St. Louis Rams Rookies: Stat Predictions
Rams head coach Jeff Fisher during a St. Louis Rams organized team activity (OTA) on May 16, 2012, at Rams Park in Earth City, Mo. Photo by Chris Lee
In the NFL, there is nothing lower than being a rookie. One minute, you are a college senior living the easy life, strutting around as the “Big Man On Campus.” And the next? To veterans, you are nothing more than what the cockroaches eat.
It’s never a good idea for an NFL team to rely on rookies. However, sometimes that team doesn’t have a choice. For the St. Louis Rams, the rookies are the first step in what will be a long rebuilding process from 15 combined wins over the last five seasons.
Consider for a moment that the team has a new faces everywhere from head coach to general manager and from offensive coordinator to strength coach. Even the defensive coordinator (or lack thereof) is a new concept for this team.
It only seems right that this Rams team should have more than its fair share of rookies filling big holes on the roster.
Head Coach Jeff Fisher and General Manager Les Snead were busy on draft day a few months ago wheeling and dealing picks. So the success of this rookie crop of players will probably be indicative of how the Snead-Fisher tenure at Rams Park will be remembered.
What should we expect statistically from this year’s rookie class? How many catches will Brian Quick make? How many tackles will Janoris Jenkins have?
With a look at the performance of rookies from past recent drafts, along with those players selected during Fisher’s coaching term in Tennessee, we can create an objective analysis of what you should expect from this year’s Rams' draft class.
DT: Michael Brockers
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The last time Jeff Fisher selected a defensive tackle as high as Michael Brockers (No. 14 overall), was 10 years ago, when Albert Haynesworth went 15th overall. I think many Rams fans would be thrilled if Brockers came close to the run-stuffing, multiple-offensive-lineman-absorbing tackle Haynesworth was, in his prime.
The “catch” to all of this is that DTs do not automatically jump out of the gate ready to maul the interiors of an NFL offensive line.
There is a steep learning curve for DTs in the NFL, and we shouldn’t expect anything different with Brockers.
Going back to the 2004 draft, I have found 15 DTs who were drafted in the top 20 or so overall that logged significant playing time as a rookie.
Those 15 DTs averaged 25 tackles, three sacks and one turnover during their respective rookie seasons.
(I'm defining a “turnover” as either an interception, forced fumble or fumble recovery.)
We’ve been spoiled recently by dominant rookie seasons like the one Ndamukong Suh had in 2010. It’s not fair to expect Brockers, or really any first-round DT, to step onto an NFL field and get double-digit sacks or 40-plus tackles as a rookie.
Even current Pro Bowl mainstays like B.J. Raji, Haloti Ngata and Tommie Harris all had fairly benign starts to their NFL careers. Brockers should be no different.
I think Brockers is a better-than-average first-round talent that should start for the Rams from Week 1. I would expect better-than-average numbers from him this season.
Prediction: 4 Sacks, 28 Tackles, 1 Turnover
WRs: Brian Quick and Chris Givens
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There is arguably no better place for a rookie to make an impact on the Rams' roster this season than at wide receiver.
There will be plenty of balls to go around in offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer’s version of the “Coryell” offense. Plus, Sam Bradford has a lot to prove this year after his sophomore slump.
I analyzed the last five NFL drafts, specifically the rounds where Quick (second) and Givens (fourth) were taken. There were plenty of hits in both rounds.
In the second round, it doesn’t get much better than Eddie Royal in 2008 (91 catches, 980 yards, five touchdowns) or Torrey Smith last year (50 catches, 841 yards, seven touchdowns).
In the fourth round, you can hope for nothing better than the rookie campaigns of Indianapolis’ Austin Collie (60 catches, 676 yards, seven touchdowns) or Tampa Bay’s Mike Williams (65 catches, 964 yards, 11 touchdowns).
It seems fair to expect a decent amount of receptions and yards for rookie WRs (second- round rookies average about 40 catches and 520 yards, while fourth rounders average 35 catches and 450 yards).
Touchdowns are still hard to come by for rookie WRs (no more than two or three), probably because most QBs look to veteran hands in the red zone.
Anyone who claims to know who will be the Rams’ starting wideouts this season is surely lying. But both Quick and Givens appear to be in the top four, which means they should get plenty of playing time.
I’m more confident that Quick will overachieve as a rookie than I am with Givens. Plus, Danny Amendola is sure to see a lot of balls underneath and over the middle, taking away possibilities for others.
It is worth noting, however, that Jeff Fisher hasn't had much luck with drafting WRs. Only one (Kenny Britt) had more than 23 receptions and 301 yards as a rookie.
Prediction: Quick (45 catches, 550 yards, 3 TDs); Givens (30 catches, 400 yards, 2 TDs)
RB: Isaiah Pead
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We move from the position with the most pressure to perform as a rookie (WR) to the one with arguably the least. For Isaiah Pead, backing up a perennial Pro Bowler (Steven Jackson) probably does take a little stress off being a rookie.
No one expects Pead to be anything more than a solid backup. He’s not being asked (yet) to replace Jackson.
That makes predicting Pead’s performance incredibly difficult. How many touches will he get? How many yards can we expect? What role will Pead have in the passing/screen game by Week 10?
Recent rookie performances by Matt Forte (2008) and Ben Tate (2011) are the exception rather than the norm. Pead’s not going to be close to approaching 1,000 yards from scrimmage.
Over the last five NFL drafts, rookie running backs have averaged about 130 “touches” (rushes and receptions), 600 YFS and two touchdowns. However, that includes those backs who were the primary ball carriers on their respective teams.
Discarding those names (Ray Rice, LeSean McCoy, Forte, Tate), the average season of a backup rookie RB is about 90 touches, 375 YFS and one touchdown. That seems reasonable to expect for Pead.
Jeff Fisher hasn’t been in the business of drafting many running backs outside the first round (one of the consequences of having Eddie George and Chris Johnson), so the sample size is pretty small.
But the non-first round RBs Fisher did select have averaged about 115 touches, 475 YFS and two touchdowns over their rookie seasons.
I think Fisher and Schottenheimer will want to use Pead more than previous backups for Jackson, especially as a change-up to Jackson’s style.
Prediction: 100 touches, 425 yards, 1 TD
CBs: Janoris Jenkins and Trumaine Johnson
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With the Titans, Jeff Fisher was outstanding at coaching up rookie cornerbacks. Samari Rolle, Andre Dyson, Pacman Jones and Alterraun Verner all performed very well as rookies under Fisher’s watch.
Over the last five NFL drafts, rookie cornerbacks taken in the second and third rounds (such as Jenkins and Johnson) averaged about 35 tackles, two turnovers and seven passes defensed.
Fisher’s CBs stand up just as well, if not better, than the rest of the league, averaging 55 tackles, three turnovers and seven passes defensed during their rookie seasons.
As the presumed starter opposite Cortland Finnegan, Jenkins will try to emulate the outstanding rookie season of Kansas City's Brandon Flowers. Flowers had 62 tackles, five turnovers and 13 PDs as a rookie in 2008.
I think Jenkins can approach those numbers, if he maintains a starting role on the defense.
Johnson, on the other hand, will be battling Bradley Fletcher as the nickel DB, so his performance expectations must be balanced with the level of playing time he is likely to receive.
Considering Fisher’s strong history with CBs, and the fact that scouts have considered both Jenkins and Johnson to be talents worthy of a higher selections, I think it’s fair to give both better than average rookie seasons.
Prediction: Jenkins (60 tackles, 4 TOs, 10 PDs); Johnson (40 tackles, 2 TOs, 7 PDs)
K: Greg Zuerlein
When trying to predict a rookie kicker's season, it's easy to tilt your head to the side, shrug your shoulders and say "I have no idea."
Instinctively, it would seem that predicting a kicker's performance would mean taking into account the efficiency of his team's offense, including how they perform in the red zone and on third down.
All of that makes sense. But it's wrong.
Rookie kickers, especially those drafted over the last five years, have had shockingly similar performances.
Of the eight kickers drafted since 2008, five had more than just a cup of coffee in the NFL.
Four of the five kickers made between 24 and 26 field goals (Mason Crosby led with 31 FGM), and all had very respectable field-goal success rates (82 percent average).
It seems rookie kickers are either a bust and never see an NFL field, or become very reliable legs.
We have to assume Zuerlein will stick with the Rams.
Prediction: 26/32 (FGM/FGA), 81 percent success rate