The St. Louis Rams 2011 offense seems to draw people in, like a carnival side show that promises a half-wolf man. Passing by the tent, you can't help but be intrigued by the show. The billboard's are just so damn tantalizing, in spite of the airbrushed graphics of back roads America. You have peek in, is it worth your time?
I suspect Josh McDaniels' offense will be a little more entertaining that a fake beard slapped on a Faulknerian man child. It should be more productive too. Fantasy writers are as curious about McDaniels' offense as Rams fans. Why wouldn't they be? The guy's offensive prowess has fueled fantasy teams over the years.
Mike Clay at PFF is the latest to take a look, attempting to divine just how much McDaniels will run and pass and which players might be relevant to your soon-to-be-dashed fantasy hopes. Based on trend analysis, he predicts the Rams passing 58 percent of the time and running on 42 percent of offensive snaps. That wouldn't be dramatically different than what Pat Shurmur did with the offense last year. Over a total of 1,053 offensive snaps, Shurmur ran the ball 429 times, 40.7 percent. There's probably some finagling to be done with that number, i.e. factoring out spikes, etc. But you get the idea.
What's not accounted for in Clay's analysis is the 2-TE approach that the Rams plan to double-down with this season. Based on what we've been told, the 2-TE sets figure so heavily into the Rams plans as to be the major limiting factor in the market for free agent wide receivers.
Last year in the New England, the model for McDaniels' 2-TE plan, Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez had 87 total receptions last year, one more than Wes Welker. Those two and Deon Branch all had about the same number of receptions behind Welker, between 48 and 42 catches each. RB Danny Woodhead had 34 receptions.
Comparisons are a tricky thing. The 2010 New England Patriots and the 2011 St. Louis Rams are not the same team. McDaniels has a host of different players at his disposal here, and his offense won't look exactly like last year's Patriots or his own 2010 Broncos.
Making fantasy predictions based on that information is tough; however, I think there are a few expectations that you can probably count on for the Rams in 2011:
- The tight ends will be targeted often. Don't be surprised if Lance Kendricks and Michael Hoomanawanui together have somewhere north of 80 catches between them.
- Safety-valve Danny Amendola will probably again lead the team in total receptions. If the tight ends demand attention as does Steven Jackson and the one or two other receivers on the field, things might finally open up enough for him to do even more damage on those underneath routes.
- Steven Jackson and/or another running back will be used as a receiver. I don't know if I'd say he'll be more of a receiver, since he had 46 receptions last year and I just don't see enough passes to go around for him to top that.
- As for the speculation about Mark Clayton, Donnie Avery, etc. who knows. With the emphasis on the 2-TE sets it seems unlikely any of them will see enough targets to be a true #1 or #2 fantasy option. I think both of those players could be very effective still, but probably not with the consistency you need in fantasy football.