had a solid defense last season. Chris Long anchors the line, and the sixth-year player has 24.5 sacks in the last two years. He's someone owners in IDP leagues will want to target. On the other side of the line, Robert Quinn broke out in his second year, piling up 10.5 sacks.
Georgia's Alec Ogletree was considered one of the best linebackers in the draft, but character concerns drove him to the end of the first round where the Rams were able to take him with the 30th overall pick. He'll start from day one and is one of the early favorites to be the Defensive Rookie of the Year. Linebacker James Laurinaitis has 142 tackles in each of the last two seasons, and gives the team stability in the middle of the defense.
If there's one area where the team got worse on defense, it's in the secondary, particularly at safety. Last year's starters Craig Dahl and Quentin Mikell both left town during the offseason, leaving Darian Stewart and rookie T.J. McDonald to take over. In a division that puts the onus on smart, strong safety play to defend Colin Kaepernick and Russell Wilson, the Rams could be in some trouble.