St. Louis Rams' Danny Amendola Injury: 5 Biggest Fantasy Implications

Eric Steitz@esteitz16Analyst IIIOctober 5, 2012

St. Louis Rams' Danny Amendola Injury: 5 Biggest Fantasy Implications

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    Thursday, the St. Louis Rams knocked off the previously-undefeated Arizona Cardinals, 17-3.

    Unfortunately for the Rams, they lost their top producer early in the second quarter when WR Danny Amendola dove for a pass on the sideline and reportedly broke his collarbone, an injury that is sending ripples through the fantasy football world.

    The fourth-year pro has been QB Sam Bradford’s favorite target whenever he is in the game. That hasn’t been as often as Amendola, Bradford or the rest of the Rams want.

    Amendola missed 15 games last season after breaking his arm and, if it is a broken collarbone, he could miss another month or more this season. San Diego Chargers' RB Ryan Mathews suffered a similar injury this preseason and was projected to miss four to six weeks.

    With 32 catches in just over four games, Amendola is a PPR-league monster. On pace to set career-highs in receptions, yards, touchdowns and first downs, this loss hurts the Rams and has big implications on the fantasy front.

    Here are the five biggest implications of the Amendola injury.

Who Is Chris Givens?

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    Get to know the name Chris Givens quickly. Without Amendola, Givens will become Bradford’s new outside target, sending his fantasy stock upwards.

    Givens caught a 51-yard touchdown early in the fourth quarter to seal the Rams’ win over the Cardinals, in what was a less than stellar performance from both offenses. Bradford went 7-of-21 through the air for 141 yards, two touchdowns and an interception.

    Givens has just four catches this season, coming out of Wake Forest, but is a solid deep threat. He ran a 4.41-second 40-yard dash at the combine and adjusts well to balls in the air.

    Temper expectations as Bradford has struggled this year and Givens is still finding his role on the Rams. That role will take a jump if Amendola is out for any significant amount of time.

Steven Jackson and the Running Game

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    Steven Jackson has been largely disappointing to fantasy owners this season. Through five games, he hasn’t scored a touchdown, nor has he rushed for 100 yards in a game.

    Jackson is averaging 3.5 yards per carry this season, a career low. He is carrying the ball just over 15 times per game, but that was with Amendola doing his usual thing.

    Bradford hasn’t had a great year, ranking 17th in passing yards (1,022), tied for 13th in passing TD (six), while throwing five picks and taking 15 sacks. The Rams' offense isn’t in good shape and will need their workhorse RB to pick up the slack.

    Jackson is reportedly opting out of his final year of his contract with the Rams, allowing him to be an unrestricted free agent after the season. That makes this contract season a big deal for Jackson.

    If he wants to sign a significant deal elsewhere, he needs to start producing. Based on Yahoo! scoring, he currently ranks 25th among RBs in fantasy production (31.9 points).

    Coming off a season-high 18 carries and 76 yards, expect more carries from Jackson in the near future. He could also be used in the short passing game with Amendola missing.

Sam Bradford’s Stock Plummets

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    Sam Bradford is ranked 27th among fantasy QBs and is owned by just 47.3 percent of owners in ESPN leagues. He has been dropped by 4.2 percent of owners in the last week.

    Bradford has completed 57.5 percent of his passes this season with a 37.3 QB-rating. He isn’t a solid play in any terms of fantasy and those numbers should only drop from here on out.

    The Rams can’t protect Bradford consistently, which hurts the deep ball. When he does have time, he will be looking for Givens, but that won’t happen enough to make Bradford a reliable start.

    The only thing that could salvage the QB is utilizing Jackson in the short game. If the Rams can get something going on the ground, maybe that will force defenses to respect the run.

    Play-action and moving the pocket may be the only way to give Bradford opportunities in the pass game until things get figured out up front.

    Rookie QB Ryan Tannehill in Miami and Matt Cassel in Kansas City are still rated higher than Bradford, start looking for other options at QB before it’s too late.

Don’t Sleep on the Rams Defense

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    The Rams' defense performed beautifully against the Cardinals this week. Nine sacks, a fumble recovery and three points allowed equated to an 18-point performance in Yahoo! leagues.

    That performance catapulted the Rams to the third-best fantasy scoring defense with 53 total points. Things appear to be trending in the right direction for the Rams on that side of the ball.

    In Week 4 against the Seattle Seahawks, the defense recorded 12 points, tied for seventh among defenses that week.

    The injury to Amendola complicates things for the St. Louis D. If the Rams run the ball effectively, that could mean less snaps for opposing offenses. That should limit points allowed, but also take away from the other categories like sacks.

    If the Rams' offense struggles mightily, that gives them more defensive snaps, but allows a greater opportunity to be scored on.

    The nine-sack performance was an eye-opener. But, with Green Bay, New England and San Francisco the next three weeks, things only get tougher.

Possible Replacements

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    Amendola’s injury is a killer to receiving groups, especially in PPR leagues. The undrafted WR went for 38 points against Washington in Week 2. He was Bradford’s favorite target, but with the possibility of missing over a month, fantasy owners need replacements.

    Here are a few viable options:

    Davone Bess (PPR): Bess is coming off a seven-catch, 123 yard performance against the same Cardinals' defense that limited Bradford to 7-of-21 passing. Bess is owned by 8.4 percent of owners in ESPN leagues.

    Andrew Hawkins: Cincinnati’s QB Andy Dalton is off to a great start this season. He has the top-producing WR in A.J. Green to throw to, but Hawkins is proving to be a reliable No. 2. Hawkins had eight catches against the Baltimore Ravens in Week 1 and has big-play ability, if Green is covered. He is owned by 29.3 percent in ESPN leagues.

    James Jones: The Green Bay receivers are banged up, increasing Jones’ role. He had five catches and two touchdowns last week against the New Orleans Saints. He could be a solid fill-in for the next few weeks until the GB receivers are healthy and so is Amendola. He is owned in 58.3 percent of leagues, but has been picked up in over 36 percent over the last week. Grab him quick if you are going to bite.