Let’s assume for a moment that, high ankle sprain or no, Sam Bradford starts this coming Sunday. For his part, Adam Schefter seems to think so. (It’s not out of the question — completely immobile quarterbacks can thrive in the McDaniels offense, provided the offensive line can provide a pocket.)
What kind of impact will Brandon Lloyd have on the shape of the Rams’ offense? And with Brandon Gibson, Danario Alexander and Mark Clayton all in the mix on the outside, whose snaps will he be stealing from?
With help from ProFootballFocus.com, let’s consult the numbers.
Factor: Where does Lloyd do work?
In many ways, Brandon Lloyd represented Josh McDaniels’ ultimate weapon at wide receiver, and the perfect expression of his emphasis on “stressing the defense.” He took more snaps than any other Broncos receiver — 862 of a possible 1086 — and his snap count reflects the versatility that McDaniels loves:
@PFF_MikeClay on Brandon Lloyd’s snaps: 65% LWR, 9% in slot, 27% at RWR
Moreover, his target distribution in the McDaniels offense represents a perfect nightmare for opposing offensive coordinators.
In his fantasy impact article, PFF’s Mike Clay expects Lloyd to take “nearly every snap” for the Rams, a reasonable assumption given his comfort level in the offense. Clearly, he becomes a must-add, and a potential starter for fantasy owners. But let’s look at who else will be affected.
Factor: The Release of Mike Sims-Walker
The first shoe had already dropped before the Rams acquired Lloyd, as Spagnuolo benched Mike Sims-Walker for the Packers game. This cleared out the right wideout position, which Brandon Gibson happily filled.
Gibson, who primarily lined up on the left side this year, had seen his snaps decreasing steadily in favor of Danario, getting on the field only 23 times in week three, and 27 in week four. But with Sims-Walker on the sidelines, Gibson got 74 of 79 snaps and nine targets, primarily on the right side.
Does Gibby now have some job protection, camping out on the right side? Or does his wildly fluctuating snap count mean that he is most likely to see time on the pine?
Prognosis: Gibson most likely to see his time cut.
Factor: Danario Alexander’s limited lineup versatility
According to Mike Clay, the guru of play stats at Pro Football Focus, Danario Alexander has been taking snaps all over the field as his snap count has increased:
@PFF_MikeClay: still processing week 6, but weeks 1-5 was 56% at LWR, 8% in slot, 36% at RWR
However, in all those snaps on the right side, he has caught only three passes, and his yardage splits show how much of his playmaking ability is tied to the left sideline.
Left: 8 catches on 16 targets – 203 yards
Middle: 4 catches on 7 targets – 54 yards
Right: 2 catches on 3 targets – 30 yards
Danario’s health is always an X-factor here, but his knees have held up as he has emerged as a full-time starter. His snap count has progressed from 16 to 37 to 55 to 73 in successive weeks since sitting out week 1.
However, fantasy owners expecting his stats to ratchet up with those snaps have been disappointed. His electric Week 2 performance — 3 catches for 122 yards — remains his best output of the season.
Prognosis: Will likely see a slight reduction in snaps, and more importantly, less time in the money position on the left side.
X-Factor: The return of Mark Clayton
Clayton, placed on the Physically Unable to Perform (PUP) list after being signed at the end of the preseason, is finally practicing with the team this week. However, that doesn’t make him an active member of the roster yet. The Rams have three weeks to make a decision on whether and when to activate him, and to decide whom to cut in that case.
Clayton played the bulk of his snaps on the right side in 2010, and established an immediate rapport with Bradford — especially in Pat Shurmur’s rollout-heavy offense, which shoehorned the passing offense short and right.
However, Clayton’s fit in the McDaniels offense remains to be seen. He is doubtful to be activated right away, and will likely be battling the younger Gibson for playing time, and perhaps a roster spot.
Prognosis: unknown. Could become the starter, could be cut.
Factor: Where is Sam Bradford throwing the ball?
When you see this pass chart, the first thing that should come to you mind is “My god, our offensive line sucks.”
While Bradford has shown an increased willingness to target all fronts of the field, particularly compared to last year, the miniscule amount of time he has in the pocket to drop, set and throw has forced his targets shallow. Unless the line can protect their quarterback — particularly now that he’s hobbled by this high ankle — Lloyd’s potential impact goes for naught.
And the player to own? That might just be new slot man Greg Salas.