Spotlight - WR Isaac Bruce, St. Louis Rams
Posted 8/11 by Jason Wood and Bob Henry,
Exclusive to Footballguys.com
Jason Wood's Thoughts
Isaac Bruce is a borderline Hall of Famer who seems to be one of the more compelling value picks at his position this season.
Those are Bruce's year end fantasy rankings over the last six seasons. At no point in the last six years has Bruce finished outside the top 18, making him a solid fantasy starter in virtually any league format. As importantly, he's coming off a 12th place finish, which made him a marginal WR1 in 12-team leagues and an awesome WR2 in 10- or 12-team leagues. Yet, for reasons beyond my comprehension, Bruce is being drafted 24th among wideouts according to Antsports.
It's not as though Bruce is maintaining productivity while showing a gradual decline. His 89 receptions were his best haul since his 1995 season. His 1292 yards were 5th in the league and his best showing since 2000. And his 14.5 yards per reception average was his best since 2001.
He's missed just one game in the last six years, remains a starter on a team all but guaranteed to generate 4,000+ yards of passing offense, and rarely commands double teams because Torry Holt lines up on the opposite side of the field.
In short, I can only come up with two reasons why his ADP doesn't accurately reflect his typical performance:
1) Bruce is not a prolific scorer -- Last year's six touchdown catches were par for the course. Over the last four seasons, Bruce has averaged that very amount. Yet, one would think the savvy fantasy owners would look at his lessened reliance on TD production as a positive, not a negative. After all, it's far more likely to see someone go from 6 TDs to 8 in a season than have a 33% spike in their reception or yardage totals. We KNOW Bruce is going to get his yards and catches, if a few more TDs come his way he's back into the mix as a top 10 fantasy receiver.
2) People are concerned about his age -- Because Bruce is entering his 12th season, people think of him as older than he really is. In fact, he'll be 32 to start the season, and is younger than Marvin Harrison.
With Marc Bulger at the helm, Torry Holt alongside him, a solid RB duo to keep defenses honest, and a subpar defense that's going to require the Rams to get into some shootouts, I find it hard to discount Bruce's fantasy value this year.
- Finished 12th last season, yet is being drafted 24th on average
- Bruce is as polished a receiver as there is in the NFL, from his hands to his route running to his ability to create space regardless of the coverage scheme
- The Rams average more than 4,000 yards passing under Mike Martz and Bruce benefits from Torry "Big Play" Holt garnering attention from opposing secondaries
- The defense looks horrendous, which means STL will need to win some shootouts via the passing game
- Bruce isn't a prolific scorer, scoring no more than 7 TDs since 2000, Torry Holt has clearly become the focal point from that standpoint
- At 6'0", 186 pounds Bruce isn't the most physical receiver
- The Rams appear high on Kevin Curtis according to several published reports, which could mean a more balanced approach that would potentially eat into Bruce and Holt at the margin
Winning fantasy leagues is about finding value wherever it may present itself. When a Hall of Fame caliber receiver is being drafted, on average 6-12 slots lower than his history indicates is reasonable, the savvy fantasy owners should take notice. Bruce finished 12th last year, and no worse than 18th since 1999. He's NEVER finished worse than 18th in a fully healthy season. Considering he's a starter on one of the most productive passing teams in the league, is healthy, and has Torry Holt to keep defenses honest, drafting Bruce seems a no brainer.
Bob Henry's Thoughts
Consistency reigns supreme when it comes time to evaluating fantasy WRs. Explosiveness and big-play ability are the difference makers but consistency is a great thing to have, too. Isaac Bruce is Mr. Consistent. The venerable one has caught 77, 87, 64, 79, 69 and 89 passes in each of the last six years. His averages for those years are 78 catches for 1,182 yards and 7.5 TDs with an average fantasy ranking of 13th. Actually, heís been no higher than 6th but no lower than 18th during that span. The way he continues to crank out numbers itís hard to envision any slippage. The Rams return nearly the same cast on offense and (once again) their defense is suspect. The Rams have thrown for 46 TDs in the last 2 years Ė 41 of those went to the WRs. All signs point toward another 70+ catches and 1,000+ yards with 5 or 6 TDs and a ranking somewhere in the teens to early twenties.
Yet there are many concerns with Bruce as a #2 fantasy WR. Bruceís age (32 years old) is the most obvious concern and the recent scare of an irregular heartbeat didnít help his ADP much. Bruce remains a consistent 5-6 TD per year receiver, but he used to be a primary red zone target. Thatís no longer the case as he plays 2nd fiddle to Holt, Faulk and now probably Steven Jackson. Bruceís ceiling is fairly well defined so itís really about managing risk and trying to draft him at a point where you can achieve good value and hope his bottom line is close to his recent yearly averages.
- Rams have thrown for 4,200+ yards in each of the last two seasons with 23 TDs each year. Thatís consistent production and the same offense and players return intact.
- Bruce reversed a downward trend in production by posting his best fantasy season in 4 years
- Finished among the top 10 fantasy WRs four times, top 20 eight times including the last six seasons in a row
- Scored 5 TDs or more in six straight seasons
- Having Holt on the other side keeps defenses really honest and keeps defenses from rolling coverage towards Bruce
- Recently had a scare regarding an abnormal heartbeat but has since been cleared
- Bruce will be 32 years old in November and will be hard pressed to repeat last yearís numbers
- Long-term stability of Martz and the Rams offense is a concern for keeper or dynasty purposes
- If Bulger gets hurt thereís no experienced QB to step in and assume command. Jamie Martin? Címon.
Bruce is one of the safer bets on draft day. He can generally be selected around WR20 to WR24 and if he doesnít slow down then heís almost certainly going to match the expectations involved. Just like any other player continued health is a concern, especially for a receiver entering into his mid 30s. Ike is as solid as a rock though and while heís given way to Torry Holt as the teamís go-to WR and primary option, thereís no shortage of opportunity on the Rams. Heís not a home run pick any longer, but if you donít mind hitting a lot of doubles and triples, Bruce is your guy.
Quotations from the Message Board Thread
To view the entire Player Spotlight thread (there's a ton of fantastic commentary in there),
Hard to expect Ike to duplicate last year's surprising yardage numbers, but he isn't going to go away either. He's one of the safest bets on the board, a quality WR2 for any team.
There are several factors that lead me to believe Ike can repeat his numbers from '04 or even surpass them:
a) Bulger had the best year of his career with a career high completion percentage with 8 less INTs than what he amassed in '03. Martz is gaining confidence in him and clearly Bulger is getting better.
b) The running game is very strong with Both Faulk and Jackson keeping Defenses honest.
c) In the three games that Bulger missed(he almost missed all of week 13), Bruce's numbers were directly impacted and it lead to misleading end of year totals for Bruce. So despite his lofty '04 totals, they very easily could have been even higher had Bulger not gone down...to the tune of 1400+
d) St. Louis' SOS is even nicer than it was in '04...as a matter of fact according to Grays' SOS(which I use religiously) St. Louis has the second easiest fantasy schedule for WRs this year
St. Louis Bob:
One of the biggest complaints by Rams fans last year was the lack of the long ball. This of course is impossible when you have two guys hanging onto Bulger. Martz has already hinted that he can't wait to get back to the style of offense the Rams' had in 2000 where Bruce had 1471/9.
Isaac Bruce Projections
|Message Board Consensus||0||0||78||1095||6|