The regular season kicks off Thursday night which means…FANTASY FOOTBALL IS UNDERWAY!
It has been a while now since the Rams and Fantasy Football have had anything in common other than Steven Jackson. Unless you were a pure homer and reached late for Danny Amendola last year odds are Jackson was the only Ram starter in your league.
Take one part franchise quarterback, three parts new wide out, pinch of running back, a handle full of draft picks mix it with a new offensive coordinator and what you have is recipe for fantasy football relevancy. Alone many Rams might not be thought of in the fantasy ranks but together they add strength to each other.
Many Rams will be strong plays in NFC only leagues, full fledged Roto leagues and even IDP leagues for those hard core fantasy players. Going into game one of the regular season fantasy leagues look to be peppered with Rams. Some starts, some sleepers and other bench guys.
As I am sure some of you will be offended. I pulled my research and only included Rams most often drafted and based on a standard (non-PPR) 12 team draft. Here is what you can expect from that group heading into the 2011 fantasy season.
Steven Jackson (QB12, ADP 2.10): Not much to say here. He is worth a pick in the first two rounds on Draft Day to serve owners as a No. 1 RB. Having McDaniels organizing the show along with Williams around to save his legs should lead to a great season for Jackson. And with Bradford having better weapons to take some of the defensive focus off of him…look out.
Mike Sims-Walker (WR33, ADP 8.2): A big guy who's pretty good when he gets into the open field. Sims-Walker has built up a rapport with quarterback Sam Bradford and has averaged 7 TD’s over the last two years. With Avery gone Sims-Walker should be a top target.
Josh Brown: Brown has attempted a career-high 39 field goals in 2010 and has converted 33 kicks. In his three seasons in St. Louis, Brown has 48 attempts from beyond 40 yards and 19 behind 50, both top-five marks over that span. Someone to target off the waiver wire if, like many, you didn't bother to draft a kicker.
Backups, sleepers, and IDP players to watch after the break.
Sam Bradford (QB13, ADP 9.1): New offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels coached Tom Brady & Kyle Orton to their best statistical years of their careers. Bradford should play well this year. Consider him a high-end No. 2 Fantasy QB on and he's worth drafting in all formats with a late-round pick. Look for Bradford to have a breakout season in his second year in the NFL.
Brandon Gibson: Gibson posted career highs in receptions and yards in 2010 as he helped replace several injured starters in the Rams' depleted receiving corps. He is worth more now that Avery is no longer on the team. Can also get downfield.
Danny Amendola (WR37, ADP 9.3): He is often compared to the Patriots' Wes Welker, so if McDaniels sees the same comparison, then he might use Amendola in the same way, which would clearly make him a Fantasy force to reckon with. I like Amendola as a middle- to late-round pick in PPR drafts and a late-round pick in standard formats. He did lead the NFL with 24 red zone targets in 2010.
Cadillac Williams: While Jackson will start for the Rams and get the majority of touches, Williams is someone to put on your draft board with a late-round pick. Williams could work on passing downs and help give Jackson a rest in rushing situations. If your draft Jackson I would recommend handcuffing Cadillac to him.
Rams DST: No need to draft them in 10-12 team leagues. But a decent replacement for your defense during a bye week. One thing going for them is the Rams do play in the NFC West.
Lance Kendricks (TE19, ADP 14.1): Kendricks has gone from a potential sleeper with a late-round pick to someone Fantasy owners might consider as a starter. While it's just the preseason, Kendricks showed plenty of promise, and it's clear Bradford plans to use him often (he had four targets against the Jaguars). Consider Kendricks someone to target in all formats with a late-round pick.
Danario Alexander: We're talking about a 6-foot-5 specimen who runs pretty well and jumps like a gazelle, so if he can stay healthy, he might be Sam Bradford's No. 1 receiver. But that's a big if, and the Rams have an incredible array of options at wide receiver.
Chris Long: While Hall might have overshadowed Long's solid 2010 season, that's unlikely to be the case again this season. Long is primed for a true breakout in 2011 and having Quinn on the other end will take some of the attention off of Long.
James Hall: Hall finished with 54 tackles and 10.5 sacks in 2010, the fourth time he has surpassed the 50-tackle barrier in his 11-year career. Keep him in mind for 2011 but remember he will be 34 years old by the season opener.
Craig Dahl: Dahl posted a linebacker-like 87 solos in last season's breakout campaign. The Rams' defense is an emerging force to consider, and Dahl might just be the fantasy star of the group.
Bradley Fletcher: Fletcher proved to be solid in press coverage and versus the run during his strong second season in the NFL. For leagues that have specific roster spots for corners, Fletcher should be on your list for second and third options.
James Laurinaitis: Add one part consistent production with a blend of breakout potential, and you have Laurinaitis' fantasy profile. The peripheral stats (sacks and takeaways) aren't impressive so far, but the steady tackle rate, ideal age and the Rams' burgeoning young defense help make the former Ohio State star a compelling commodity.
Robert Quinn: Sleeper. An unknown assets coming into the season. Quinn could put together some good numbers as most of the attention will be focused on Long and Hall up front. Not necessarily draftable but definitely worth watching.
Average draft position, or ADP, is taken from Fantasy Football Calculator. Positional rankings and the average round/position each player is drafted are included in parentheses.