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Our St Louis Fantasies Revisited

Following the Rams summer camp I wrote an piece on what to expect from the Rams players in a fantasy perspective. After a morale boosting pre-season and one significant injury it is a good time to look back and see what has changed.
“I think the best you could hope for from Bradford is that he finally gets comfortable and starts getting decent numbers by the final few weeks of the season (KC, SF, @SEA) ” – Well aren’t I glad to be proved wrong. Bradford’s preseason play started badly with 4 sacks in week 1, but by the 2nd half of week 4 he had won himself the starting job on merit. Bradford’s final two appearances in the preseason resulted in 21/28 for 258 yards, 3 TDs and 0 INTs and a tonne of media praise. It still stands that the offense will run through S-Jax and that the WR corps is not a strong point, but, Bradford can now be considered a legit fantasy backup. His decision making and accuracy mean he should keep his interception numbers low. As a rookie Matt Ryan threw 3440yds, 16 TDs and 11 INTs. I can see Bradford hitting similar numbers.
“Expecting Bradford to start, he’ll need a safe check down option and as we don’t have a TE of repute on the roster, Jackson could find himself Sam’s safety outlet. In 06/07 S-Jax clocked up over 800yds receiving of 90 receptions and I’m expecting a move back towards that level of production. ” – The points remain that Jackson is an elite fantasy back in all formats, especially PPR leagues, however, the eye-opening preseason  performances of rookie TE Michael Hoomanawanui means that the tight-end position is less of a concern. S-Jax will still be a great checkdown option for Bradford, but confidence in his Hoomanawanui and ‘hot routes’ to Danny Amendola makes me think we should temper beliefs in his ability to hit career highs in receiving output.
The biggest factor here in unquestionably the season ending injury to Donnie Avery. His absence removes our truest downfield threat from the roster. In the wake of this the Rams quickly moved to trade for displaced Ravens receiver Mark Clayton. Clayton immediately becomes the most experienced wideout on the team and should challenge for the starting job opposite Laurent Robinson. Clayton hould be a fantasy backup in 2 WR leagues. Danny Amendola looks to be be the alternative after showing some good chemistry with Bradford. If the Rams runs lots of 3 receiver sets using Amendola, he should be considered as a viable fantasy backup in leagues rewarding PR/KR points.
” [Fells]  will almost certainly be the starter this coming season unless the either of the rookie duo of Onobun or Hoomanawanui show unexpected levels of development in camp.” – As it turns out Fells wasn’t that far away from being cut! Hoomanawanui showed soft hands and good blocking skills, Onobun caught a few passes and earned his roster spot while blocking Billy Bajema even caught a Bradford TD. There is a strong case for Hoomanawanui to be the starter and he in my eyes is fantasy sleeper worth stashing on the bench for a few weeks while we get a clearer picture of his role in the Rams offense.
Defense after the jump!
It was good to see rookie George Selvie getting on the stat sheet for a few sacks, as well as Jemelle Cudjo, but neither should be expected to be IDP contributors in 2010. Chris Long’s preseason was solid but didn’t make me feel excited enough to recommend making a real push to get him on your fantasy roster if you haven’t got him already. Expect steady numbers from him.
Again, not much change in opinion of the Rams linebackers fantasy potential either. James Laurinaitis remains a stud IDP linebacker, and although the rest of LBs played solidly, none look like performing at a level that warrants fantasy consideration. It’s either 80+ tackles or decent sack numbers and both Ni’all Diggs and Larry Grant don’ strike me as capable of acheiving those stats.
OJ Atogwe remains a excellent option at safety for any fantasy team while Dahl and/or Butler does not. It boils down to their ability to make bigs plays and turn the ball over, something Atogwe has a proven record for doing. At cornerback I have switched opinion a little. Before I recommended the starter opposite Bartell (which should be Bradley Fletcher I feel after the way he shut down Randy Moss in w3), but now I’d consider Bartell a sleeper IDP pick. Bartell has a very average year in 2008 on the back of his large contract, partly due to injury. He did play up to the money he was being paid. He’ll be covering #1 WRs on gameday and I’m not sure that opposing QBs will fear him, which means he got be on the receiving end of a fair few targets and that can equate to fantasy points. If he can bounce back to performance levels closer to 2007 he could well be a starting caliber fantasy CB. I’d mark Bartell as a noteworthy sleeper.
Bradford sees a major upgrade in value, while Long, Laurinaitis and Atogwe all remain static. All should be owned in any league, although Bradford is a spot starter at best right now. Steven Jackson loses a shade in PPR leagues but possibly gains some value in regular ones as Bradford’s ability means teams will be less keen to stack the box. Amendola gains a little value and is bench fodder while Clayton could start in leagues starting 3 wideouts. Hoomanawanui and Bartell should now be considered sleepers with Bartell the stronger of the two.

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