After suffering a fifth-straight losing season, the Rams have brought in one of the most established head coaches in Jeff Fisher. During his time with the Houston Oilers and Tennessee Oilers/Titans, he established a winning record of 142-120. Fisher now looks to begin a new tradition in St. Louis with Sam Bradford as his quarterback. The Rams finished 31st in total offense and 22nd in total defense, so he has a steep challenge ahead in rebuilding the franchise. Wins may be hard to come by, but if the team shows gradual improvement, 2012 would be considered a successful season.
Due to injuries and poor receiver play, Sam Bradford regressed significantly in 2011. Many thought that offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels would be a major plus for Bradford's growth, but they never got in sync. Brian Schottenheimer takes over as the offensive coordinator, but there are still major challenges ahead. Bradford will be learning his third offense in three years and he does not have any ideal receivers to throw to. Rookie Brian Quick may already be his best wideout. Another concern is the offensive line, which allowed a league-high 55 sacks last season. The Rams did not improve their line a whole lot during the offseason, so Bradford could be under intense pressure again. He's not worth a draft pick, but if he begins to show signs of his 2010 form early in the season, go ahead and add him to your roster.
Steven Jackson is one of the most talented backs in the league, but his team handicaps his potential. The offensive line is weak, Bradford is still developing and there are no proven receivers to keep defenders out of the box. Jackson is practically a one-man offense and that workload takes a toll on him. In fantasy, that can be viewed as a positive aspect, but injuries are always a concern. If Jackson plays a full season, he's a lock for 1,500 total yards. On the other hand, scores will be hard to come by as he has averaged just five rushing touchdowns over the past three seasons. That is a low total considering the amount of touches he receives. View him as a No. 2 fantasy running back who carries injury risk. The Rams selected Isaiah Pead in the second round of this April's draft and he should be the primary backup to Jackson. Given Jackson's bruising running style and constant battle with injuries, Pead could even start a game or two. He's a small runner who relies on speed, so he might not be ready to handle 15 to 20 carries a game. However, Pead is worth a late-round selection because of his big-play potential.
Wide Receivers and Tight End
Out of all of the Rams receivers, rookie Brian Quick holds the most upside. Standing at 6'3'', 220 pounds, he's a big target who also possesses good speed. If Quick can make a seamless transition to the NFL, he could be a borderline start in some fantasy leagues. He's worth taking as a late-round flyer. Danny Amendola was limited to just six games last year due to elbow and triceps injuries. But in 2010, Amendola finished with 85 receptions for 689 yards and three touchdowns. He should become Bradford's favorite target once again. Amendola is a decent pickup in points-per-reception leagues, but lacks scoring and has trouble generating yards after the catch to warrant significant value in yardage or touchdown-only leagues. Drafted in the fourth round of this year's draft, Chris Givens is a wideout who can go deep. He should help the Rams offense in terms of giving it more explosiveness, but is not a fantasy asset this season. After multiple knee injuries, Steve Smith has not been the same since his days as a New York Giant. Don't expect a rebound performance with St. Louis as he is too similar to Amendola. Entering his third season, Danario Alexander has yet to play a full 16-game schedule. With more receiving options in the fold, don't expect much from him in 2012.
Lance Kendricks was a sleeper tight end heading into 2011, but did not even come close to expectations. Most of the blame can be directed toward Bradford's struggles and the Rams offense as a whole for his disappointing rookie campaign. Still, the Rams have not gotten much better and they only complicated matters by adding more receivers to the mix. Kendricks might not be much better this year with all of the transitions taking place.
Rookie kicker Greg Zuerlein has taken over for the 10-year veteran Josh Brown. Zuerlein was very impressive at Missouri Western last season, making 96 percent of his field goals while going nine-for-nine from 50-yards plus. Unfortunately the Rams offense will have difficulty moving the ball, so Zuerlein's scoring output is restricted.
The Rams made upgrades in the offseason with the signings of cornerback Cortland Finnegan and linebacker Jo-Lonn Dunbar. St. Louis also improved their defensive line with the selection of defensive tackle Michael Brockers in the first round of the NFL Draft. In addition to those acquisitions, the Rams still have solid pieces in Chris Long, who led the team with 13 sacks last year, Robert Quinn and James Laurinaitis. The Rams defense has sleeper potential if the talent comes together.
Travis Chan is a fantasy sports enthusiast and contributor for the Yahoo! Contributor Network. You can follow him on Twitter @Travischan1.
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