The St. Louis Rams may still be in the midst of a seemingly endless rebuild, but there are glimmers of hope in the Gateway City. That’s especially true for IDP owners, as the Rams feature plenty of fantasy-relevant talent at all three levels of the defense.
That talent starts with fifth-year defensive end Robert Quinn, who hit double-digits in sacks in 2014 for the third consecutive season. Granted, Quinn’s 10.5 sacks last year were a far cry from the 19 he tallied the year before, and Quinn got off to an awful start last year. However, even though Quinn didn’t notch his first sack last year until Week 7 he still finished the season inside the top five at his position – which is exactly where he begins the 2015 campaign.
2014 wasn’t as kind to batterymate Chris Long, who posted only five tackles and a single sack over six games. The 30-year-old hasn’t posted double-digit sacks since 2012 and faces an uncertain future in St. Louis after this year, and Long’s tackle production has never been great. However, assuming he’s healthy the veteran could be a nice late value as fantasy depth on the defensive front.
The Rams’ line also boasts the reigning Defensive Rookie of the Year in Aaron Donald, who Greg Gabriel of the National Football Post believes is already among the NFL’s best defensive tackles. “At 6’1 – 285,” Gabriel said, “Donald isn’t your prototypical NFL defensive lineman, but he is a special player with some special traits. He has rare initial quickness, play speed, explosiveness, and power, to go along with top instincts. This allows him to make numerous plays, even though he constantly gives up size to his opponent.”
Donald is also among the top tackles in IDP, and a viable DL2 in mixed formats.
As Nick Wagoner of ESPN wrote, linebacker Alec Ogletree has shown flashes of dominant talent in his two NFL seasons – mixed with moments of mediocrity. “Ogletree has had moments of brilliance,” Wagoner said, “occasionally looking like a perennial Pro Bowler waiting to happen. He’s also had moments where he’s looked lost, leading to big plays for the opposition.”
As one might expect, that inconsistency can lead to more than a bit of weekly IDP variance. There are weeks where Ogletree can carry a defensive fantasy squad. However, there will also likely be a week or two where you look at the box score and wonder if the low-end IDP LB1 even suited up.
In many respects, veteran James Laurinaitis is the flip side of the same coin. The 28-year-old may not have Ogletree’s sky-high athleticism or fantasy upside, but the next time the seventh-year pro fails to hit 100 total tackles in a season will be the first time. Laurinaitis’ days as an IDP LB1 may be done, but the “Son of Animal” remains at the very least a strong choice as a second fantasy linebacker.
In the opinion of Myles Simmons of the Rams’ website, safety T.J. McDonald could be on the verge of joining the league’s elite at the position after topping 100 tackles a season ago. “Strong safety T.J. McDonald has made steady progress throughout his first two pro seasons,” Simmons said. “Known for his hard-hitting style, last year McDonald led the secondary with 136 tackles and made an impact on special teams by recording both a blocked punt and blocked field goal against Tampa Bay.”
Those tackle stats are team-inflated (the NFL credited McDonald with 105), but McDonald’s top-12 IDP finish and top-five numbers from Week 10 on last season are no exaggeration. The 24-year-old is in the low-end DB1 conversation.