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2014 Fantasy Outlooks: St. Louis Rams

Senior Fantasy Writer
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The Rams should be a fun team to watch this season. The pieces are in place to contend for a playoff spot, but we hope there are some Fantasy options who can help along the way.

In 2013, the only reliable starters for Fantasy owners were Zac Stacy and the Rams DST. Sam Bradford was playing well before suffering a torn ACL in Week 7, and Tavon Austin was a bust in his rookie year.

The Rams didn't exactly bring in a ton of weapons this offseason -- rookie Tre Mason is intriguing as Stacy's backup, and we're curious if Kenny Britt has anything left in his reunion with coach Jeff Fisher -- so it's kind of wait and see heading into training camp. Stacy remains a standout Fantasy running back, and Fantasy owners should target the Rams DST as a Top 5 unit.

We hope Bradford can rebound and play at 100 percent, and if that happens he's a No. 2 Fantasy quarterback with upside. Austin is expected to be more involved on offense, and he could be a breakout receiver. There's also Jared Cook and Chris Givens, but we're not overly optimistic they can amount to starting options.

We'll all be watching Bradford, Austin, Mason and Britt, and hopefully they can assist Stacy and the Rams DST in making this team more Fantasy relevant. There's a chance for the Rams to be a feel-good story this season, and we hope Fantasy owners will benefit as a result.

Don't fear the competition ... Zac Stacy

The Rams couldn't pass on Mason in the third round, and he's an upgrade on guys like Benny Cunningham and Isaiah Pead. But while Mason is going to get some touches, this is still Stacy's backfield.

Fisher said in an interview with CBSSports.com this offseason that Stacy "is our 70-percent ball carrier." He will remain a workhorse, and he should build off his rookie performance when he had 250 carries for 973 yards and seven touchdowns and 26 catches for 141 yards and one touchdown.

Stacy showed his dominance with seven games with double digits in Fantasy points in a standard league in just 12 starts, including a touchdown in six of his final eight outings. We're not worried about Mason hurting Stacy, and he should be drafted with confidence in Round 2 in all formats.

His time is now ... Tavon Austin

I asked Fisher if he was pleased with Austin's performance as a rookie in 2013 when he had just 40 catches for 418 yards and four touchdowns and nine carries for 151 yards and a touchdown in 13 games. He said yes. And then he talked about Austin's outlook for this season, which is encouraging.

"He'll see a lot more production," Fisher said. "We'll do a better job of using him now that we know what he's capable of doing. We can put him any place. I'm looking forward to him making the jump from Year 1 to Year 2. We have to do a better job of when we get it to him we create opportunities in space."

Austin isn't the type of receiver who needs a ton of targets because his speed can make him a star on just one play, but he averaged just five targets a game as a rookie. If the Rams want him to produce, he needs more touches.

Now, getting Bradford back will definitely help, and Austin had at least six targets in each of his first five games before Bradford's injury. So we hope, as Fisher said, they get more creative with Austin this offseason and get him more involved.

I'd draft Austin as a No. 4 Fantasy receiver, but he could emerge as a starting option in deeper leagues. If the Rams want to take the next step as a contending team, Austin has to be a significant contributor.

A surprise Fantasy option ... Sam Bradford

2013 Touches Leaders
727 total touches
Zac Stacy 276 (250 car., 26 rec.) 38.0%
Daryl Richardson 83 (69 car., 14 rec.) 11.4%
Benny Cunningham 53 (47 car., 6 rec.) 7.3%
Jared Cook 51 rec. 7.0%
Tavon Austin 49 (9 car., 40 rec.) 6.7%
All Others 295 40.1%

Bradford played six full games in 2013 before tearing his ACL in Week 7 at Carolina. He had at least 20 Fantasy points in four of those outings and was thriving despite one of the worst receiving corps in the NFL.

If you project Bradford's stats over 16 games, he would have passed for 3,856 yards, 32 touchdowns and nine interceptions, and he would have finished as a Top 10 Fantasy quarterback. It's hard to expect him to duplicate that performance, but it's clear the potential is there, especially if his knee rebounds at 100 percent as expected.

We're hoping the growth from Austin, the addition of Britt and some improvements from Givens and Cook can get Bradford over the top. He's worth investing in with a late-round pick as a No. 2 Fantasy quarterback with upside.

Schedule analysis

Playing in a division with the Seahawks, 49ers and Cardinals -- who were three of the top teams in the NFL last year -- isn't easy. But don't be surprised when the Rams hold their own and actually thrive. This stellar defense will be tested with matchups against the Eagles, Cowboys and Broncos, but the offense should benefit in that game against Dallas as well. The Rams get two games on the East Coast with early starts at Philadelphia in Week 5 and at Washington in Week 14, and those games are never easy for teams west of the Mississippi.

Training camp battles

Who's the No. 2 running back? The Rams didn't draft Mason to sit on the bench as the No. 3 running back, but he might open training camp in that role. Stacy is the starter, and Cunningham will be No. 2 based on his play last season. Still, Mason has to prove he deserves a role, and he could play in passing situations early on. If Stacy goes down with an injury during the season, look for Cunningham and Mason to split carries. But Mason is the one Fantasy owners should target since he has much more upside as the backup behind Stacy.

What's the pecking order at receiver? Austin is the only Rams receiver who will get drafted in the majority of leagues, but I'll be watching Givens and Britt in the preseason to see if there's any potential there. Givens showed some promise as a rookie in 2012 before disappointing last year, and we hope his third season is a breakout. And Britt, once upon a time, was an emerging star in Tennessee before injuries and offseason problems ruined his career. He's a reclamation project, but one worth keeping an eye on since this receiving corps needs help. Outside of that trio, I wouldn't pay much attention to Austin Pettis, Brian Quick and Stedman Bailey, who is suspended for the first four games of the year for violating the league's substance abuse policy.

Bold prediction

The Rams DST was No. 7 in Fantasy points last season, but don't be surprised if they finish No. 1. It's not a stretch for them to pass the Seahawks, and this is a DST to target on Draft Day.

The Rams are one of the best teams at rushing the passer with Robert Quinn and Chris Long, and they finished No. 3 in sacks with 53 behind Carolina (60) and Buffalo (56). St. Louis added a standout lineman in the middle in rookie Aaron Donald, and middle linebacker James Laurinitis and cornerback Janoris Jenkins are two of the better players at their respective positions.

I like this defense a lot, and the DST will benefit with Austin in the return game. If you're smart, let the other owners in your league reach for the Seahawks, 49ers, Panthers, Chiefs or some other flavor of the month. You can wait a round or two later -- hopefully to your second-to-last pick -- and take the Rams as your starter.

They might reward you as the No. 1 DST this season.

Injury report

Sam Bradford (knee), probable for start of training camp. ... Jake Long (knee), questionable for start of training camp. ... Tre Mason (wrist), probable for start of training camp. ... Stedman Bailey (suspension), out for the first four games of the season.

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Player News
Ravens' Breshad Perriman leaves practice with apparent injury
by Shawn Krest | CBSSports.com
(1:06 pm ET) Ravens first-round draft pick Breshad Perriman didn't make it through the first practice of training camp. 

Perriman left Wednesday's practice with an apparent knee injury, after he fell on his right knee while making a catch. 

Perriman was limping but left the field under his own power. 

"It's not serious. It's all sound," coach John Harbaugh said, per ESPN. "He'll be back as soon as his knee feels a little bit better. It could be as early as tomorrow or a couple of days at the most."


Packers' Jared Abbrederis goes down to injury in first practice
by Shawn Krest | CBSSports.com
(12:49 pm ET) Packers wide receiver Jared Abbrederis left the team's first training camp practice with an undisclosed injury. 

Abbrederis tore his ACL in the fourth practice last year, but this year's injury didn't appear to be related to that.

"The way he fell, I don't think it was his knee," coach Mike McCarthy said, indicating that Abbrederis may have landed hard on his tailbone, per the Journal-Sentinel.


Chris Clemons doesn't report to Jaguars' camp
by Shawn Krest | CBSSports.com
(12:43 pm ET) Jaguars defensive end Chris Clemons was a surprising no-show for the start of training camp on Thursday. 

Clemons isn't holding out for a change to his contract, coach Gus Bradley said, per Jacksonville. com. The reasons for his absence are "clearly personal – all personal," Bradley said. 

“This one is a little concerning," Bradley said. "My hope is we can work through this. I talked to him last night and again this morning. Hopefully we can come up with a decision to speed this up a little quicker. I don’t see this as a situation that’s extended. We’re sensitive toward it, but we also need some urgency.”


Report: Bears' Tim Jennings has DWI case resolved
by Shawn Krest | CBSSports.com
(12:39 pm ET) Bears cornerback Tim Jennings wasn't at the opening of the team's training camp, as he wrapped up an offseason legal matter. 

Jennings was arrested earlier this year on suspicion of DWI after he was stopped for going 100 mph on a Georgia highway. He admitted to driving too fast but maintained that he hadn't been drinking. 

On Tuesday, TMZ reported that Jennings entered a guilty plea on reckless driving charges and the DWI charge was dropped. 

Jennings claimed he was speeding, because he was late to a parent-teacher conference. 


Ravens LB C.J. Mosley says wrist is fine and he's ready for camp
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(11:51 am ET) Ravens inside linebacker C.J. Mosley has declared that x-rays have shown that his broken wrist is almost completely healed and that he's been cleared for full contact, per the Baltimore Sun.

Mosley had predicted in June he'd be ready to roll after undergoing surgery on the wrist.

The second-year player enjoyed a strong rookie season, contributing to 133 tackles and adding three sacks and two interceptions.


Owner expresses confidence in Cowboys RB Joseph Randle
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(11:13 am ET) Always-involved Cowboys owner Jerry Jones has endorsed Joseph Randle as the team's featured back in 2015.

Jones expressed his belief to the Fort Worth Star-Telegram that Randle can be "the No. 1 back."

Randle must step up in the wake of the departure of superback DeMarco Murray, though an offensive line considered one of the best in the sport should help. Randle averaged 6.7 yards per carry a year ago.


Lions place RB Joique Bell on PUP list to open camp
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(11:06 am ET) Lions featured back Joique Bell has been placed on the Physically Unable to Perform (PUP) list to start training camp, per ESPN.

Bell sat out all offseason practices after undergoing surgery for an issue that he has yet to divulge. But Bell did have problems with his knee and Achilles last year.

He should be set as the No. 1 option out of the backfield in 2015 after the release of Reggie Bush, though rookie second-round pick Ameer Abdullah could push him.


Panthers WR Kelvin Benjamin (hamstring) says he's set for camp
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(10:51 am ET) Panthers wide receiver Kelvin Benjamin has declared that the hamstring he hurt in minicamp has fully healed and that he'll be a full-go when training camp begins, per the Charlotte Observer.

Benjamin enjoyed a fine rookie season, snagging 73 passes for 1,008 yards and nine touchdowns.


Titans OLB Brian Orapko feeling fine for start of training camp
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(10:46 am ET) Titans new outside linebacker Brian Orakpo has declared himself healthy and ready for training camp. He is coming off a pectoral injury that required season-ending surgery last October.

"I'll be ready to rock and roll as soon as we open camp," he told ESPN. "Body-wise, I feel 100 percent. The pec and everything else feels real good. We kind of played it safe in OTAs and minicamp for precaution, but now we can kind of unleash everything."

Orakpo signed with Tennessee as a free agent after six seasons with Washington.


Niners RB Carlos Hyde cleared to practice
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(10:38 am ET) A mere two days after his placement on the non-football injury list, 49ers running back Carlos Hyde has been removed from it, the San Jose Mercury News is reporting.

Hyde, who had been dealing with a lower leg strain, has been medically cleared to participate in the team's first full workout Saturday.

He is considered the front-runner to serve as the featured back this season, though a committee approach after the departure of Frank Gore is also a possibility. Hyde rushed for 333 yards and four touchdowns on 83 carries as a rookie in 2014.


 
 
 
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