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 2014 Fantasy Football Rankings visit Fantasy Football Overdose, a fantasy football blog.
Sam Bradford was supposed to be a fantasy sleeper in 2013. He was the previous two seasons, as well. You could have said the same about Daryl Richardson and several of the Rams receivers last year. Tight end Jared Cook was a mega sleeper.
For the most part, they all flopped.
That doesn’t have to be the case in 2014, though, as a number of the St. Louis Rams players could actually be stellar fantasy options. Let’s break down their value and current ADP (Average Draft Position) so you know when and where to go get them, or if you need to bother drafting them at all:
Sam Bradford – QB (ADP – n/a)
Bradford might be a yearly fantasy sleeper, but a guy fantasy owners have confidence, he is not. Not only has Bradford failed to ever live up to that preseason sleeper status, but he’s also struggled with injuries and inconsistency. Last year he did seem to be on track to finally realize his potential to a certain degree, though, as he was on pace for his third 3,000+ yard season and about 30 passing touchdowns.
Unfortunately a knee injury in week seven derailed a fairly successful 2013 campaign and we’ll never know how much better he could have gotten. The mystery combined with Bradford’s up and down career lead to too much uncertainty to trust in him, but that doesn’t mean he should be going undrafted, necessarily. Bradford once again has real sleeper appeal, as he has a lot of speed around him on offense and looked to be turning the corner a year ago.
The main problem is how deep the quarterback position is. There are just too many other safer options, while guys like Ryan Tannehill, E.J. Manuel and Jake Locker carry about the same amount of risk and might also have more upside. Bradford is a guy to keep an eye on in 2014 and just might finally get the job done. You just can’t draft him with much confidence.
Zac Stacy – RB (2.10)
Stacy was a bruising machine as a rookie in 2013, taking over for an ineffective Daryl Richardson in week five and really never looked back. Stacy isn’t the most explosive back in the world, but he ran with distinction and had some impressive outings – most notably a huge 134-yard rushing day against the Seattle Seahawks in week eight.
For all the good around Stacy, there is also a good amount of bad to consider. For one, he plays in the brutal NFC West, where he has to operate against three very good defenses. To get a little more specific, his second meeting with the Seahawks was dreadful (15 yards on 15 carries) and he was also pretty well contained against the 49ers (72 yards) and Cardinals (25 yards on 14 carries). He also lost steam as the season went on, as he failed to top 3.8 yards per carry in five of his last seven contests.
Stacy is clearly a volume back, as he doesn’t have the speed or explosiveness to bust long runs or the athleticism to consistently make defenders miss. He lacks great size or versatility, too, so his value completely hinges on how well he can power over defenses. In a tough run-defense division, that’s not really ideal.
Add in the presence of explosive rookie back Tre Mason, and Stacy could be looking at a down 2014 season. Whether or not that means a flat-out demotion remains to be seen, but a second round ADP seems awfully high for a marginal talent that averaged 3.9 yards per carry a year ago and suddenly might have some serious competition for touches.
You can still draft Stacy, but only if he can slide down another round or two. Even that might still be a reach depending on how the Rams work Mason into the offense.
Tre Mason – RB (11.8)
There isn’t any official word about a true competition for the Rams’ starting tailback spot, but Mason has publicly stated the Rams have told him there is. If that’s the case, his 11th round ADP is criminal. He’s light years ahead of Stacy in terms of pure talent, and looked plenty capable of handling a huge load at Auburn.
He’s also a little undersized, but packs a solid punch up the gut of the defense and is much more versatile and way more explosive than Stacy. He’s arguably the more ideal feature back. If Mason can prove he can pick up the blitz and hold onto the football, he could be looking at a big role as a rookie. While that may not necessarily mean he completely leapfrogs Stacy, it could still make for quality Flex value on a weekly basis.
Keep in mind, of course, that Stacy did the same thing last year. He was at the bottom of the depth chart and was the new starter by week five. The Rams also cut Daryl Richardson and Isaiah Pead has been a bust. Mason is probably going to be the number two back and third down option at the very worst, if not much more. For Dynasty leagues, he needs to be off the board within the first two rounds.
Chris Givens – WR (n/a)
Givens scored zero touchdowns last year and like most of the Rams receivers, struggled immensely without a competent quarterback under center. He can still make plays down the field, though, and with Bradford back, there is some untapped potential here. He’s a light sleeper and is going undrafted, but looks to once again be a starter on the outside. He’s worth a flier late in drafts and could offer WR3 value in 2014.
Tavon Austin – WR (9.11)
Austin was touch and go as a rookie, but just like Givens, clearly didn’t get much help once Bradford went down. He was quite raw as a route-runner and due to lack of fundamentals and size, had to have a ton of his touches manufactured on runs and screen passes. That should continue, but thanks to his awesome speed, he remains a threat to take a big leap in year two. He’s not going to be a red-zone machine and is restricted to the slot, but his role can only grow. Lock him in as a quality WR3 and hope for the best. His round 9 ADP is pretty accurate and at solid value. There’s a very good chance he exceeds that pricing.
Kenny Britt – WR (n/a)
Britt isn’t being drafted right now and shouldn’t be, but thanks to youth, size and great ball skills, there is tons of upside to be had here. His value 100% hinges on his health and whether he can show he still has the game to be a starter. If he’s just one of the guys he won’t have a big enough role to matter. And if that’s the case, he’ll probably get cut to open the door for someone else to make an impact.
If he does land a starting gig, though, there’s a chance he could bounce back and finally show us what he’s capable of. At just 25 with loads of talent, health is the key here. If Britt is the Britt of old, he’s going to be a major steal. Think Danario Alexander with the Chargers two years ago. Britt has a WR3 floor if he is healthy and starting and if all goes ridiculously well, reaching a borderline WR1 level isn’t completely out of the question. Just know you’re taking a shot in the dark at the end of your draft.
Brian Quick – WR (n/a)
Another shot in the dark here, as Quick has displayed great size and play-making ability but has struggled with consistency. He still needs to work on getting open and running better routes. The big issue right now, though, is more about his spot on the depth chart. He’s pretty well buried and the addition of Britt hurts him a lot. Britt’s health and role will play huge into Quick’s overall value. For now, you can’t draft him.
Jared Cook – TE (n/a)
Cook going undrafted on average is a mild surprise. He busted out with a mammoth 100+ yard and two score game in his Rams debut in week one last year. He proceeded to do pretty much nothing else after that, but he also had to go to work with Kellen Clemens for over half of the season.
While Cooks is historically an inconsistent and underachieving mega talent, he still has upside and youth on his side. He also gets Bradford back and the weapons around him should be matured and more disciplined. Cook still posted 51 catches, 671 yards and five touchdowns in his first season with the Rams. Once you consider everything, it really wasn’t that bad.
He at least deserves some consideration over guys like Heath Miller, Charles Clay and LaDarius Green going into 2014. He absolutely is the superior talent and carries more upside with his role. He’s a risk, though, so you can’t peg him as much more than a high-end TE2 for now.