5 St. Louis Rams Who Mean the Most to the Team’s Future
Which Players are Most Important to the Rams' Future?
More than most NFL teams, the St. Louis Rams are banking on the future in their quest to experience success. As the NFL’s youngest roster for the past two seasons, the team has been overturned almost completely as general manager Les Snead and head coach Jeff Fisher try to build a program by acquiring young players and developing them. As this administration heads into its third year, the pressure will be ramped up for the Rams to succeed as the young players Snead and Fisher have acquired begin to peak.
There are a select few players on the team, such as defensive end Chris Long, linebacker James Laurinaitis and offensive tackle Jake Long, who are more experienced and are at or past their peak right now. But the vast majority of the Rams’ roster is made up of players who have not yet realized their potential. Considering how good some of those players -- like defensive end Robert Quinn, defensive tackle Michael Brockers, and linebacker Alec Ogletree -- have been early on in their careers, it should be really exciting to see how this group continues to advance over the next couple years as most of the Rams reach their respective primes.
While the Rams certainly have some more building to do through the draft before they can consider themselves among the NFL’s elite, they have some nice building blocks which they should be able to use to vault themselves into the playoff picture this coming season. Here are five players who are extremely important in the Rams’ quest to become a perennial playoff threat.
5. Stedman Bailey, WR
It may seem odd to say that Bailey, a third-rounder last year, is one of the most crucial players to the Rams’ future. But going through the Rams’ receiving corps, he is the one who seems to have the most potential to become a legitimate No. 1 receiver. Brian Quick, Austin Pettis and Chris Givens are coming off mediocre seasons, and they each have a certain quality that could prevent them from becoming elite. Tavon Austin is a great weapon to have, but he can’t really be classified as a traditional receiver. And as we saw when he went down with three games to play in the regular season, his skills are not absolutely crucial to the Rams being able to carry out their gameplan.
Despite his lack of ideal size, Bailey, who caught 16 passes for 214 yards over the final six games of the season, may have the catching skills to become an impact outside receiver, similar to the Pittsburgh Steelers’ Antonio Brown.
4. Michael Brockers, DT
The Rams have gained some respect since Jeff Fisher’s takeover for their exceptional defensive line play. A large part of that has been the early success of 2012 first-rounder Michael Brockers who has provided a solid anchor on the interior of the line. In 2013, Brockers tied for eighth in sacks among 4-3 defensive tackles with 5.5. He’s also a very good run defender, and if he continues to develop at the pace that he has thus far, Brockers could be a Pro Bowl-worthy defensive tackle within the next couple years.
3. Zac Stacy, RB
Early on in the season, the Rams struggled to replace the production of Steven Jackson in the running game, but they solved that problem in Week 5 by placing fifth-rounder Zac Stacy into the starting lineup. The Vanderbilt product went on to rush for 973 yards on 250 attempts which is extra impressive when you consider that Stacy rushed for just four yards in the first four weeks of the season. Ideally, the Rams would probably like to have another talented back to complement him, but if Stacy can continue to excel like he did during 2013 the team should have very few issues with creating a feared rushing attack.
2. Sam Bradford, QB
Sam Bradford arguably has more stake in the Rams’ immediate success than any other player as the quarterback’s presence and production will be critical to the offense being able to operate efficiently in 2014. Though the 26-year-old is getting slammed by the national media this offseason for his failure to take the Rams to the playoffs or even stay on the field consistently, it’s worth noting that before his unfortunate ACL tear he had career-highs in completion percentage and passer rating and was on pace to set them in passing yards and touchdowns. Head coach Jeff Fisher and GM Les Snead have already professed their faith in Bradford, so it seems like a good bet that he will get at least one more year to prove his worth.
1. Robert Quinn, DE
By registering 19 sacks in 2013 and showing superior skills as a run defender, 23-year-old Robert Quinn established himself as the Rams’ best player and the cornerstone of their defense. It’s almost scary that Quinn has the potential to get better, and as the players around him get better it will only become harder for offenses to contain Quinn. The Seattle Seahawks showed us in 2013 that defenses indeed do win championships, and Quinn is the most important player for the Rams to have on board in their quest to do the same.