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Is it really true the fantasy gods could be smiling down on Sam Bradford in 2011?
Hey, we wouldn't josh about that!
With Josh McDaniels taking over as the Rams' new offensive coordinator, it's quite possible Bradford's fantasy numbers could skyrocket in his second season under center after falling just short of leading the Rams into the playoffs as a rookie.
Bradford's numbers weren't too shabby directing previous coordinator Pat Shurmur's "small ball" passing attack in 2010. He set NFL rookie records for completions (354) and attempts (590) without the benefit of any elite pass catchers, and his passing totals (3,512 yards; 219.5 ypg) were the second best by a rookie behind Peyton Manning's 3,739 yards in 1998 for Indianapolis.
Bradford also set a league rookie record with 174 consecutive attempts without an interception — another very fantasy-friendly factoid worth noting.
If McDaniels remains true to form, the Rams' offense should be much livelier this season, with a lot more deep balls and a lot more creative options. Before being let go as the head coach of the Broncos late last season, Denver's offense used a lot of three-WR, one-back sets and often would throw out of an empty backfield on 3rd-and short.
McDaniels' offense is the third different scheme Bradford will be forced to learn in the last three years. But Bradford previously flourished in a spread offense at Oklahoma and looked comfortable in the no-huddle when the Rams ran it sparingly in 2010. McDaniels, who also apparently will serve as Bradford's QB coach next season in place of the retired Dick Curl, has a strong track record of working with quarterbacks.
By all accounts, Bradford couldn't be more pumped up about the new offense, which he has been working on very diligently all offseason after receiving a copy of McDaniels' playbook at the end of April.
Bradford will have no shortage of targets after the Rams spent three of their top four picks on receivers in the 2011 draft (second-round TE Lance Kendricks, third-round WR Austin Pettis and fourth-round WR Greg Salas) and added Mike Sims-Walker in free agency. There's reason to believe that McDaniels' Rams offense could be similar to the 2010 Patriots offense that got such great mileage out of rookie TEs Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez.
Bradford, who has shown a real flair for connecting with tight ends, could have lots of fun hooking up with Kendricks and sure-handed second-year TE Michael Hoomanawanui in the same manner Tom Brady did with Gronkowski and Hernandez. McDaniels coordinated the Patriots' 2007 offense that set a league record with 589 points.
Entering the 2011 season, the one component that Bradford is lacking is a rock-solid No. 1 receiver who can do consistent damage downfield. Free agent Mark Clayton, who remains unsigned at this writing, comes the closest to filling that role, but he's really an ideal No. 2 receiver. But McDaniels also manages to consistently bring out the best in his featured receivers (see Denver's Brandon Lloyd last season).
Bradford has been communicating regularly with the team's rookie receivers. Kendricks and Salas bunked at Bradford's house during the Rams' four-day workout session at Lindenwood University in late May, during which the QB made a strong impression with what appeared to be greatly improved leadership skills.
Bradford also worked out with some receivers in the Phoenix area the first part of June and then conducted an under-the-radar throwing session in Oklahoma with a group of pass catchers that included Rams slot receiver Danny Amendola.
Bradford, who took every snap as a rookie, displayed surprising athleticism and mobility. He had one TD run last season but has the skills to register a few more, which should further improve his fantasy stock.
His courtship with McDaniels is just beginning. But all indications are that a fantasy marriage made in heaven could be in the offing.