The 2013 offseason has been a busy one for the St. Louis Rams.
They have made a bunch of fantasy relevant headlines, as they continue to add more and more speed to their offense. Perhaps they are trying to return to the glory days of the Greatest Show on Turf? Well, they certainly have a long way to go to get to that elite level of skill, but what will this team offer from a fantasy perspective as we approach the 2013 season?
We’re waiting, Sam. Former first overall pick, Sam Bradford hasn’t quite lived up to expectations. Has it been lack of weapons around him? Or what about an atrocious offensive line? Perhaps a little bit of both, but Bradford also hasn’t played that well. He is sporting a career 58.3 completion percentage and has thrown 34 interceptions. Often times I’d notice that his reads haven’t been very effective and his accuracy hasn’t always been there. However, at only 25-years old, there is still some upside with Bradford that makes him a fantasy sleeper this season. The Rams went out and brought in pieces to help Bradford. An upgrade at the offensive line position by bringing in one of the better offensive tackles in football in Jake Long. Long is a terrific blind side protector, only allowing 37 career sacks. Also, Bradford has a ton of speed at his arsenal. The team traded up to select Tavon Austin with the 8th overall pick in this year’s draft. Austin has drawn comparisons to Percy Harvin and when given the ball in space, he is incredibly difficult to tackle. They also signed tight end Jared Cook who, from an athletic standpoint, is top notch at his position. He and Bradford have already began developing quite the chemistry during OTAs. The weapons and opportunity are there for Bradford to finally breakout, making him a strong QB 2 option in leagues this summer.
Long time Ram, Steven Jackson is gone, leaving a massive hole at the running back position. This could spell an absolute fantasy headache for owners, but I do see some potential in rookie Zac Stacy. I’ve been watching a lot of tape recently, and I think Stacy is one of the more underrated runners in this year’s draft class. While he doesn’t necessarily have breakaway speed, Stacy can still contribute. At Vanderbilt, he often operated out of the Wildcat formation, so the versatility is there. Not known as a pass catcher, I noticed that he does have the hands and skills to become a solid one, which could be needed if he wants to become an every down back for this team. If anything, Stacy has opportunity already, which is key. Isaiah Pead has been suspended for the first game of the season, so I expect Stacy to start the year as the team’s number one back. Considering Pead was in the doghouse for struggling so much last season, I wouldn’t be at all surprised if Stacy ran away with this job. Keep in mind, however, that Daryl Richardson is still there and will likely serve as the main pass-catching, third down back. Stacy seems like more of a patient, balanced runner than the other two guys on the depth chart, and while I’m avoiding this running back situation if I can, he does have some fantasy upside.
Speed. There isn’t one word that describes this receiving corp better. Austin was regarded as arguably the best player in this draft class, displaying some out-of-this-world athleticism. His blazing 4.34 speed will make him a nightmare for opposing defenses, especially out of the slot. The Rams are going to find ways to get this guy the ball in space, because when he has it, he’s deadly. Whether it be in the slot, out wide, or even in the backfield, Austin will be a threat to score on any play. Rumblings out of St. Louis indicate that he is taking handoffs, which doesn’t surprise me. He rushed for over 600 yards in college last year, and with the Rams running back situation in disarray, Austin should see a fair share of touches out of the backfield, only adding to his fantasy value. I have him just outside the top-30 among fantasy receivers, but he has all the skills to eclipse that mark. Speaking of speed, how about Chris Givens? A guy with 4.41 speed, who is more of a deep threat option than Austin. Remember back towards the beginning of last year, Givens posted five straight games with a catch of at least 50 yards. Clearly, this guy as home run play ability and is worth a late round flier. Also, Brian Quick is another name to consider when talking about speed and athleticism. A guy who has sub 4.5 speed and tremendous lateral quickness, expect him to be featured more in the passing game than last year. Just ask Bryan Fontaine of Pro Football Focus how talented this guy is.
The speed doesn’t end there. Jared Cook is a freak athlete at the tight end position, having ran an impressive 4.49 40 yard dash. However, as enticing as it is, speed isn’t everything. Cook would often tease fantasy owners in the past with his massive upside by scoring just eight career touchdowns and never eclipsing a 50-catch season. The upside is crazy high, but will Cook continue to tease us in 2013?
Adam Pfeifer is a featured fantasy sports columnist for Rant Sports.
You can follow him on Twitter @aPfeiferRS.