Fantasy Football Rankings 2012: The St. Louis Rams Have Little To Offer Fantasy-Playing Fans

The fantasy football rankings are unkind to St. Louis Rams fans who'd like to make a homer pick that isn't Steven Jackson.

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Fantasy Football Sleepers: Lance Kendricks Again Tantalizes St. Louis Rams Fans

For the second year in a row, Lance Kendricks—a Josh McDaniels special at tight end who seems to have lucked out into a right fit with the St. Louis Rams' new offense—is the most impressive receiver in Rams preseason play. This time it's mostly by default: he's got five receptions for 78 yards, when the Rams' leading receiver by receptions has seven for 10. (Somehow, that's not Danny Amendola.) That means another thing's about to happen for the second year in a row: Somebody's going to start talking up Lance Kendricks as a fantasy football sleeper.

Here's the good news: He's not Joe Klopfenstein, and the Rams' offense looks set to be markedly less dysfunctional this year; meanwhile, Sam Bradford loves his tight ends, Daniel Fells is gone, and Michael Hoomanawanui can't be trusted to stay healthy. But after least year's big preseason Kendricks still ended up with just 28 receptions for 352 yards. With tight end numbers climbing higher year by year, he'll have to do better than that.

In a deep league I can see the Lance Kendricks, Fantasy Football Sleeper thing working out. But I'm not sure a league that deep would actually be fun to play.

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Steven Jackson's Fantasy Football Stock Shouldn't Crater Just Yet

People have been waiting for Steven Jackson to collapse under the pressure of being the St. Louis Rams' only competent skill player for something like four years now, and as he nears 30 the possible Hall-of-Famer is hearing it even more often: Deadspin more or less wrote that he'd be ground into a fine dust as the lead NFC West story in their fantasy football preview, for instance. But while Jackson's not the first-round pick he used to be, he still has a place among the second tier of fantasy football running backs, even in 2012.

His 2011 season was one of the few bright spots in an irredeemably dark offense; a year after setting a career low with 3.8 yards per carry he bounced back to his career high, 4.4, thanks in part to taking the ball three times fewer per game. The installation of a useful backup—Cadillac Williams, last year—was one of Josh McDaniels's few innovations to stick after that erstwhile genius's unceremonious exit; now the Rams have rookie Isaiah Pead, who is also considered their future at the position.

That gives Jackson the time off he needs at this point in his career—whether he wants it or not. He might not ever top 1200 yards again on the ground, but in 2012 he's likely to remain an efficient option in a Rams offense that might even improve enough to get him more than six touchdowns.

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Fantasy Football Rankings 2012: Sam Bradford Set To Hurt Trusting Rams Fans Again

Before I explain why Sam Bradford should be nowhere near any set of 2012 fantasy football rankings restricted to players who should actually be drafted, let me stipulate two things. One: As a St. Louis Rams fan I'm both rooting for Sam Bradford and convinced he'll eventually have a nice, if not stupendous, breakout year. Two: With that in mind, he's not had a good NFL season yet.

In 2010 he had a high-volume season that looked good because he was a rookie, because so much had been expected of him, because the Rams played an easy schedule, and because our mental counting stats for quarterbacks haven't adjusted to the huge increase in passing and offense in the NFL. It was a high-volume, inefficient season, exacerbated but not created entirely by Pat Shurmur's conservative offense.

The positive flipside, if there is one, is that Sam Bradford's 2011 wasn't as bad as it looked, or at least wasn't as worse as it looked. He didn't play a full season, so his counting stats looked bad, and he more or less even-traded accuracy, which casual fans know how to measure, for the occasional longball, which casual fans don't.

There's been a lot going on to hold Bradford back over the years, but not enough to let him off the hook entirely for his numbers so far. And certainly not enough to predict the kind of breakout that would get Bradford drafted in the average casual fantasy football league.

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Fantasy Football Rankings: Jamaal Charles's Stock Improves Following St. Louis Rams Loss

The Kansas City Chiefs may have lost their Governor's Cup challenge vs. the St. Louis Rams, but 35 yards on five touches was enough to get Jamaal Charles moving further up the 2012 fantasy football rankings after nearly a year off following ACL surgery. The Star thought he looked "like the Charles of old," and the Chiefs, in general, treated him no more gingerly than the Rams did Steven Jackson.

Meanwhile, Peyton Hillis, Charles's primary competition for carries, didn't exactly impress during Pretend Week 2, picking up a touchdown but also managing just 11 yards out of five carries. There's still time for either back to pull away, but Hillis has nearly as much to come back from, after being remarkably ineffective last year, as Charles does from being absent.

2011's injury might have permanently ended the chances of Charles becoming a feature back, after he spent all of 2010 hidden inexplicably behind Thomas Jones, but it looks like he'll be given every chance to repeat that season—and if he won't quite get there, the odds look better than they did two weeks ago.

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Fantasy Football Rankings: 2012 Is The End Of Sam Bradford's Keeper Rope

The St. Louis Rams and fantasy football owners in deep keeper leagues have one thing in common in 2012: They're probably going to give Sam Bradford one more year to show something promising before he's taken off the rolls of Future NFL Stars and converted into a twentysomething caretaker quarterback who's not allowed to throw the ball past Danny Amendola's inside-the-linebackers route.

That's not what the Rams were hoping for when they drafted him back in 2010, but after 26 NFL starts Bradford has yet to show much beyond an ability, in his rookie season, to be a little below average in the Rams' impossibly conservative Pat Shurmur offense. Part of that is his supporting cast's fault, and part of it is the Rams' inability to put together a coherent offensive gameplan for more than a half-season in a row.

But Bradford's running out of chances as the Rams' quarterback of the future—he's rapidly backing into quarterback-of-the-present status. For fantasy football types, though, there's no such thing as quarterback-of-the-present—if he doesn't look like a star of the future right about now, the people who picked him up in their keeper league a year or a year-and-a-half ago are going to cut bait and look for somebody else.

The good news: It took two fitful, unpleasant seasons before Matthew Stafford turned into Matthew Stafford.

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Fantasy Football Sleepers 2012: Lance Kendricks Could Be Sam Bradford's Favorite Target

Okay: I'm not actually suggesting that anybody, even the most devoted of fantasy football sleeper-mongers, draft a pass-catching member of the 2012 St. Louis Rams. Not even Brian Quick, no matter how many people line up to compare him favorably to Justin Blackmon following his first good preseason game. Speaking of which: Sam Bradford's probably going to throw to Lance Kendricks a lot, for the second consecutive preseason. And if you're—okay, if you're stupendously desperate for a tight end, and in a 30-team league or something, you could maybe try Lance Kendricks again.

I know you've been burned by all these reasons before—the new offensive coordinator loves tight ends; so does Sam Bradford; nobody else is around to catch passes, and better to throw it five yards downfield to a big Lance Kendricks sized guy than a smaller Danny Amendola sized guy.

But they're all equally true in 2012. So if the Rams decide against having the worst offense in the history of professional football, it might be worth it to risk getting burned again.

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Fantasy Football Rankings 2012: Brian Quick Headlines Lineup Of Weak Rams Receivers

If your starting fantasy wide receiver is a St. Louis Ram, you're gonna have a bad time.

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