The Rams enter the second year of head coach Steve Spagnuolo’s tenure with the team coming off a 1-15 season and a horrendous three-year stretch with a record of 6-42. It goes without saying that the Rams have their work cut out for them in 2010.
The team has struggled on both sides of the ball in recent years, with the defense unable to stop the run in astonishing fashion. They have also struggled to make big plays or generate turnovers.
The Rams used Marc Bulger (eight starts), Kyle Boller (four), and Keith Null (four) at quarterback last year, but the team will turn to Sam Bradford this year after using the first overall pick in the draft on the Oklahoma signal-caller. A.J. Feeley may open the season as the team’s starter, but Bradford will take over early in the season.
On offense, Steven Jackson is the centerpiece for the Rams. Despite regularly facing eight- and nine-man fronts and playing several games with back issues, he amassed 1,424 yards on the ground and 314 receiving yards.
The Rams lack proven playmakers at wide receiver, but the roster includes some intriguing young players. Donnie Avery enters his third season, and the Rams hope he can use his speed to make plays more consistently while avoiding the injury issues that have set him back.
Laurent Robinson looked like a potential No. 1 receiver before getting injured in the third game of last season. Brandon Gibson has potential as a possession receiver, while Danny Amendola had a solid rookie season as the team’s slot receiver. Amendola will have to fight off rookie fourth-round pick Mardy Gilyard for playing time.
The situation at tight end isn’t as promising, with veteran Daniel Fells and blocking specialist Billy Bajema joined by the pair of rookies, Michael Hoomanawanui (fifth round) and Fendi Onobun (sixth round). Onobun is a raw talent with little experience but excellent athletic ability.
The Rams used the first overall pick in the draft to get Bradford, and the expectation is that he will start early in the season, if not on opening day. While Bradford figures to get extensive playing time in his rookie season, there are loads of question marks at wide receiver and tight end.
Although there are some talented young receivers on the roster, none appear ready to assume a lead role. It’s also worth noting that the Rams will likely use a rookie and a second year player at the starting offensive tackle positions.
Bradford is clearly a talented player with a strong and accurate arm. However, his 2010 fantasy prospects are extremely dim given the Rams lack of playmakers on offense. He’s a great dynasty league prospect—otherwise, there’s not much good to say about him fantasy-wise. He’s likely not worth drafting in re-draft leagues.
Jackson is coming off another solid yet injury-plagued season. A back injury kept him out of one game and forced him to miss several weeks worth of practices. Despite the injury, Jackson racked up some impressive numbers (1,424 rushing yards, 314 receiving) considering the Rams anemic offense was without starting quarterback Marc Bulger for much of the year.
Opposing defenses used nine men in the box against Jackson on a regular basis, even on 3rd-and-long. His mere four touchdowns marred an otherwise solid season. One of the league’s most talented backs, Jackson figures to match his 2009 production if he remains healthy in 2010.
However, he had to undergo back surgery in April, which is a worrisome sign given his injury history. Nonetheless, he should be in consideration as the fifth running back off the board in most fantasy formats.
Avery has been a bit of an enigma for the Rams since being the first wide receiver taken in the 2008 draft. He is a burner with exceptional speed, but his route-running needs improvement and he isn’t adept at catching passes over the middle.
As he enters his third year, the odds are against him having a breakout campaign in 2010. At this point, his role appears to be that of a complimentary receiver whose main tasks will include running deep patterns and end-arounds.
While Avery has upside and his production should improve, he is a marginal fantasy starter in all but the deepest leagues.
After acquiring Robinson from the Falcons for a swap of their fifth and sixth picks prior to last year’s draft, the Rams thought they had a steal on their hands early in the 2009 season. After two games, Robinson had emerged as the team’s top wide receiver with 141 yards and a touchdown.
However, a leg fracture during Week Three ended his 2009 season. Robinson has enough size and speed to be effective running any pattern and should win the starting job opposite Donnie Avery.
With rookie Sam Bradford likely starting at quarterback in a Rams offense that lacks talent, Robinson’s potential is limited. However, he could surprise and will likely be drafted lower than Donnie Avery—and he may have just as much upside.
Gibson came over in a mid-season trade with the Eagles and was thrust into a significant role immediately. At 6’0” and 210 pounds, he is a decent prospect as a possession receiver but seemed to lack deep speed as a rookie.
Despite being targeted mostly on short and intermediate routes, he caught just 49 percent of his targets. However, a good portion of that ineffectiveness can be chalked up to the Rams poor quarterback play in 2009.
Gibson has some potential, especially in PPR leagues, provided he can supplant Donnie Avery or Laurent Robinson in the starting lineup.
The Rams felt they got a steal when Gilyard was available at the first pick in the forth round of the draft. Although he doesn’t possess blazing speed, Gilyard is a shifty receiver who displayed good playmaking ability in college.
Reports indicated the Rams were very impressed with his progress during OTAs, and he figures to supplant Danny Amendola as the team’s slot receiver, perhaps by opening day.
He will work as a returner as well since he may not have the requisite size to play outside in the Rams West Coast offense. However, the Rams have plenty of question marks at receiver, so Gilyard could earn a significant role as a rookie.
Burton has been injury-prone since entering the league two years ago. A knee injury suffered during Week 10 derailed his 2009 season, and he will be fighting for playing time, as well as his roster spot, this preseason.
He is a decent prospect with enough size and speed to succeed, but he has failed to show much during his limited playing time. Though the Rams depth chart at wide receiver is unsettled, don’t expect Burton to earn a starting position, and certainly don’t waste a draft pick on him in your fantasy league.
The talentless Rams didn’t bother to offer him a tender, but they re-signed him when the Patriots showed some interest. Luckily for Fells, the Rams had so many needs that they didn’t draft any tight ends until the fifth and sixth rounds in 2010.
If his own team doesn’t like Fells, why should you? There’s no reason to take him in your fantasy draft.