The Rams have a new quarterback leading them, they drafted Todd Gurley and Jeff Fisher is probably facing a make-or-break 2015 season. That all could lead to an explosion in the fantasy football realm, but what most fantasy owners are wondering is whether or not that explosion is good or bad.
It’s tough to tell, since we don’t know much about Nick Foles outside of a Chip Kelly system, Gurley’s status is up in the air and, well, we could give two shits about Fisher’s job security. But there are several guys who could qualify as potential sleepers (or busts) on this team, and you’re going to want to know which side they’re likely to be on when the season (and your draft) begins.
Let’s break things down, player by player:
The Nick Foles we knew in Philadelphia no longer exists. The system he crushed in during the 2013 season is gone and the erratic player we saw in 2014 is more the norm than we probably want to believe. Foles certainly has potential. He’s a solid pocket passer with adequate arm strength and does a good job chasing the big play. Unfortunately, he showed to be shaky with accuracy, timing and decision-making in 2014, and after his insane 2013 run (which we never could fully trust), the unfortunate truth is we have to work off of what we saw last year and how his talent and play projects with the Rams.
That’s not easy to do, either, since the last quality passer we saw in St. Louis was Sam Bradford, and he only lasted a third of a season before twice going down with serious knee injuries. That system was producing a solid projected stat line for Bradford, though. The Rams drafted Todd Gurley and already have Tre Mason, though, so the smart money is on this being a run-heavy offense that asks Foles to make smart plays. Doing that in the NFC West could prove to be difficult, which means Foles probably can’t be trusted for at least four weeks of the year (six if you don’t think the 49ers are going to be complete trash). The rest of the time, it’s probably a toss up? Why? Because Foles makes bade decisions that lead to inefficiency and turnovers, is in a new offense that probably will restrict him and has weapons around him that are tough to trust, at best. There is upside with Foles. No, really. But he’s too much of a risk to hitch your entire season to as a QB1. I don’t even love him as a QB2 in his first season with the Rams, but he’s better than Austin Davis and even he put up some numbers last year. I think Foles can be competent in stretches, but his inconsistency is just too maddening to get excited about for an entire year. He’s a waiver wire arm to roll the dice with when needed, but probably nothing more.
Tre Mason is pretty good. Actually, he’s really good. He came on strong as a rookie last year in week seven, when he produced a solid 85-yard day and a score against a good Seahawks defense. He’d give faithful fantasy owners four more touchdowns in the second half of the season, two 100+ yard rushing days and 10 total games with at least 50+ total yards. He was a rookie on a team with no quarterback threat, no consistent passing game weapon and a shaky offensive line. Yet he finished the year as fantasy football’s 25th best running back and appeared in just 12 games.
Mason is smaller and it’s understandable that the Rams both lacked total trust in his ability to be an every down back, while passing on a potential generational talent like Todd Gurley also probably wasn’t easy. The two added together to kill Mason’s long-term fantasy upside, but he should still be serviceable in what initially could be a lethal two-back system. Gurley should eventually push Mason to a more limited role, but even if he does, Mason will forever be one injury away from a huge role. For a guy with a nice compact build, soft hands and top notch athleticism, that’s a really good thing. Despite all of that, Mason is going in the 7th round on average – two rounds after the still not 100% Gurley. That’s not a bad value for a guy who should have a solid role at least to start the year, although I’d hold out another round or two if possible.
Gurley is going to be the back to own, but trusting him is an entirely different discussion. He’s fresh off of a torn ACL, has serious competition in Mason and obviously plays in the same brutal division. I love Gurley’s upside, but he’s not ready right now and we can’t know how big his role will be early in the season. His round 5 ADP comes off a little steep, but his upside could make him a strong value pick. He’s a risk no matter which angle you take, but if you failed to secure two rock solid running backs within your first four picks, he’s got the upside worth taking a chance on.
If Nick Foles is the answer, then great. Then the Rams might actually have something to get excited about in their receiving corps. Heck, even if he’s not, at least one of these guys is going to be worth a flier, because whatever Foles brings to the table HAS to be better than the collection of Kellen Clemens, Austin Davis, Case Keenum and Shaun Hill have gotten the Rams over the past two seasons? One would think.
Assuming Foles is that competent upgrade St. Louis has sorely lacked, the two guys you’ll want to think about drafting late in drafts are Brian Quick and Kenny Britt. Britt is a constant injury risk but despite almost falling out of the league, he’s still just 26 and offers a good amount of upside as a big target that can still make plays. Thanks to shaky quarterback play, Britt’s comeback wasn’t quite as impressive as it maybe would have been had Sam Bradford stayed healthy. Britt was still serviceable, though, as he hauled in 48 receptions for nearly 800 yards and three touchdowns. He’s never topped 50 receptions and has played 16 games just twice, but there is upside here if Foles works out.
The same goes for Quick, who started 2014 off hot but cooled off before sustaining a shoulder injury. I loved Quick’s talent coming out of college, as he had a build and style similar to Terrell Owens. We have barely seen that in flashes, but he actually finally looked like he was ready last year. He’s just as risky as Britt, but both of these guys have some upside with the quarterback change. It’s tough to sell them in what figures to be a run-heavy offense, while picking which one (if either) is a hit is a guessing game. Quick carries more upside and is the more appealing flier pick, but both guys could do well if everything breaks right. It just probably won’t.
Tavon Austin, Chris Givens and Stedman Bailey round out the most average wide receiving corps ever. It’s not necessarily a bad roster of receivers. A lot of these guys can make plays, have speed, or have size. None of them have the total package, it seems, or have had bad injury luck. Austin has been a total bust and there’s a flicker of hope with Foles arriving, but it’s possible the Rams stop even using him as a gadget guy and move on. He can’t be drafted and neither can Givens or Bailey, but all three are talented enough to monitor – especially considering two injury risks start ahead of them.
Jared Cook is an athletic freak who is a walking mismatch at the tight end position. Unfortunately, he’s erratic as balls, doesn’t block well and is prone to drops (only caught 52% of targets last year). He’ll have a handful of big games and the presence of Foles gives him an outside shot at posting career numbers, but hitching your season to Cook isn’t something to be done. Tight end is so deep in the vain that after Rob Gronkowski, it’s anyone’s guess who rounds out the top-10 or top-15. Does Cook have the talent and role to bust off and make fantasy experts look like a bunch of damn fools? Absolutely. But the guy has never topped 52 catches or five touchdowns in a season and there hasn’t been any indication this year will be different.
The Rams should be better on offense this year, or at least a lot more consistent. They actually have some talent, so there’s a decent chance Legatron sees more than 35 extra point tries. Not much more, but more. His accuracy is what is called into question, as he converted just 80% of field goal tries a year ago. I don’t know it that’s really atrocious when you factor in three of his six misses came from 40+ yards out (two from 50+). He’s got a huge leg, kicks indoors and his offense should help him out a bit more this year. You can easily find a more reliable option in the final round of your draft, but the fact that he’s twice given fantasy owners 5 or more 50+ yarders in two of three seasons shows he has some upside to him. Then again, he’s a damn kicker.
St. Louis took a big hit earlier this month when they lost their top cornerback. Other than that, they looked stacked on defense and should be ready to once again be a stout fantasy team defense. They finished 4th overall last year, so another top-5 finish is certainly possible. They gave up a good amount of points in 2014 (345) and play in a tough division, but they get after the quarterback, stop the run and force turnovers at a solid rate.