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 Projections visit Fantasy Football Overdose.
The St. Louis Rams weren’t a very consistent team from an overall standpoint in 2013. However, one thing they did do on a consistent basis was rush the opposing quarterback. In fact, they racked up a ridiculous 53 sacks over the course of the season, good for third place in the entire league.
That elite pass rush especially took center stage in a big Monday Night Football game versus the eventually Super Bowl champion Seattle Seahawks, when the Rams sacked Russell Wilson a whopping seven times.
A top level pass rush doesn’t tell the complete story about the 2013 Rams. While they were able to put massive pressure on the opposition on a regular basis, they still struggled a bit against the pass (16th).
Their run defense was among the best in the league (9th), though, which means they went into this off-season needing to address the secondary to see if they could take their overall defense to an even higher level in 2014.
Considering they play in the brutal NFC West, trying to do so was surely encouraged, at the very least.
Cutting ties with the regressing Cortland Finnegan was arguably an upgrade by default, while the Rams also added safety LaMarcus Joyner in this year’s draft, as well.
With the Rams still improving in their secondary, there is hope that the Rams could be a truly complete defensive unit in 2014. That type of potential balance naturally catches the eye of fantasy owners in IDP (Individual Defensive Player) fantasy football leagues.
Some of the guys in St. Louis are yearly studs that we all know, but there could also be some guys coming up in their system that suddenly have solid fantasy value. Let’s break down their top five IDP options as we move closer to the 2014 NFL season:
5. LaMarcus Joyner (Safety)
Some might prefer T.J. McDonald out of St. Louis at the other safety spot, as he’s proven to be fairly solid and could still have some upside in the Rams’ system. He also has a year on Joyner.
With that said, Joyner has loads of upside thanks to being a pure football player. Thanks to great instincts and versatility, he can be used as a blitzer, in the slot as a nickel corner, or at safety. He can be counted on for just about all of that, which gets him on our Rams IDP list. Keep an eye on him over the summer, as he could make a big impact early and offer solid value in fantasy drafts.
4. Chris Long (Defensive End)
A top level edge rusher, Long has developed into a very consistent and reliable pass rusher. Even when he’s not actually getting sacks, he’s constantly credited with “hurries”. His overall IDP value isn’t as good as some of the linebackers in St. Louis simply because his true value doesn’t always translate into elite fantasy numbers. As far as defensive ends go, Long is a threat for 10+ sacks on a yearly basis. However, he is not elite against the run and isn’t a safe bet to top more than 40+ tackles in any given year. He’s a quality talent that definitely is a top-20 candidate and needs to be owned in IDP leagues, but you aren’t likely to see him in anyone’s top-15 fantasy rankings for the DL spot.
3. Alec Ogletree (Outside Linebacker)
Ogletree isn’t yet the complete, reliable player James Laurinaitis is, but he’s an athletic, versatile linebacker with loads of upside. You probably will want to take him second to his talented Rams teammate for now, but if you’re going for pure upside, an argument can be made for him, as well. Ogletree put his talent and upside on full display as a rookie, as he racked up 118 total tackles and chipped in with 1.5 sacks, an interception and a touchdown return. He should be even better in 2014.
2. James Laurinaitis (Inside Linebacker)
Laurinaitis is still one of the game’s top linebackers, but the emergence of the young and rising Ogletree has had him dipping in the IDP scene. Still, even with Ogletree getting in the way of some of his tackles, Laurinaitis still posted his fifth straight seasons of 114+ tackles (117). He also added 3.5 sacks and two interceptions, continuing to prove he’s one of the game’s best MIKE linebackers.
Laurinaitis is probably bordering on the top-10 overall at the linebacker position, especially if Ogletree continues to chip away at his tackles. He’s a lock for 100+ tackles, 2-3 sacks and a couple picks, though.
1. Robert Quinn (Defensive End)
Quinn is a freak and is without a doubt the top Rams player you need to own in IDP leagues. Linebackers tend to rack up more stats, but Quinn showed last year with his insane 19.5 sacks that he has a remarkable ceiling. He’s better than simply a pass rusher, though, as he put his play-making ability on display in 2013, as he totaled 59 tackles, two fumble recoveries and a return for a touchdown. Quinn constantly had then opposing quarterback running for his life, and also was an asset against the run. That type of value isn’t going away anytime soon.
While these guys are probably the five best Rams to use in IDP fantasy football leagues, don’t forget about guys like Michael Brockers, T.J. McDonald, Janoris Jenkins or rookie defensive tackle Aaron Donald. All of these guys have the talent and roles to be major factors if all goes well in 2014.