When the St. Louis Rams drafted Bradley Fletcher, a cornerback from Iowa, in the third round of the 2009 draft it surprised more than a few. Fletcher was a late riser up draft boards, a guy that most armchair pundits and draftniks overlooked, especially as a third round pick. Since then, Fletcher has become an indispensable part of the Rams defense, really a cornerstone player for the unit. He looks poised for big things this year, and many expect him to take the leap.
Fletcher tied for fourth among corners last year in approximate value, a stat Pro Football Reference uses to measure a player's overall contribution for a player's season. He tied with Brandon Carr and Ronde Barber with an AV score of 9. Darrelle Revis and Charles Woodson led the way with a 14.
Not too shabby for a guy one year removed from major knee surgery thanks to a hyper-extended knee injury that ended his rookie season just as he was starting to blossom. Fletcher really exceeded expectations last year, for a guy coming off major knee surgery. He ranked among the best corners in league as a tackler. Remember, in the summer, it was believed that he might have to start the season on the PUP list.
Another year removed from surgery, many expect Fletcher to take an even bigger leap this year as he gets more comfortable on his healed knee and regains his full speed and ability. Folks inside Rams Park expect a big season from Fletcher too.
We saw a taste of what could be in store for Fletcher in the preseason. He also has a much better team around him, including a better pass rush and safeties that should automatically increase the effectiveness of the cornerbacks.
Take a stab at predicting Fletcher's stats here.