2014 Team Outlook: Saint Louis Rams
QB Sam Bradford, PHI - Bye Week Fill-in
Sam Bradford hasn't distinguished himself in the fantasy world yet. He's been plagued with injury issues and his receiver group has been far from elite. While healthy last year, Bradford completed 60.7-percent of his passes (which is a career-high by a small margin). Also 5.3-percent of his passes went for touchdowns. This was much better than his previous career high (3.8-percent). If he can build or continue on the same path as those two metrics, he could develop into a solid quarterback for St. Louis. As far as fantasy goes, he was QB11 when he got injured after Week 7 with a 19.9 ppg average. That is probably his ceiling potential.
Despite this, St. Louis probably needs one of their receivers to step up in a big way before Bradford can climb safely into weekly starting quarterback territory. The Rams certainly have options at the position between Tavon Austin, Chris Givens, Brian Quick and Kenny Britt. You can't rule these guys out; however, someone has to lead the team in targets and receptions. Until that primary target emerges, Bradford's ceiling and floor values are very difficult to gauge. The safe bet is to draft him as a very cheap backup near the end of your fantasy draft.
Editor's note: Since he entered the league in 2010, fantasy owners and Rams fans alike have waited for Bradford to turn the corner. With so many great fantasy starters at the position, Bradford's appeal is essentially non-existent. He must put on display his talent before warranting a draft pick.
QB Shaun Hill, MIN - Not Draft Worthy
With Calvin Johnson at his disposal, Shaun Hill proved he could provide serviceable fantasy weeks when called upon. Unfortunately, Johnson is no longer on this team. If Bradford goes down, Hill would become the team's starter. He has no fantasy value.
RB Tre Mason, STL - Super Sleeper (high risk/potential)
Tre Mason was a 2014 third-round pick. He has good quickness and speed. He can run downhill and he's more powerful than you'd think someone his size would be. Mason's weakness, like many rookies, is his pass-blocking. He will need to demonstrate competence in this area to obtain a sizable role in the offense. Monitor his preseason to see what progress he's made in this area. If he struggles (like Montee Ball did last year), he is unlikely to see a lot snaps early in 2014.
Editor's note: Don't allow your expectations to go overboard with Mason. He had his moments last year with Auburn, but he's going to have to earn his keep with the Rams. Given Bradford's propensity for injuries, this rookie has to be on point as a blocker. He's a super sleeper if there ever was one.
RB Benny Cunningham, STL - Low Potential
Similar to Stacy, Cunningham capitalized on his opportunities last year. He actually averaged more yards per carry (5.6 to 3.9) and yards per catch (9.8 to 5.4) than Stacy. Unfortunately, he only had 20-percent of the touches compared to Stacy, so the sample is limited. He should be a good handcuff to Stacy in case of injury. The concern is whether he will hold off rookie Tre Mason. Cunningham isn't considered as good of a receiver or pass protector as Stacy. Those flaws will keep him behind Stacy on the depth chart. Mason's unknown ceiling isn't well defined, which makes him more worthy of a gamble in drafts. Cunningham has very limited potential due to his unclear role in a middling offense.
RB Zac Stacy, NYJ - Bust (overvalued)
Stacy opened up 2013 buried on the depth chart. When Stacy got his chance, he played very well. He proved to be fairly durable and kept drives moving for St. Louis. He eclipsed 100 rushing yards in a game four times and also scored seven TDs from Weeks 9 to 16. The Rams drafted a rookie in Tre Mason; some think can challenge Stacy for the starting job. Given Stacy's performance last year, the job won't be flippantly handed over to Mason. With Stacy as the starter and earning the majority of carries, he should be able to turn in similar rushing numbers to what he did last year.
However, Stacy wasn't successful enough running the ball to completely rely on his rushing totals to propel your fantasy team. In 2014, his fantasy success will be tied to his ability to produce at the goal-line and become more involved in the passing game.
Editor's note: We are not as high on Stacy as some of our peers. While Stacy is entrenched as the starter, his so-so athleticism, limited pass-catching skills and potential loss of snaps to a third-down back should be of concern. It also doesn't help that he must face San Francisco, Arizona and Seattle a total of six times per season.
WR Tavon Austin, STL - Quality Backup
Tavon Austin had a disappointing rookie year. This is especially true for fantasy owners who thought his dynamic athleticism would translate into an immediate fantasy impact. He was talked up a lot during last year's preseason, but the Rams couldn't seem to figure out how to effectively use his talents. He actually averaged more yards per rush (16.8) than yards per catch (10.5). One of his five touchdowns also came from the ground game. Austin is a very talented weapon on offense and by no means should he be dismissed as a bust. That said, the Rams need to extend their creativity in how to get him the ball in space and Austin needs to better grasp the playbook and the way defenses cover him. Last year, Austin played less than half of the team's snaps, yet he had the second-highest target count on the team (69). He also missed the final three games of the season. Austin should see a bump in his performance due to more targets and a better understanding of how to carve up his opponents. If he can stay healthy and improve on his yards per catch, he will warrant consideration as a WR3 who can be drafted like a WR4 (99.1 ADP).