The Fantasy outlook for the Rams can be summed up in one name: Steven Jackson. He's really the only player who matters in St. Louis.
Sure, there are some players with potential in Donnie Avery, Laurent Robinson, Sam Bradford and Mardy Gilyard. But the only St. Louis player who will be drafted in the majority of Fantasy leagues this year is Jackson, and for good reason.
Last year, despite dealing with a back injury, Jackson had 1,738 total yards and four touchdowns. The touchdown total was disappointing, but Jackson was still an elite Fantasy running back. He should stay at that level.
Get the latest news and analysis from the most informed Fantasy staff in the industry by following us on Twitter and Facebook.
The back issue remains a concern, but Jackson was successful with the injury last year and had surgery in February to correct the problem with his herniated disc. Hopefully he doesn't suffer a setback.
The best thing about Jackson is you know he's going to dominate the offense -- he touched the ball on 38 percent of St. Louis' plays last season. Last year, Jackson also was one of six running backs with 20-plus carries per game. He averaged 22 carries per game, joining Cedric Benson (23), Chris Johnson (22), Thomas Jones (21), Adrian Peterson (20) and Maurice Jones-Drew (20).
We still value Jackson as a No. 1 Fantasy running back. He's worth drafting toward the end of Round 1 in all leagues, and he's the lone offensive player the Rams can count on in 2010.
Sleeper ... Donnie Avery, WR
Avery is entering his third season, which is typically the year when wide receivers have a breakout campaign. This is also the year where the Rams gave him a quarterback to work with in rookie Sam Bradford, who was drafted at No. 1 overall. But even with that positive outlook, Avery has a lot of work to do. He had 47 catches for 589 yards and five touchdowns in 2009 while dealing with an injured an inconsistent Marc Bulger, Kyle Boller and Keith Null at quarterback.
Avery is going to take some lumps as Bradford learns the NFL, but Avery has done well with poor quarterback play in his first two seasons. He's averaged 50 catches, 636 yards and four touchdowns the past two years, but he's capable of increasing his production based on his speed and playmaking ability. We like Avery as a sleeper, and he's worthy of a late-round pick on Draft Day.
|Player||Draft Day value|
Late-round flier ... Laurent Robinson, WR
Robinson got off to a good start with the Rams last season. In his first two games, Robinson had 11 catches for 141 yards and a touchdown before breaking his leg in Week 3 and being lost for the season. If you project his stats over the course of the season he would have finished with 88 catches for 1,128 yards and eight touchdowns. Now, that's a stretch since we're talking about a receiver whose best year was as a rookie in 2007 with Atlanta when he had 37 catches for 437 yards and one touchdown. But the potential is there for Robinson to become a quality Fantasy option if he can stay healthy.
He also needs to develop a rapport with Bradford, and that won't be easy right away. Still, we like Robinson with a late-round pick. There's little risk, and it could lead to a big reward if he plays like he did to start 2009.
Keeper-league target ... Mardy Gilyard, WR
Bradford is the best keeper option for the Rams since he's the future at quarterback and could develop into a star. But Gilyard is also worth taking with a late-round pick in keeper leagues.
The Rams drafted Gilyard in the fourth round of the NFL Draft out of Cincinnati, and he was an excellent playmaker in college as a receiver and return man. He's not expected to start for the Rams this year and will likely play behind Avery and Robinson, but Gilyard will have a role on offense. We think he could even be a nice sleeper this year in deep leagues, but he's worth a late-round flier in keeper formats.
Jackson has a great schedule to start the year, including games against the Raiders, Seahawks, Lions and Bucs before the bye in Week 9. He also closes the season with games against the Chiefs in Week 15 and Seahawks in Week 17. If Jackson's back holds up then he could help your Fantasy team get off to a great start, and then he will be useful come playoff time. That's what you hope for from your No. 1 running back.
Training camp topics
Bradford needs to sign his contract and be in camp on time if he wants to be ready to start in Week 1. But even then the Rams might decide to go with Feeley to open the season to ease Bradford into the job.
Bradford doesn't have much Fantasy value as a rookie in seasonal leagues. His receiving corps has potential, but they aren't going to make Bradford into a quality Fantasy option this year.
The other storyline for the Rams to monitor is the health of Jackson. He's expected to be ready for training camp, but you'll want to see him on the field to make sure his back is 100 percent.
Steven Jackson (back; probable for the start of training camp) ... Brandon Gibson (hamstring; probable for the start of training camp) ... Keenan Burton (knee; probable for the start of training camp) ... Oshiomogho Atogwe (shoulder; probable for the start of training camp)
Stay in touch with the most passionate Fantasy staff in the business by following us via Twitter . You can also follow Jamey at @jameyeisenberg . Do you have a question or a comment for our Fantasy staff? Drop us a line at firstname.lastname@example.org .