This post comes from Justin Becker of FantasyFootballOverdose.com. You can follow him on Twitter @NFLRankings or the Fantasy Football Overdose Google+ Page, and for more Premier Fantasy Football Projections visit Fantasy Football Overdose, a fantasy football blog.
One of the most difficult parts of fantasy football is trying to find that fantasy sleeper that no one else sees coming. It seems every year some random stud pops up and dominates at wide receiver. Whether it’s Sidney Rice back when Brett Favre took the Vikings to the NFC title game, or last year when Chargers rookie receiver Keenan Allen took advantage of injuries and playing time.
Wide receivers are often the most difficult position to predict in fantasy football, mostly because even an average talent can see a spike in fantasy value just by merely being on the field. If a guy gets targets and is on the field, he’s going to have value. It doesn’t matter if he’s A.J. Green or Jeff Maehl. The value is clearly drastically different, but week to week, even an average talent like Maehl can be effective if he’s getting the ball thrown his way.
Heading into the new fantasy football season, fantasy owners will be on the hunt once again for that dark horse wide receiver that no one sees coming. Finding that guy or multiple players that can bust out of nowhere means turning over stones no one else is considering.
To find that gem receiver, it might even mean figuring out which St. Louis Rams wide receiver will step up and be a legit threat for Sam Bradford.
The Rams traded a king’s ransom to land the versatile and explosive Tavon Austin in last year’s draft, and he only half worked out. Then there are the cases of Kenny Britt, Chris Givens, Stedman Bailey, Austin Pettis and Brian Quick.
All of these guys have talent and could be valuable in the fantasy scene if they have the right role. But which is really worth drafting? Let’s break down each Rams receiver and gauge their fantasy value going into 2014:
I don’t think there’s much room for debate; Tavon Austin is too talented not to be the first Rams taken in fantasy drafts. He’s not big or physical enough to be a major touchdown machine and probably isn’t going to catch anywhere close to 90 balls, but he’s going to have the system down better and his chemistry with Bradford will be better, too.
Operating mostly out of the slot, Austin should easily catch more balls than he did as a rookie, as the teams looks to get him more involved. They gave up way too much to not use the guy. His production was just “meh” a year ago, but like all Rams receivers, he didn’t have much help at quarterback. He should see a jump to safe weekly WR3 value in 2014, as he tries to chase down 70+ receptions and 800-900 receiving yards. Until his route-running improves, we can expect his touches to be largely manufactured on slants and screens, which should limit his big plays. That should in turn limit his yards per catch average, as well as his touchdown numbers.
Still, Austin can be used as a return man and in the backfield as a rusher. Add it all together, and he has elite Flex value and could get close to WR2 value if everything comes together in his second season.
Givens flashed his solid big play potential as a rookie in 2012, catching 42 balls for three touchdowns and almost 700 receiving yards. While not a big body, Givens has the speed and ball skills to make plays all over the field. Not having Sam Bradford for half of 2013 – more specifically having to play with Kellen Clemens – really hurt his value. He’s absolutely set up to jump up his production in 2014. At the moment he’s shaping up as their true number one receiver, but does not look like a possession guy. He’ll be their main deep threat and will lack red-zone or PPR value. That likely curbs his overall value, making him a high-end WR4 heading into 2014. He can get to a safe weekly WR3, but a lot of things probably have to fall his way in St. Louis.
Pettis is a solid possession guy who can move the chains and even developed into a decent red-zone guy the past two years. He’s currently soaking up the #2 spot, but just isn’t all that talented or explosive. If St. Louis wants to get better in the passing game, they’ll give their other guys (below) real chances at unseating him. For now he’s a low-end WR4, but he’s not a guy you’ll want to take a flier on due to a lack of any real upside.
Britt is still very young and boasts excellent size, ball skills and catch radius. If he can return to from before knee injuries sapped his speed and explosiveness, he could be one of the top steals in free agency. If he can’t, he could still be a decent red-zone presence, or he’ll just be cut. He’ll probably end up being cut, but as long as he’s on the team and we’re hearing good things, he’ll be worth a late-round flier as a potentially sneaky WR3.
Quick has been a sleeper the past two years and has just 29 career receptions to show for it. In his defense, the Rams’ quarterback situation was awful last year and he’s had a ton of other young competition to fight against. Still, he hasn’t stepped up his game and is simply an inconsistent talent right now. Still, he has a nice size/speed combo and can make plays on and with the ball. It’s all about what he does with his opportunity this season. With that said, the Kenny Britt signing doesn’t bode well for him in 2014. He’ll really only be worth tracking late in fantasy drafts if Britt is cut.
Lastly there is Bailey, who wasn’t a bad chain mover down the stretch for the Rams. He’s a smaller guy with no real red-zone value, but he gets open and has the speed and hands to be a solid possession guy. He’s young and still needs time to develop, but he’s a name to watch if Britt gets cut and Quick continues to disappoint.
Overall, this is a fluid situation, but until something drastic happens, Austin leads the pack, with just Givens being the only other Ram truly worth spending time on in fantasy drafts right now.
Tags: St. Louis Rams