St. Louis Rams: 2015 Outlook
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St. Louis Rams

By Brad Kruse, Friday, September 12, 2014

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.

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.

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.

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).

Kenny Britt is in a pivotal year. He's had a lot of off the field issues since entering the league. The early word in OTAs is Britt is beating some fast cornerbacks on deep routes, so he seems to have regained his speed. A focused and injury free Britt might make a splash. There was a time where he was a very popular sleeper and it is possible for him to finally fulfill his years of potential. Sometimes a new start is exactly what a guy needs. Keep an eye on him in training camp and preseason. Britt is the grand champion of a "shooting for the moon" strategy.

Givens flashed some (but not much) consistent talent in St. Louis. He averaged 16.6 and 16.7 yards per catch in his first two seasons with at least 80 targets each year. He only scored three touchdowns in those two seasons combined though. Also, he has caught less than half of the targets. A low catch rate severely hurts his draft stock and relegates him to staying on the bench.

Working in Givens' favor is that there isn't much established talent on the roster. Because of this,Givens could be more involved than ever. Only Brian Quick comes close to him in yards per catch; yet, Quick only has 45 targets in his first two years. Like Quick, Givens is a late-round deep backup pick that could pay off for you if the Rams dramatically improve their pass-blocking immediately.

Stedman Bailey enters his second year and it took him half of his rookie season to start getting involved in St. Louis' offense. From Week 13 through Week 17, Bailey was targeted 20 times, catching 17 passes for 195 yards and no touchdowns. He carved out a role he must build upon in order to keep his job.

Working against Bailey is a looming four-game suspension. He must show significant improvement in order to stay on the roster.

Austin Pettis has found a way to stay involved in each of the last three years. However, the role has either been a spot-starter or low snap WR4. He managed to catch 38 receptions for 399 yards last year; while those totals were career-best, he has a lot to prove to fantasy owners before securing even a bench spot.

Since Cook came into the league, we've all been very impressed with his possibilities as a fantasy sleeper. He plays more like a wide receiver than a tight end. Tennessee could never include him enough. Last year (his first with St. Louis), he had a career high in targets, catches and touchdowns; however, that was only 51 receptions for 671 yards and five touchdowns. These are sufficient TE2 numbers and little else.

In Week 1 last year, Cook teased us all with 10 targets that resulted in seven receptions for 141 yards and two touchdowns. The performance turned out to be fool's gold. If you look at how Cook played with Sam Bradford, the numbers aren't too different than his career marks. Cook remains a TE2 candidate with upside, but that's been the book on Cook for years

Nicknamed Greg "The Leg" or "Legatron," Zuerlein has proven to be a weapon in St. Louis because of his long-distance range. As is always the case with kickers, it is difficult to project how they will perform each year. They are opportunity-dependent. You usually want to look for a reliable kicker whose offense is good, but not great. For example, the offense can run, but will often struggle to pass the ball in the red zone. Another example would be a team that doesn't play from behind since they'll be more prone to go for the touchdown than settle for the field goal. The Rams satisfy these criteria. Zuerlein is a borderline fantasy starter due to his excellent accuracy last season (made 26-of-28 FGs).

The Rams defense is a pretty strong NFL defense, anchored by one of the best defensive lines in the game. Their defensive secondary has a couple of nice corners and safety T.J. McDonald has some promise. Let's see how the unit comes together in the regular season. They should be able to generate pressure and contain the run reasonably well. In order to earn starting status on a weekly basis, they will need more from their (good, but far from great) linebacker group. The drafting of DT Aaron Donald paired with DT Michael Brockers should make for a formidable interior duo. On the outside, DEs Robert Quinn and Chris Long are one of the best end duos in the NFL. This is a stout group who could challenge to produce stud-like numbers.