Team Profiles – St. Louis Rams by Utter-Fantasy Writer & Illustrator Doug Bowles
In 2014, Rams head coach Jeff Fisher did anything and everything that he had to do to win football games. He called fake punts, trick field goal plays, and a one of the most creative special teams decoy ruses ever seen on a punt return. In Week 7 vs Seattle, the Seahawks punted down the left side of the field, but the Rams drifted to the right to pull Seattle’s defenders away from the ball. Stedman Bailey fielded the punt on the other side of field away from Seattle defenders and scored a touchdown. (Of course, Fisher has masterminded trick plays before 2014…remember the “Music City Miracle”, the lateral pass from Frank Wycheck to Kevin Dyson that kept the Titans alive in the 2000 postseason for a Super Bowl match up against the Rams?) It’s tough enough for Fisher’s Rams to be in the NFC West division, but having his starting QB once again placed on IR for the season, forced the head coach to be as creative as ever to win games. Fisher’s recent QB trade with Philadelphia I believe, will end up being yet another brilliant, strategic feather in Fisher’s cap. As good as he his however, Fisher needs a winning season in St. Louis. He hasn’t had more than 7 wins in any year, since getting the job in 2012.
2015 Team Outlook – The Rams know just how tough it’s going to be competing in 2015 against Seattle and Arizona in their division. (San Francisco is going through a team over-haul, so they shouldn’t be a big worry for St. Louis.) Seattle has won the division and been to the Super Bowl two years in a row. The Cardinals have had double digit wins since HC Bruce Arians took over in 2013. Seattle and Arizona are the teams that the Rams have to beat, if they are to win the division for the first since 2003. The Ram’s defense, their special teams and the acquisition of QB Foles for the offense will keep St. Louis competitive, but I don’t believe that it will be enough. Seattle will win the division for the 3rd straight year.
2015 Fantasy Outlook –
QB– Sam Bradford was selected by St. Louis in drafted #1 overall by the 2010 NFL Draft. He played at Oklahoma (In case you were wondering if it was at Oregon.) Bradford hasn’t always been on IR. In his first season in the NFL, Bradford set the record for most completions by a rookie in NFL history, and earned the NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year. In 2012, Bradford played all 16 games, and the Rams finished 7-8-1. Through the first seven games of 2013, Bradford passed for 1,687 yards,14 touchdowns but tore his left ACL in Week 7, ending his season. In 2014, he re-tore his ACL in the 3rd preseason game. Bradford’s injury history makes the trade with Philadelphia difficult to understand. UPDATE: On March 10th, 2015 the Eagles acquired QB Sam Bradford and a 2015 fifth-round pick from the Rams in exchange for QB Nick Foles, a 2015 fourth-round pick, and a 2016 second-round pick. Nick Foles is now the starting QB for the Rams, which is great news for St. Louis’ fans and dynasty fantasy owners with St. Louis players. Foles was 14-4 as a starter under HC Chip Kelly.
RB– Prior to the 2014 season, fantasy owners were drafting RB Zac Stacy, the #1 RB in St. Louis. Through the first five weeks of the season, Stacy plodded his way to just 228 yards and one touchdown on 53 carries. After Week 6, Stacy played just 31 snaps in the next 10 games. HC Fisher turned to rookie RB Tre Mason, a 3rd round selection in the 2014 NFL Draft. After getting the start, and playing in only 12 games last season, Mason totaled 913 yards and scored 5 times. RB Benny Cunningham became Mason’s back-up following RB Stacy’s demotion, and had 598 yards with 4 touchdowns. The RB pecking order will start the way it ended in 2014, with Mason #1, Cunningham #2 and Stacy #3. Mason should be a safe bet for 250-plus carries as the Rams’ top back in 2015. UPDATE: The Rams selected 6’1″ RB Todd gurley in the 1st Round. HC Fisher, who is very respected and very smart, was smitten with Gurley, and time will tell if this was the best choice for the team. Gurley isn’t even healthy and likely won’t be ready for Week One of the regular season. Caution drafting this guy too early.
WRs– St. Louis is loaded with young, talented wide receivers, but no one on the roster has emerged as a true #1 WR…due in large part to the inconsistency at the quarterback position. (QB Sam Bradford didn’t play any regular season games in 2014. QB Austin Davis had some promising starts, but after 2 INTs in the 4th qtr in Week 10, he was benched in favor of the veteran Shaun Hill.) No wide receiver for the Rams ranked in the top 50 in 2014. The quarterback play was so bad for St. Louis, that their #1 WR Kenny Britt ended 2014 with only 748 yards and 3 TDs. The #2 WR Brian Quick ended 2014 with an embarrassing 375 yards and 3 TDs. The #3 Tavon Austin, had only 239 receiving yards and 0 TDs. (Austin was a 1st round selection in 2013.) The acquisition of QB Nick Foles from Philadelphia will boost all the numbers for the Rams WRs in 2015, but the offense will need to build chemistry, and anyone of these WRs could become Foles’ favorite target. UPDATE: WR Kenny Britt resigned
TEs– The Rams are notorious for creating “One-Week-Wonders” at the tight end position, who days later becomes a hot waiver wire pick-up. They also become the most dropped on the waiver wires, a week after that. In Week 10, TE Jared Cook had 84 receiving yards and 1 TD vs Arizona. He had only 46 yards total in the next 3 games. In Week 14 Cook had 61 yards and 2 TDs…followed by 100 total yards and 0 TDs for the rest of the season. Fellow TE Lance Kendricks has 5 TDs scattered over 17 games, but never topped in 35 yards in any of them. Fantasy-wise…St. Louis is a team to avoid when it comes to the TE position.
K– Greg Zuerlein was a sixth-round pick by St. Louis in the 2012 NFL Draft, and had such a great start to his career that he had earned the nickname of “Legatron”. In 2012 he attempted 13 field goals of 50 yards or longer, converting seven. In 2013, he only attempted one such field goal, which he missed. 2014 was a small rebound, connecting with 5 field goals that were 50+ yards, but he only had 30 FG attempts all year. He punched through 24 of them. An improved offense in 2015 should increase his attempts.
DEF– St. Louis’ defense and their special teams were a big contributing factor in the few wins that the Rams did have in 2014 (6). Only 2 teams had more sacks in 2014 than St. Louis. They were tied for 3rd in the league in defensive TDs with 5. The Rams tied for 1st in fumble recoveries. Most websites ranked St. Louis as the #9 defense in 2014. The Rams have very few players on offense or defense, that are heading for free agency, so their defense is pretty much intact for 2015. UPDATE: Rams sign former DET Lion DT Nick Fairley to a one-year, $5 million contract. If Fairley can stay healthy, this defense just got scary good. UPDATE: The Rams signed former Lion DT Nick Fairley to a 1-yr contract
2014 St. Louis Fantasy Surprises – Many fantasy owners used a high draft pick on RB Zac Stacy last September, and were burned by him. Really any St. Louis player that you had on your fantasy roster last year was a bust. I like the changes that the Rams are making, but I’ll be just a spectator as other fantasy owners draft St. Louis players, again this year.
2015 Free Agents that St. Louis Needs to Address – QB Shaun Hill (signed with Minn)- WR Kenny Britt (resigned)- TE Lance Kendricks (resigned)- OT Joe Barksdale- G Davin Joseph
2015 NFL Draft – The immediate needs of St. Louis are on their O-Line, at quarterback and possibly at wide receiver. The Rams released Scott Wells and Jake Long, so replacing them will be their 1st priority (C & LT), QB Nick Foles has some history of injury, so getting more depth at the position would be wise (QB). If they do not re-sign WR Kenny Britt, Fisher will likely grab one of a receivers in this years draft class (WR). UPDATE: St. Louis’ entire 2015 NFL Draft can be seen at this link- ST LOUIS’ DRAFT
Did You Know – In Week 14 when St. Louis visited Washington for an NFL match up, HC Fisher had some fun and sent 6 Rams players out for the pregame coin toss. As you may know, the Rams were the trade partner with Washington that sent several draft picks to St. Louis in exchange for the 2012 2nd overall pick (which Washington used to select QB RG3). The players sent out for the coin toss, Jenkins, Brockers, Stacy, Bailey, Robinson and Ogletree, were six starters for St. Louis, that they had received from the trade.
All team reports can be seen at this link- TEAM REPORTS
Team Home Page: www.stlouisrams.com