Four Downs: Don't dismiss Sam Bradford 

October, 11, 2010
I'll grant you that St. Louis Rams wide receiver Mark Clayton had been a fantasy revelation so far this season after years of underachieving with the Baltimore Ravens. But I don't buy the notion that when Clayton went down Sunday with a season-ending injury, he took the fantasy value of rookie Sam Bradford with him. Clayton, owned in 93.5 percent of leagues and tied for 10th in standard fantasy scoring among wide receivers entering Sunday -- both shocking figures, really -- tore his knee early in the game and will not play again this season. Bradford, who played poorly in a 44-6 loss to the Detroit Lions, certainly will.

Those who relied on Bradford and Clayton in Week 5, in what seemed like a sure thing for high scores against the awful Lions, can't be pleased. I'm not, either; I ranked each player well and expected more. But fantasy owners know that injury comes with the territory. Players get hurt. If that's one of fantasy's most critical rules and obvious equalizers, another should be that rookies, especially those who make their living throwing the football, will be inconsistent. Bradford hadn't been exalted into top-10 territory at quarterback, but this week he was close. Certainly he was garnering momentum, and with bye weeks and tough opponents creating opportunity, things looked good against the Lions. Instead, journeyman opponent Shaun Hill, who also earned fantasy love but might be looking at just one or two more starts before Matthew Stafford returns, stole the show.

Mark Clayton
Andrew Weber/US PresswireMark Clayton was carted off Sunday, and the early word is he'll miss the rest of the season.
Bradford couldn't bring his team back once Clayton went down five minutes into the game, and the result was an ugly loss (especially considering the opponent). But let's not make this a bigger deal than it should be for Bradford. It's one game. He still has weapons. It's not as if Clayton was Jerry Rice. It was a good sign that running back Steven Jackson performed well (114 rushing yards), while Danny Amendola caught the ball well (12 catches on 19 targets for 95 yards). Bradford's mistakes and inexperience will continue to haunt him, but although there will be more to come, expect really nice moments and periods of fantasy help as well, with or without Clayton, a 28-year-old veteran with 14 touchdowns in five-plus seasons.