If you are a Rams fan, maybe it's not best to take a trip down memory lane right now. That rocky road might hurt too much.
The Rams finished first in total and scoring offense for three straight years from 1999-2001. They went to two Super Bowls, won one, and maintained that high level of domination despite changing head coaches. They didn't fall off the map entirely after Kurt Warner was officially dispatched for Marc Bulger, but they were never the same. The Greatest Show On Turf became, "Hey look, something is going on over there on that turf!"
It was a good-not-great offense up until the wheels just completely fell off in 2006. The Rams total of 15 wins in the five years since is the worst in NFL history. They have finished 26th or lower in scoring offense in each of those years. New head coach Jeff Fisher will be the seventh person to coach the team in eight years. This isn't supposed to happen in the NFL because the draft yields elite high-end players at the top of drafts that can contribute right away, but the formula isn't working. They've used their top picks on: Chris Long, Jason Smith, Sam Bradford, Robert Quinn, and now Michael Brockers. And that's actually nothing compared to the terrible drafts that they had in the first half of the decade that gave them no players with which to avoid this collapse.
Long is good. Smith was bad. Bradford is good but has no help and might get killed. Too early to say much of Quinn or Brockers and this isn't really about them. It's also about the fact that the Rams haven't done much in the way of finding good players after the first round either. Particularly at wide receiver where Donnie Avery, Keenan Burton, Brooks Foster, Mardy Gilyard, and Greg Salas got them nothing. The other guy that they drafted, Austin Pettis, is serving a suspension.
The elite Rams of '99 had two Hall of Fame receivers in Torry Holt and Isaac Bruce, so you'd think that St. Louis would find a way to figure that part out, but they haven't even come close. They've tried to find their next Orlando Pace (hard to do) but couldn't. Things in St. Louis are bad and they've been really bad for five years. They're hoping that Fisher can turn it around and that new offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer can score
a point or two more than two points after coming over from the Jets.
Oh dear, don't tell me that you're going to turn Bradford into Sanchez. Let's take a look. Or avert your eyes. Unless car crashes are your sort of thing!
2011 Record: 2-14
Most people thought that Bradford was starting to live up to the hype right away after completing 60% of his passes for 3,512 yards, 18 TD, and 15 INT as a rookie who was asked to throw 590 times. The Rams were one win away from winning the NFC West (albeit at what would have been 8-8) in 2010 and things were looking up. Things looked so, so down in 2011 though when the pass protection failed even worse than it did before.
After being sacked 34 times in 16 games in his first year, Bradford was sacked 36 times in ten games last season. Despite this, the Rams passed up on the opportunity to draft Matt Kahlil and ended up trading down in the first and selecting DT Michael Brockers instead at pick #14. Roger Saffold will start at left tackle after missing seven games himself last year, and veteran center Scott Wells was brought in from Green Bay to hike the footballs and such. Barry Richardson will take over at right tackle after being signed over from the Chiefs, where he had 29 NFL starts.
I focus mostly on the offensive line because that's where it all starts. They've done a terrible job of protecting a QB that missed a full year at Oklahoma with injury and has taken 70 sacks in less than two seasons worth of starts and without any elite receivers. I still like Bradford just fine, but I don't like much of what's around him. If Saffold can stay healthy and be effective and if Danny Amendola can return to 2010 form, Bradford might be okay again. Still a big if.
2012 Projection: 57% completions, 3,200 yards, 16 TD, 14 INT with potential for more considering all the changes.
UDFA Austin Davis will back him up and yes, is very close to playing for an undrafted free agent rookie.
Still only 29 years old, at some point 2,138 career carries is going to catch up to him. Jackson is very consistent, getting around 4.1-4.4 carries every season, but his workload is decreasing as he gets older and the Rams just don't get into the red zone very often. Pead is going to get broken in this year and while that my undervalue Jackson, it still matters. Schottenheimer really liked to focus on the running game in New York, but is that because of Mark Sanchez??
2012 Projection: 250 carries, 1,000 yards, 5 TD, 35 catches, 300 yards
Isaiah Pead and Daryl Richardson
It is not yet a foregone conclusion that Pead is the primary backup in St. Louis. They've been rather non-committal to the point where even if they are committal today, they could change their mind with one game where Richardson outperforms Pead. While Pead is the guy that's going to be drafted ahead of Richardson in fantasy, keep a close eye on this situation and grab Richardson if he looks like he's gaining more steam. It's possible that at some point this year, he could find himself getting a start should anything happen to Jackson. I also expect the ball to go around and devalue all the Rams backs. It's not even worth trying to project at this point.
Wes Welker clone? Do you ask why would I make such a comparison? Well, they also both went to Texas Tech, are special teamers to begin their careers, catch everything. You don't think the Pats would love to get Amendola on their hands?
Amendola never topped 100 yards during his 85-catch, 689-yard 2010 season and he only scored three touchdowns. But in a PPR league he could have value to consistently get 6-10 catches per ball game. I'd say its foolish to have any Rams receivers at this point as anything more than a deep bench flier.
2012 Projection: 80 catches, 650 yards, 4 TD
Despite the fact that he's got some work to do to prove he's ready to play a full, healthy season again, Smith is the only proven one of the group. He had 107 catches for 1,220 yards and 7 touchdowns with the Giants in 2009, though it seems so much longer ago. The Rams are just waiting for anybody to step up, I guess my gut is telling me that it could be Smith.
Rookies Brian Quick and Chris Givens couldn't win a starting job away from Brandon Gibson and that's concerning. Gibson's career high of 93 yards came in the first game of his NFL career back in 2009. If the pass protection markedly improves and gives Bradford time in the pocket, then who knows, maybe one of these guys will step up. But counting on it would be crazy. The NFC West, in particular, has three defenses outside of St. Louis that are pretty good.
Just wait and see what happens and if anyone does step up.
Sleeper sleepers are no fun. Sleeper sleepers hurt someone.
A sleeper last year, he caught 28 for 352 and 0 touchdowns. A sleeper this year, but I won't worry about it until I see him do something because anyone that thought they were getting the steal of the draft last season got hurt. Could he? Sure, he was a 2nd round pick just a year ago. Will he? I can't count on the Rams offense to do anything.
2012 Projection: 40 catches, 450 yards, 3 TD