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Dynasty Capsule: St. Louis Rams

As part of the premium content package, we’re unveiling dynasty capsules for every team in the NFL all Spring and Summer. This year, we also have a precursor to every team capsule, with more detail on one of our favorite pieces – the dynasty sleeper. We continue our alphabetical journey through the NFL with the St. Louis Rams.

Quarterbacks

Sam Bradford

Bradford’s career in the NFL has been a perfect example of the term, “feast or famine.” In 2010, Bradford’s rookie season, he was the NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year as he posted 354 completions for 3,512 yards with 18 touchdowns – very respectable statistics that seemed to signal an incredibly bright future. However, come 2011, Bradford’s numbers utterly and completely collapsed with 191 completions for 2,164 yards and only six touchdowns in ten games. When you see almost every major statistic nearly halved or more in a single year, a drop in ADP for that player just isn’t expected, it’s almost required!

A new year brings new hopes for both the Rams and Bradford. Unfortunately, a new year also brings a new Offensive Coordinator for Sam, his third in three seasons, which generally is not a good indication for success with a young quarterback. Nonetheless, several signs point to a potential bounce back year for Bradford.

Chief among the signs are the fact that Bradford’s main target in 2010, Danny Amendola, is returning from a year-long injury. Second, the Rams organization went out in this year’s draft and obtained two new wide receivers to help bolster the weapons at Bradford’s disposal. Third, Bradford’s new Offensive Coordinator, Brian Schottenheimer, is known for offensives that are much more vanilla than the exotic offense his former Offensive Coordinator, Josh McDaniels, employed last season.

Bradford can be had very cheaply right now, but still has a high ceiling. Despite the down year in 2011, dynasty owners should expect Bradford to be a good QB2 with significant upside.

Kellen Clemens

What more can I say here than Sam Bradford better not get hurt? Clemens is probably best known as “the guy Mark Sanchez replaced” – that’s not a really great thing to put on your resumé. Clemens has a career stat line of 195 completions for 2,232 yards with seven touchdowns. In three games with the Rams last year, he completed 91 passes for 546 yards and two touchdowns – that doesn’t scream, “Grab me from the waiver wire.” Realistically, Clemens can be ignored for fantasy purposes, even if he fills in for Bradford.

Tom Brandstater

How do I put this nicely, Kellen Clemens better not get hurt? Yeah, that still sounds bad. Brandstater has a total of two pass attempts in the NFL, neither of which he completed. Brandstater definitely looks the part of an NFL quarterback, standing 6’-5” but looks don’t win games.

Running Backs

Steven Jackson

Steven Jackson seems to be like that Energizer Bunny as he keeps going and going and going. However, with his age increasing, his production will likely see a decline in the coming years. The Rams seem to be trying to extend his career by any means necessary, first by obtaining Cadillac Williams in 2011 for a year and this offseason they drafted Jackson’s possible heir apparent, Isaiah Pead. Will this help prolong his career? Only time will tell.

Should the Rams continue to rely almost exclusively on Jackson, they could do much worse. He has been the model of running back consistency, with eight straight 1,000 yard rushing seasons during which he has been a dangerous receiving target as well, posting over 3,000 yards receiving in his career.

In terms of fantasy production, Jackson has been a safe bet for years. However, in an initial start-up draft, one would be wise to factor in Jackson’s age this year (he’ll turn 30 during the season) when making their decision to draft him. Realistically, I think Jackson can produce for at least another two years, but any expectations an owner may have of him must be tempered with a likely drop in production coming either through age or the working of Pead into the offense, maybe even both.

Isaiah Pead

As I mentioned when discussing Steven Jackson, Isaiah Pead could be in line for a major role in the Rams’ offense going forward. Selected in the second round (#50 overall), Pead is clearly expected to produce and to do so quickly. Thus far early training camp reports have been very positive with the Rams coaching staff been highly impressed by his rushing, receiving and, most importantly, his blocking abilities. Pead’s well-roundedness will be the determining factor in just how much playing time he is given during his rookie season – the more well-rounded the better.

Pead is definitely worth a hard look in rookie drafts and should be considered an essential handcuff for any current Steven Jackson owners. Additionally, if the early comparisons to LeSean McCoy hold any truth to them, Pead may even be worth a pick-up by owners who don’t own Jackson.

Wide Receivers

Danny Amendola

When your first wide receiver to be examined is also your team’s sleeper, you may have an issue with your receiving game, and sadly the Rams do. As I mentioned in Amendola’s sleeper article, there is very little hype surrounding him currently, but this is very deceiving due to a season ending injury he suffered in the opening game of the Rams’ 2011 season. Prior to 2011 season, Amendola was on the watch list of many fantasy professionals and hobbyists alike due to his breakout 85 reception 2010 season. Amendola was regularly refered to as “the poor man’s Wes Welker.” The comparison is very well earned to the fact that Amendola was just one reception shy of Welker in 2010 and could be had for peanuts on the dollar compared to Welker.

Fast forward to the current off-season and Amendola can now be had for an even cheaper amount then before and appears to be the Rams most reliable wide receiver going into the 2012 season. What about his injury, you ask? Well, he claims to be 100% healed and due to the fact his injury was to his arm and not his legs, there shouldn’t be any expected drop in production. Now then, if you could possibly get Welker’s production double-digit rounds later than Welker himself, what more is there to think about? Well, other than Sam Bradford not being Tom Brady.

As discussed earlier, Bradford’s production has to be considered the biggest question mark surrounding whether Amendola returns to his 2010 form or not. If Bradford and Amendola can find the synergy they had in 2010 then the sky is the limit for both of them, if Bradford is affected by his 2011 campaign, you’ll see Amendola’s value plummet.

Brian Quick

If Amendola figures to be the wide receiver with the most consistency, Quick would be the wide receiver with the most potential upside on the Rams roster. Quick was selected by the Rams with the first overall pick in the second round and was a surprise to many draft followers due to the fact that several other more highly touted prospects were available. However, despite his lower profile, Quick is impressive in his own right, with a ceiling that is as high as any 2012 rookie.

Quick played his career at Appalachian State University, admittedly not as much of an NFL prospect-churning powerhouse, but he posted a solid stat line of 202 receptions for 3,418 yards and 31 touchdowns in his time there. Quick’s 6’-3”, 220 pound frame presents an intriguing target for Bradford to throw to if he is able to gain his quarterback’s trust.

The down side on Quick is two-fold. First, he has only played organized football since his senior year in high school. As such, he has relied heavily on his natural physical abilities in order to dominate his opposition. With his limited coaching thus far, this has worked for him; however, the NFL isn’t filled with high school and FCS players. This brings me to the second issue Quick will face, the competition will be significantly better than what he faced in college. While he may have been a force in the FCS, the NFL is a completely different game than college, especially when compared to the competition he faced at Appalachian State.

Due to these issues, Quick may face a slower transition to the professional game than most. If he can adapt quickly and absorb the coaching he is given, he could emerge as a dangerous threat for the Rams.

Steve Smith

Out of all the Rams receivers this year, Steve Smith presents the biggest question mark. Can he return to his 2009 form where he pulled down 107 receptions for 1,220 yards and seven touchdowns? Is his surgically repaired knee strong enough to hold up this season? Where does he fit in the Rams receiving plans? Does he still have what it takes to perform at a high level?

The simple answer to all of these questions is, “We don’t know.” We will continue to be in the dark until well into the regular season with a crowded St. Louis receiving corps. Steve, however, presents some much needed credibility that the Rams wide receivers currently lack. Smith is currently the only man on the Rams roster to ever catch over 100 passes in a season; the problem is that now seems like an eternity ago.

With the Rams set at the slot position and with two rookies selected at wide receiver in the past two drafts, Smith has a huge amount of work cut out for him, so much so that his fantasy worth this year and going forward has to be viewed as very limited unless he really shows something early this year.

Chris Givens

Givens is the second wide receiver the Rams took in the 2012 NFL Draft, but could prove to be more “NFL ready” then Quick, at least initially. Givens was selected in the fourth round, but faced stiffer competition than Quick playing in the ACC. Givens is viewed by many as a fluid route runner with high-end speed and ability to separate himself from defenders. During his career at Wake Forest, Givens compiled an impressive 163 receptions for 2,473 yards and 21 touchdowns over three years.

Unfortunately, he found himself on a fairly crowded Rams roster making the prospect of early play a limited possibility. While Givens is an intriguing prospect to stash, the likelihood of being fantasy relevant may take some time.

Brandon Gibson

Gibson has been given every opportunity in the world by the Rams to be a major contributor to their offense, but he has yet to be anything other than bye week fodder in the fantasy world. Gibson is currently penciled in as one of the Rams starting wide receivers, but it seems unlikely he will hold onto that position throughout the 2012 season. In three years with the Rams, Gibson has never recorded a 100 yard receiving game. The decision to draft two wide receivers in this year’s draft speaks volumes about the Rams’ belief in his skillset.

From a fantasy perspective, drafting Gibson is a very risky proposition. While his current status as a starting wide receiver and glowing camp reports might make such a move tempting, Gibson has shown little to prove he deserves roster consideration in anything but the absolute deepest of leagues.

Greg Salas

Salas is one of the most interesting players on the Rams roster. In his rookie year, Salas filled in admireably for Danny Amendola following his season ending injury. He posted 27 receptions for 264 yards in six games before going down to his own injury in week nine. His impressive average of nearly ten yards per reception out of the slot was nearly a yard more than Amendola in the same position. In a game of inches, a full extra yard per reception will get you a second look.

Coming into 2012, the Rams coaching staff feels Salas’ talents may be best utilized at a position other than the slot. As such, he is now in competition for a starting position with Brian Quick, Chris Givens and Danario Alexander. Salas could present an interesting prospect to target as a sleeper in a deep league if he is named as a starter given his familiarity with Bradford and the confidence the coaching staff has displayed in him.

Danario Alexander

Alexander’s career in college and the NFL can be summed up by two words – potential and injury. First, let’s talk about his potential. If you were able to create the perfect outside receiver, your model for this player would very likely look stunningly similar to Alexander. Alexander stands 6’-5”, weighs 220 lbs., can box out defenders with ease and has amazing hands. Given such,  he would be a lock on any roster in the league. However, you’d be wrong due to the second word used to sum up Alexander’s career, injury.

Alexander has an almost jaw-dropping injury history that would have prevented most players from appearing or staying on an NFL team. He has endured multiple knee surgeries in college and in the NFL and has appeared on the injured reserve list for more games in his professional career than he has actually played in.

Due to Alexander’s injury history, his position on the Rams roster is very much in doubt. With the doubt surrounding his future in the NFL, Alexander should not be considered rosterable in any fantasy league.

Tight Ends

Lance Kendricks

Kendricks received a lot of attention coming out of college due to the fact that he was entering a Josh McDaniels offense that was rumored to be featuring two tight end sets. Kendricks was very impressive early in the preseason and led many to believe the Rams may have found a top-notch tight end that would add an extra dimension to their passing game. Unfortunately, Kendricks didn’t have the season the Rams or many experts expected, posting only 28 receptions for 352 yards. If 2011 was the “Year of the Tight End,” it clearly passed Hendricks right by.

Fast forward to 2012, and we have yet another training camp with more glowing reviews for Kendricks. Are these reports to be believed or will Kendricks post another sub-par year? Signs point to Kendricks possibly receiving an increased role in the Rams offense due to the fact that new Offensive Coordinator Brian Schottenheimer was very effective in how he used Dustin Keller during his tenure with the New York Jets. However, Kendricks’ fantasy value should be considered minimal until he proves otherwise

Michael Hoomanawanui

Hoomanawanui has had an extremely disappointing NFL career, posting only 20 receptions for 229 yards since coming into the league two years ago. In 2011, Hoomanawanui’s season was ended early with a severe knee injury. While he appears to have battled back from that injury, he appears at this point to be nothing more than a backup for the Rams, as such he holds absolutely no dynasty league value.

We’ll focus on the San Diego Chargers next as we wind down our annual team capsules.

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