Rams Year in Review
2014 Pass Attempts Rank: 23rd (515)
2014 Rush Attempts Rank: 26th (395)
2014 Total Offensive Plays Rank: 30th (957)
2014 Yards Per Play Rank: 19th (5.3)
Check out the team-by-team fantasy preview schedule.
Projected Starting Lineup
Passing Game Outlook
"Aberration," "anomaly," and "fluke" are words most-often used to describe Nick Foles' 2013, in which he posted a 27:2 TD-to-INT ratio across ten starts while leading the NFL in yards per attempt (9.1). Foles' YPA regressed to 7.0 last year with 13 touchdowns and 10 picks before his season was cut short by a fractured collarbone. Foles ranked 26th in pass attempts two seasons ago -- diminishing the sample size -- while Philadelphia finished first in rushing yards and yards per carry. Foles' 2013 will prove a statistical outlier, but I don't believe he ever truly changed his stripes. His efficiency was elevated by a league-best running game, an offensive line that started every game together, DeSean Jackson and Riley Cooper's career years, and the newness of Chip Kelly's innovative offense. As the Eagles' 2014 run game fell off dramatically, the line endured crippling injuries, Jackson left, Cooper devolved into a league-worst receiver, and the shine of Kelly's offense wore off a bit, Foles' production tumbled sharply. Foles has a strong arm and can be an effective pocket manager, but he is a quarterback who is only as good as the parts around him. He's best utilized as a low-volume passer who can threaten on occasional shot plays. The parts around Foles are significantly worse in St. Louis, while Foles will no longer benefit from the play volume, creativity, and high-percentage nature of Kelly's scheme. Foles' new offensive coordinator is someone named "Frank Cignetti." As a Ram, Foles' fantasy outlook is bleak.
Kenny Britt will probably never fulfill the early-career promise he flashed in Tennessee, but he came a long way to show signs of being a useful NFL receiver last year. Britt posted a 48-748-3 receiving line on 84 targets, averaging 15.6 yards per catch and staying healthy for the first time since his 2009 rookie year. Still only 26 -- he turns 27 in September -- Britt re-signed with St. Louis on an incentive-laden two-year deal. This season, Britt will vie for top-receiver targets with Brian Quick, who is coming off a severe shoulder injury. Britt's ceiling is lowered by St. Louis' run-first offense and Britt's own loss of explosiveness, but I like him as a late-round best-ball pick and sleeper to catch 60-plus passes this year.
To open last year, the light finally appeared to flip in former No. 33 overall pick Brian Quick's third NFL season. Emerging as a true No. 1 receiver the Rams so desperately need, Quick was on pace for a 64-973-8 line through six games before a shoulder injury ended his season in Week 8. Quick is huge (6'4/220) with long arms (34 1/4"), and can be an animal when he plays physically. And after dealing with Shaun Hill and Austin Davis in 2014, Quick gets a quarterback upgrade in Nick Foles. Quick's biggest obstacle is his ability to regain form following an extensive shoulder surgery that repaired his rotator cuff and three torn ligaments, while also costing Quick all of OTAs and minicamp with a new quarterback and offensive coordinator. If Quick is indeed healthy, he will be a sneaky breakout candidate and potential fantasy steal in the double-digit rounds. Quick's physical skill set is superior to Kenny Britt's at this stage of their careers. 25 years old, Quick is in the final season of his rookie deal.
Stedman Bailey and Tavon Austin will vie for sub-package snaps when the Rams use more than two receivers. Austin was a much-higher draft pick, but Bailey is a far-better wide receiver and shined in his 2014 opportunities, leading the St. Louis wideout corps in yards after catch, yards after catch per reception, and broken tackles while also receiving terrific PFF run-blocking grades. Although Austin's failures have widely been blamed on outgoing OC Brian Schottenheimer by those who loved him coming out of college and are consumed by that false narrative, Austin is in fact small (5'9/174) and plays small, has below-average hands, and plays the game without any semblance of physicality. He is Dexter McCluster 2.0. In re-draft and Dynasty leagues, 24-year-old Bailey is the player to keep an eye on. Bailey is deserving of a big role in OC Frank Cignetti's offense. The only question is whether he'll get it.
Another contact-averse Rams skill player is Jared Cook, whose soft playing style has long limited his red-zone effectiveness and whose inability to move quickly in short areas has prevented Cook from becoming a high-volume pass catcher. Cook is big (6'5/246) and legitimately runs like a wide receiver (4.50), but he is a straight-linish seam stretcher only, and not a safety-valve tight end who can make things happen on checkdowns. Cook has still finished as a top-15 fantasy tight end in three of the last four seasons, though that's due largely to the weakness of the tight end position in fantasy football, and not to Cook's accomplishments. I do think Cook is an underrated TE3 pick in best-ball leagues, where he often lasts until the very last few rounds.
Running Game Outlook
No. 10 overall pick Todd Gurley was a dominant three-down back when healthy in the SEC, turning 510 career carries into 3,285 yards (6.44 YPC) and 36 TDs. He added 65 receptions and six more scores in the passing game. A legitimately special talent with elite tackle-breaking ability and home-run speed, Gurley was also one of the top pass-protecting backs in the 2015 class. Gurley's skill set is undeniable, but his injury history is concerning. Even before tearing his ACL last November, Gurley battled a torn hip flexor and high ankle sprain in 2013, costing him three games and affecting him in others. Offseason reports on Gurley's ACL recovery have been upbeat, which was expected. His Week 1 availability remains murky. When Gurley is ready to play, he'll run behind one of the league's worst offensive lines in what projects as one of the league's lowest-scoring offenses, while potentially sharing time with Tre Mason and passing-down specialist Benny Cunningham, at least early in the year. Gurley is talented enough to make my approach to him look stupid, but I'm having a hard time drafting him at his round-four ADP.
Tre Mason returns from a rookie season where he overtook Zac Stacy in Week 7 and piled up 13-plus carries in all but one of St. Louis' final nine games, averaging a crisp 4.27 YPC despite running behind an offensive line that Football Outsiders graded in the bottom half of the league, and with people named Austin Davis and Shaun Hill at quarterback. Mason showed concerning boom-or-bust tendencies, but did face a daunting schedule of Seattle, San Francisco, and Arizona twice, as well as Denver and Washington. When Mason played the Raiders and Giants, he lit them up. Mason, who doesn't turn 22 until August 6, is an explosive runner with big-play ability and can handle heavy workloads, exhibiting the traits of a potentially-dynamic workhorse back. While the Rams' selection of Todd Gurley takes a lot of wind out of Mason's fantasy sails, the rookie's injury woes figure to lead to playing time for Mason this year. Mason typically goes in the seventh to ninth rounds of drafts. I like him as an RB3/4 in rounds eight and nine, and wouldn't be surprised if Mason stays very-much involved in St. Louis' offense for the majority of the year.
Vegas Win Total
Although Jeff Fisher has the reputation of an "8-8 coach," he's actually failed to reach eight wins each of his three years in St. Louis. The Rams finally have theoretical quarterback stability after acquiring Nick Foles, but Foles is not the kind of player capable of turning a passing game from a weakness into a strength. On the offensive line, the Rams will start an all-rookie right side of RG Jamon Brown and RT Rob Havenstein, while practice-squad-type Tim Barnes is penciled in at center. The defense is ferocious up front, but vulnerable in the back. I see the Rams as an 8-8 team and so does Vegas, setting their Win Total at 8.0 games. A non-division slate of the AFC North, NFC North, Tampa, and Washington makes me lean toward guessing the Rams go 7-9.