First things first, I should make it clear that I’m not recommending you draft Shaun Hill. You should only consider it in the deepest formats: If you’re currently letting someone like EJ Manuel or Matt Schaub take up a bench spot I would recommend dropping them for Hill. I do like Hill in best-ball formats, but those are mostly done for the year. I’m just generally suggesting you pay attention and be ready to snap him up should he start putting up points.
It also may be more accurate to refer to Hill as a poor man’s Carson Palmer, who is really a poor man’s Jay Cutler. I guess that makes Hill a homeless man’s Jay Cutler, which is probably not somebody you want to draft.
If you haven’t figured it out yet, the comparison to Cutler and Palmer is based off of their receiving groups. What I’m about to say may sound like a joke, but I promise I’m being completely serious. The St. Louis Rams may have one of the best receiving groups in the NFL. I know that sounds laughable given their recent history, and even more so since I couldn’t tell you with any reasonable certainty who will lead the team in receiving this year. But I think the Rams receiving group probably has a wider range of outcomes than that of any other team in the NFL.
I recently wrote about the importance of cornering the market on breakout wide receivers. The Rams have basically applied a real life version of that strategy. In fact, three of the WRs on my target list play for the Rams. Kenny Britt may be a punchline to many, but he fits one of the four main breakout profiles and he was literally the best WR in the NFL at one point. Brian Quick could be the next Vincent Jackson. We’re not big on Tavon Austin from a probabilistic perspective, but he was a top-10 pick in the NFL draft. Football’s Bill Brasky, Stedman Bailey, would have made my list if not for a four-game suspension to start the season. Chris Givens proved to be productive as a situational deep threat as a rookie. They have perennial fantasy tease Jared Cook at tight end. Of course, they also have Agility Score superstar Zac Stacy. You may not like most of those players on an individual basis, but it’s not hard to see a scenario where a few of them pan out and surprise everybody.
It’s possible that Rams QBs were already benefiting from this group last year. Sam Bradford and Kellen Clemens both threw for career highs in adjusted yards per attempt. 5.3 percent of Bradford’s attempts last season went for touchdowns, compared to his previous seasonal high of 3.8 percent.1 Given that Britt’s a new addition, and that a lot of the young players project to get better with more experience, it’s almost certainly a better group than it was last year.
As cynical as this may sound, it may actually be better for fantasy purposes that Bradford got injured. We don’t have to worry that Bradford will play poorly because he’s not fully recovered or that he’ll re-injure his ACL. Hill’s career yards per attempt, adjusted yards per attempt, net yards per attempt, completion percentage, and TD percentage are all better than Bradford’s. It may just be the case that Hill is better than Bradford outright. Bradford finished as QB15 in points per game in 2014, which is especially impressive if you consider he didn’t finish the game against Carolina. Bear in mind that Tony Romo finished 2013 as QB10 in PPG and only scored one more PPG than Bradford. If Hill can just be a little better than Bradford was last year, whether it’s due to his own skill or an improved receiving group, a top 12 finish is within the realm of possibility.
- 5.3 percent is pretty high, and I don’t really expect Hill to match it in 2014. (back)