2011 Fantasy Football Sleepers: Watch Sam Bradford, But Not Too Closely

ST. LOUIS, MO - AUGUST 13: St. Louis Rams head coach Steve Spagnuolo talks to quarterback Sam Bradford #8 during the first half of the NFL preseason game against the Indianapolis Colts at Edward Jones Dome on August 13, 2011 in St. Louis, Missouri. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)

The St. Louis Rams expect great things out of Sam Bradford in 2011, and they're right to; they've already got him. Before you call him a fantasy football sleeper pick, price in the risk.

Sam Bradford has a lot of things going for him in 2011 that he didn't have going for him in 2010. His wide receivers are different, if not necessarily better, and there are far more of them—Donnie Avery could stretch the field, Mike Sims-Walker could at least look less terrible than he did Saturday, and the other targets, like Jerious Norwood and Lance Kendricks, will at least keep defenses from staring Danny Amendola down on every third-and-short play. Most importantly he has Josh McDaniels's offense, which will involve more offense than Pat Shurmur's, if I'm reading this playbook correctly. But it's hard to call him a fantasy football sleeper, even if he's underrated in your league. 

It's tempting but ultimately dangerous to think of a highly anticipated player's rookie season as the baseline for his future performance. Occasionally it's accurate; Albert Pujols, never really "adjusted" once he hit the Major Leagues, and Payton Manning, with whom Bradford has been almost constantly compared, ascended into the NFL pantheon immediately after his complicated rookie year. 

But Bradford had a lot of things going for him in 2010—for one thing, he played every down despite that infamous shoulder injury in college, and for another his fantasy numbers were padded by an astounding number of low-risk, low-reward passes, which showed up in his less-publicized, less impressive yards-per-attempt numbers.

The St. Louis Rams expect great things out of Sam Bradford in 2011, and they're right to; they've already got him. But fantasy owners have to price in all the risk that comes with a second-year quarterback who had a great first year. 

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