Luke McCown, Tampa Bay – If McCown can win the starting gig in Tampa Bay he could put up decent numbers.  He has a couple of nice targets in Antonio Bryant and Kellen Winslow, Jr.  Unfortunately he doesn’t have any easy matchups during the bye weeks.  He faces New Orleans in Weeks 11 & 16, although it would be pretty ballsy to use him in the fantasy Super Bowl.  He could possibly be used with Matt Cassel as the Chiefs face Baltimore in Week 11.

Chad Pennington, Miami Dolphins – Pennington could lose even more time to the Wildcat with the addition of Pat White.  Plus, Chad Henne could be breathing down his neck.  After an easy 2008 schedule, the Dolphins have a much more daunting task in ’09.  His best matchup is Week 7 vs. New Orleans.  Kyle Orton, Matt Hasselbeck, and David Garrard are on bye that week.

Shaun Hill, San Francisco 49ers – If Hill can hold off Alex Smith, he could have a solid year with Rookie Michael Crabree and Frank Gore.  Maybe this is the year Vernon Davis finally breaks out.  The Niners play Arizona in Week 1 & 14, St. Louis in Week 4, and Detroit in Week 16.  It would also take cojones to roll with Hill in the fantasy Super Bowl.  In Week 4 though, he could be used to spell Matt Ryan, Donovan McNabb, or Kurt Warner who are on bye. 

Jason Campbell, Washington Redskins – I give him credit for not pulling a Cutler and crying that his team wanted to trade him.  However, his team still wanted to trade him.  Not exactly the ringing endorsement I want for one of my fantasy QBs.  He has weapons in Santana Moss and Chris Cooley.  He has some decent matchups.  St. Louis and Detroit in Weeks 1 & 2, Kansas City in Week 6, Denver in Week 10, and New Orleans in Week 13.  He could fill in for Peyton or Romo in Week 6 or Eli or Schaub in Week 10.

Joe Flacco, Baltimore Ravens – I like the way he plays, but his thin arsenal took a hit when Derrick Mason retired.  If Todd Heap and L.J. Smith can stay healthy and Mark Clayton can step up, maybe he’ll be  a serviceable backup.  He faces Cleveland in Weeks 3 & 10, Cincy in Weeks 5 & 9, Denver in Week 8, and Detroit in Week 14.  He could fill in for Cutler, Rodgers, Brees, or Philips in Week 5 or Eli or Schaub in Week 10.  I don’t trust the Week 9 bye QBs to be #1 fantasy QBs.

Marc Bulger, St. Louis Rams – I have moved on from think Bulger can do anything.  Still, he may get drafted in some leagues.  He faced Detroit in Week 8 and New Orleans in Week 10 so he could fill in for Palmer, Cassel, Brady, or Big Ben in Week 8 or Eli or Schaub in Week 10.

Kerry Collins, Tennessee Titans – Not much of an option, but he’s a starting QB for what that’s worth.  Arizona in Week 12 and St. Louis in Week 14.  Odds are you won’t use him.

JaMarcus Russell, Oakland Raiders – He’s a Raider so I would avoid him, but if you must he faces the Chiefs in Week 2 & 10 (Eli or Schaub), Denver in Weeks 3 & 15, Cincy in Week 11, and Cleveland in Week 16.

Daunte Culpepper, Detroit Lions – He is throwing it to Calvin Johnson so he’s at least worth a mention.  Will likely cede the starting gig to Matthew Stafford at some point.  The face the Saints in Week 1, St. Louis in Week 8 (Palmer, Cassel, Brady, Big Ben), Cleveland in Week 11, Cincy in Week 13, and Arizona in Week 15.

Brady Quinn/Derek Anderson, Cleveland Browns – I wouldn’t touch Quinn or DA, but if you must they face Denver in Week 2, Cincy in Week 4 (Matt Ryan, McNabb, Warner) & 12, Detroit in Week 11, and Kansas City in Week 15.

Mark Sanchez, New York Jets – I wouldn’t trust Sanchez either, but if you must they face New Orleans in Week 4 (Ryan, McNabb, Warner).  They have a pretty tough schedule.

The Rams need a lot of work.  That’s to be expected when you go 2-14, losing your last ten to close the season.  Marc Bulger isn’t the answer at QB, but he’ll be with the team in ’09 because he’d be too costly on their cap to cut.  I don’t see them going QB with the second pick though because they would have over $100 earmarked to that position.  A more likely scenario is they attempt the monumental task of replacing Orlando Pace with either Michael Oher or Andre Smith.  Steven Jackson looked great down the stretch running for 517 yards and 4 TDs (3 rushing, 1 receiving) in the last five weeks.  He needs to prove he can stay healthy though as he missed four games.  Kenneth Darby and Antonio Pittman are his backups, but that’s a spot that could use and upgrade.  New Coach Steve Spagnuolo saw first hand what a solid stable or RBs can do for a team.  He didn’t quite pass the torch yet, but this could be the year Torry Holt relinquishes his throne on the #1 spot.  There is talk that he could even be cut or traded.  Donnie Avery will likely be the new number, unless they surprise everyone and select Michael Crabtree.  Keenan Burton dealt with a lot of injuries in his rookie season, but should see an expanded role next year.  This is another spot attention.  The Randy McMichael experiment did not work out.  Joe Klopfenstein doesn’t appear to be the answer so Tight End needs to be addressed as well.  So if you’re keeping score at home the Rams need to upgrade on O-Line, WR, TE, and backup RB on Offense. 

Last year’s #1 pick Chris Long should improve in his second year.  Leonard Little is in the last year of his contract and will be playing for a new deal.  They both should be able to produce in Spags’ scheme.  The Rams will likely bring Restricted Free Agent Victor Adeyanju back and lose La’Roi Glover as a cap casualty or to retirement.  Their LBs are fairly set with Pisa Tinoisamoa, Will Witherspoon, and Quinton Culberson.   The Rams have some key free agents in their secondary.  CB Ron Bartell and S Oshiomogho Atogwe will likely be back.  Fahkir Brown and Corey Chavous (already cut) will not return.  With so many needs, Rams fans need to be patient.  Rough waters are ahead.

KFFL Free Agent Tracker:

Pos Player Name FA Status Previous Team Current Team
QB Brock Berlin RFA St. Louis Rams Free Agent
RB Samkon Gado UFA St. Louis Rams Free Agent
RB Travis Minor UFA St. Louis Rams Free Agent
FB Richard Owens UFA St. Louis Rams Free Agent
WR Matt Caddell Signed St. Louis Rams St. Louis Rams
WR Joel Filani Re-signed St. Louis Rams San Francisco 49ers
WR Dante’ Hall UFA St. Louis Rams Free Agent
WR Dane Looker UFA St. Louis Rams Free Agent
TE Dominique Byrd RFA St. Louis Rams Free Agent
OG Mark Setterstrom RFA St. Louis Rams Free Agent
OT Adam Goldberg UFA St. Louis Rams Free Agent
OT Brandon Gorin UFA St. Louis Rams Free Agent
OT Clint Oldenburg Signed St. Louis Rams Denver Broncos
C Nick Leckey UFA St. Louis Rams Free Agent
DL Victor Adeyanju RFA St. Louis Rams Free Agent
DL La’Roi Glover UFA St. Louis Rams Free Agent
DL Eric M. Moore UFA St. Louis Rams Free Agent
DL Willie X. Williams Re-signed St. Louis Rams St. Louis Rams
LB Gary Stills UFA St. Louis Rams Free Agent
CB Ron Bartell UFA St. Louis Rams Free Agent
CB Fakhir Brown UFA St. Louis Rams Free Agent
CB Jason Craft UFA St. Louis Rams Free Agent
CB Ricky Manning Jr. UFA St. Louis Rams Free Agent
SS Corey Chavous UFA (Cut) St. Louis Rams Free Agent
FS Oshiomogho Atogwe UFA St. Louis Rams Free Agent

St. Louis Rams Preview

4 September 2008

Few teams had to deal with the kind of injuries the Rams did last year. Although they are getting older (Torry Holt and Orlando Pace especially), they still have the skill players to get it done. They welcomed in Al Saunders to inject life into their Offense. They have a talented QB in Marc Bulger. If he can stay healthy, he should be able to return to form. They brought in Trent Green to hold the clipboard. He’s good for a game or two in a pinch if need be. Steven Jackson held out for and eventually got the big bucks. He’s deserving, but I don’t get what took so long. He would have been better served to get into camp and get the rust off. He should be fresh from missing the preseason, but could come out of the gates a little slow. The Rams will need to be cautious with him to avoid an hamstring or groin injury, which tend to happen when you try to do too much too fast on a football field. Torry Holt is still the leader of the WR corps, but they’ll have to make due without Isaac Bruce, who moved onto San Fran. Drew Bennett is penciled in as the other starter, but he’ll have to prove he can stay healthy. Dane Looker and Dante Hall should factor in the receiving game as well. At Tight End they are hoping to get more production out of Randy McMichael, who was underwhelming in his first season with the Rams.

On Defense the Rams drafted Chris Long to help their Defensive Front. He joins Leonard Little, La’Roi Glover (6 Sacks), and second-year first rounder Adam Carriker. This should be a pretty strong unit if they can stay healthy. Will Witherspoon (110 Tackles, 7 Sacks) is an outstanding Middle Linebacker. Cornerback Fahkir Brown picked off 5 passes last year. Safeties Oshiomogho Atogwe (75 Tackles, 8 INTs) and Corey Chavous (75 Tackles, 3.5 Sacks) give them a pair of solid Safeties.

If they can stay healthy they will challenge for the NFC West. This division is pretty wide open. I still think the Seahawks will find a way to win it. The Rams will win around 8 games.

Fantasy-wise Steven Jackson is worthy of a top four selection. He is a dynamic runner that is capable of catching the ball out of the backfield. Al Saunders has a pretty good history with RBs. Torry Holt is still worthy of being a #1 WR, but he’s no longer a Top 5 WR. Marc Bulger is taking a shot on as a fantasy starter, but you should have a capable backup. Randy McMichael is worth a look at Tight End. He’ll probably start off as a reserve, but could prove worthy of a starter.

With training camp approaching, I figured what better time to take a look at the QBs around the league. 

We profiled the Big Dogs, now it’s time to look at the guys who the other half of your league will be starting.

Second Tier
These aren’t the flashy picks that you can walk away from your draft with your head held high because you got one of the game’s best gunslingers.  That’s not to say you can’t be proud of you team because you opted to wait until you got better value for your QB slot.  In most leagues the QBs will score the most points.  That’s just the way it is.  What’s more important than actual points though is point differential.  If you get a QB that averages 18 points per week, he’s only 2 points per week worse than a 20 point guy.  Now if by choosing that 18 point QB (instead of the 20 point QB) you get a Running Back that averages 12 points (instead of an 8 point RB you’d get if you opted for the 20 point QB) then you’d be ahead two points per week.  Before I have to break into long division, let’s steer away from the mathematics and move onto who the Second Tier QBs are.

Matt Hasselbeck - Matt reminds me a lot of Trent Green from a few years ago.  He puts up solid numbers every year, but is never considered a “must-have” QB.  He’s averaged nearly 24 TD passes per year to 13 INTs the past five years.  He’s also averaged over 3400 yards during that stretch.  His best year came last year when he tossed nearly 4000 yards and 28 TDs (both career highs).  With Shaun Alexander out of the picture, I can see Seattle remaining a pass first team.

Marc Bulger – Last year Bulger was a Big Dog.  This year he becomes on of the best QB values.  The Rams were just a mess last year.  Injuries to Bulger and Steven Jackson kept St. Louis from ever getting in a rhythm.  I can see them bouncing back in a big way.  The beauty of picking Bulger is, even if he misses, you won’t be in that bad of shape.  I’d probably try and grab another second tier or the best of the third tier QBs shortly after selecting Bulger just to be safe. 

Donovan McNabb – McNabb has Big Dog talent, but annual health concerns make drafting the former Syracuse star a risky proposition.  He’s only played in 75% (48 of 64) of the Eagles’ game the past four seasons and 68.75% (33 of 48) the past three.  As big of a name as he’s been in fantasy circles, he’s never reached the 4000 yard plateau and has only suprassed 25 TDs once.  Personally, I’m not high on him.

David Garrard – He grew up right before our eyes last year.  That run vs. Pittsburgh was an instant classic.  He showed great poise last year and an ability to avoid the big mistake.  If you’re in a league that penalizes for INTs, David’s whopping 3 didn’t cause much of a dent in your tally.

Eli Manning – A guy who’s far too familiar with INTs is Eli Manning.  He’s thrown 55 in his past three seasons (18.3 per year).  However, he’s also tossed 71 TDs (23.7 per) in that span while averaging close to 3450 yards per year.  Oh, and he won that little game they call the Super Bowl.  Manning should be much more relaxed next year now that he’s A) stepped out of his brother’s shadow and B) given himself some breathing room from New York fans and media.

Philip Rivers – I didn’t like the way Rivers mocked and ridiculed Jay Cutler last year, but he has produced back-to-back solid seasons.  He’s averaged 3270 yards, 21.5 TDs, and 12 INTs while completing over 60% of his passes.  He has some great weapons in LT and Antonio Gates, and having a whole offseason to work with Chris Chambers should pay dividends.

Jay Cutler – Speaking of Cutler, he has the potential of having a pretty solid year for the Broncos.  The departure of Javon Walker won’t be too hard to overcome because of the limited role he played last year.  A few things will need to fall in place for Cutler to be counted on for your fantasy team.  Brandon Marshall will need to be healthy (mentally and physically) first and foremost.  Second, he’ll need to get some production out of Darrell Jackson, Keary Colbert, and Brandon Stokley.

Partner of USA TODAY Sports Digital Properties