This is the 44th in a series of opinionated fantasy football columns that will be posted daily in July and August, providing fantasy owners with some insights to consider as they prepare for their drafts. You can get an in-depth preview of the upcoming fantasy football season with the purchase of the Yahoo! Sports / Pro Football Weekly Fantasy Football Guide 2010, available now in newsstands and bookstores, or online at PFWstore.com.
You'll be making a mistake if you're counting on youth to serve up much of a fantasy impact from the NFC West in 2010.
Midway through the preseason, there are really only two NFC West rookies who appear to have any kind of a shot at becoming fantasy forces — Rams first-round QB Sam Bradford and Seahawks second-round WR Golden Tate.
And considering the way the offenses in St. Louis and Seattle performed in '09, the probability of both Bradford and Tate shooting fantasy blanks is considerable.
Then again, you never really know, particularly in the case of Bradford, who has done little so far this preseason to diminish the long-range potential the Rams believe the first overall pick in the 2010 draft possesses.
"He puts the ball on the money," Rams second-year WR Brooks Foster said of Bradford, who stuck around St. Louis right up to the end of June in an effort to get more up to speed with offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur's West Coast scheme. "His play-calling is really good, and he carries himself like he's been there before."
That said, a possibility exists that the Rams will treat their prized first-round possession with kid gloves and start the season with veteran A.J. Feeley under center.
Rams head coach Steve Spagnulo ended the early portion of the offseason by designating Feeley as the starting QB, but the consensus among PFW sources close to the team is that Bradford will be named the starter by the end of the preseason and never look back.
To hear Bradford tell it, he's getting increasingly confident he could handle that scenario with every passing day.
"I feel very comfortable with everything we have in right now," Bradford said even before the Rams' OTAs concluded. "Obviously, having 13 or 14 practices and the minicamp, I've got a lot of reps. I've got a lot of experience with the plays. I feel good with everything we have, and I feel like the more I continue to do it, the more I study it, the more comfortable I'll become."
You can be forgiven for rolling your eyes over any confidence Bradford might have in an offense that scored one or fewer TDs in 13 of the Rams' 16 games last season.
But Bradford's optimism appears genuine.
"I think this offense has great potential," said Bradford, who also thinks he is 100 percent recovered from the reconstruction of the AC joint surrounding his throwing shoulder in late October. "I think the one thing that this offense has, too, is a great attitude. We've come out here every day, (and) I feel like we've gotten better every practice.
"Everyone comes ready to work. Everyone is positive. … I think there's a lot of talent, and I think we're going in the right direction right now."
Long before training camp began, Bradford said the Rams' playbook would be his constant companion.
"Yes, no doubt," he said. "It's going to be a lot (of studying). Obviously, we did put a lot in, so I'll go over everything."
As for Tate, he should get a golden opportunity to become a fantasy factor in Seattle, as he is widely considered the Seahawks' second-best option at wide receiver behind T.J. Houshmandzadeh.
It won't hurt that Tate performed in a pro-style offense at Notre Dame, where he racked up fantasy numbers to die for in his final collegiate campaign — 93 catches for 1,496 yards and 15 TDs.
At the very least, Tate looks like a solid fantasy third receiver in the making.
But at the very most, only he and Bradford figure to provide any kind of fantasy punch this coming season among NFC West rookies.
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