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Jared Goff
AP
Team Previews

Rams Fantasy Preview

by Nick Mensio
Updated On: July 24, 2020, 5:41 pm ET

2019 Stats (Rank)

Total Offense: 5,998 (7th)

Offensive Touchdowns: 42 (13th)

Offensive Plays: 1,055 (8th)

Pass Attempts + Sacks: 654 (6th)

Rush Attempts: 401 (18th)

Unaccounted for Targets: 126 (11th)

Unaccounted for Carries: 234 (2nd)

 

Coaching Staff

Three seasons into his L.A. tenure, Sean McVay has a pair of NFC West championships along with an NFC title and Super Bowl appearance in 2018. Following that season, if you were a coach and had any ties to McVay, there was a good chance you were getting a head-coaching interview elsewhere. McVay was the shiny new toy and “boy genius” as a 31-year-old first-time head coach. His ability to manipulate Jared Goff and turn the former No. 1 overall pick into one of the top statistical passers in the league in 2018 was a true feat of excellence. But things went south last season, as Todd Gurley battled nagging knee issues and the offensive line lost a pair of veterans in LG Rodger Saffold and C John Sullivan that the unit was unable to overcome. Goff took multiple steps back as a passer, and defenses seemed to catch on a bit to what McVay was doing as a play-caller. There’s still little doubt about McVay’s ability to scheme offense, but he admitted after last season’s failure to make the playoffs that he needed to hit a bit of a reset button. McVay parted ways with DC Wade Phillips, replacing him with Brandon Staley, a virtual unknown after coaching Broncos LBs previously. McVay also decided to hire an offensive coordinator in Kevin O’Connell, who has ties to McVay from their time in D.C. The Rams are going with youth on the coaching staff after McVay used the help of Phillips and longtime special teams coordinator John Fassel to help lead him through his first years on the job. McVay’s offense should remain the same, playing up in pace and running a ton of plays.

 

 

Passing Game

QB: Jared Goff, John Wolford
WR: Robert Woods, Van Jefferson
WR: Cooper Kupp, Nsimba Webster
WR: Josh Reynolds, Greg Dortch
TE: Tyler Higbee, Gerald Everett, Brycen Hopkins

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After taking the Rams to the Super Bowl and finishing as fantasy’s QB7 in 2018, Goff’s Rams missed the playoffs last season while he checked in as the QB13 last season. Goff’s touchdown rate dropped dramatically from 5.7% to 3.5% and his yards per attempt crashed to 7.4 from 8.4 the year before. He led the league in pass attempts with 626 and tossed a career-worst 16 picks. The volume and yards were all there, but Goff looked like a totally different quarterback in year three under McVay, and some have wondered if the league has possibly caught on to McVay covering Goff up. Not having a healthy 2018 version of Todd Gurley as a safety valve out of the backfield also didn’t help matters. The Rams are pretty much stuck with Goff after making him the highest-paid quarterback before his disappointing season. He’s still just 26 (in October) and a former No. 1 overall pick with a strong history alongside McVay. Goff could easily bounce back with an elevated touchdown rate in one of the league’s fastest-paced, fantasy-friendly offenses that is annually near the top in passing volume. Goff can post top-12 QB numbers.

After posting just one 100-yard game with no touchdowns before the Week 9 bye, Robert Woods emerged as the clear No. 1 pass-game option in the Rams’ revamped offense following the open date. Overall, Woods had at least nine targets in every game from Weeks 10-17, finishing as the overall WR18 in half-PPR formats. Somehow, Woods found the end zone just three times on 107 touches, making him one of the league’s more-unlucky high-usage players after he scored seven times the previous season. He still has back-to-back 1,000-yard seasons to his name and is truly one of the most underrated wideouts in the sport from an all-around perspective. Brandin Cooks’ trade to Houston has Woods more locked in than ever as the Rams’ No. 1 wideout. Woods has averaged 134.5 targets and 18 rushing attempts over the past two seasons. Still just 28, Woods could be looking down the barrel of a career-best 2020 year.

Coming off his torn ACL the year before, Cooper Kupp managed to play all 16 games last season en route to the overall WR7 finish in half-PPR points per game. Still, Kupp had some odd usage games mixed into his season where he played less than 70% of the snaps four times, including a 28% clip in Week 14. He played over 89% of the downs 10 other times. The coaching staff chalked it up to game script. In the end, it didn’t affect Kupp’s counting stats, as he easily set career highs across the board with a 94-1,161-10 line on 134 targets. It will be interesting to see how the absence of Brandin Cooks’ deep speed affects the other parts of this offense. The Rams don’t really have a true outside speed threat on the roster now. Still, Kupp figures to operate as Goff’s No. 1 or 2 option most weeks, and he’s always been the quarterback’s top target in the red zone, leading the team in inside-the-20 looks over the last two seasons. Kupp should be drafted as a WR1 in one of the league’s pass-happiest offenses.

Josh Reynolds continued to serve as the offense’s clear-cut No. 4 wideout last season, receiving ample playing time only when one of Cooks, Kupp, or Woods missed time. To Reynolds’ credit, he posted career best marks in yards per reception (15.5) and yards per target (7.6) while seeing 11 combined targets in the two games he played over 90% of the snaps. The absence of Cooks makes Reynolds the top candidate to start the season in three-wide sets. But the Rams did draft Van Jefferson in the second round, and there are enough talented TEs and RBs on the roster to believe McVay is serious about finally diversifying the Rams’ typically three-WR heavy offense. Reynolds is nothing more than a late-round flier in deeper leagues, but he does have potential to pop off if the Rams go back to heavy three-wide usage in 2020.

Through the first 10 games last season, Tyler Higbee only averaged 5.3 PPR points per game, but an injury to Gerald Everett and McVay’s switch to more two-TE sets after the bye allowed Higbee to burst onto the scene in a big way. He averaged a position-leading 21.4 PPR points per game on a position-leading 11.2 targets per contest over the final five games of 2019. He had 100 yards and/or one touchdown in all five games to close out the season. With the subtractions of Cooks and Gurley, the Rams have the 11th-most unaccounted for targets. If McVay continues to lean on two-TE sets like he did down the stretch last year, it should make Higbee a full-time player for the first time in his career. Consider Higbee a boom-or-bust TE1. A mere afterthought during his first 3.5 seasons, Higbee’s finish to 2019 was historic. But it’s still hard to completely forget how lightly used he was prior to that. He and Kupp should lead the Rams in red-zone targets. Higbee is someone to look at if chasing a player’s fantasy ceiling. If Higbee continues where he left off last season, Gerald Everett is unlikely to be more than a touchdown-dependent dart throw in good matchups, but he has more upside than others in his TE2 range. For now, it’s best to take a wait-and-see approach with Everett.

 

Running Game

RB: Cam Akers, Darrell Henderson, Malcolm Brown

OL (L-R): Andrew Whitworth, Austin Corbett, Austin Blythe, Bobby Evans, Rob Havenstein

 

Despite being limited by Florida State’s painful offense, Cam Akers had three seasons with at least 840 total yards and eight touchdowns. His best year, by far, came last season as a junior, finishing with 1,114 yards rushing and 14 scores on the ground. Per PFF, 3.9 of Akers’ 4.9 yards per carry came after contact. On top of being an impressive runner, Akers showed promise as a pass-catcher, finishing with 69 career receptions, 30 of which came in 2019. 21-year-old Akers offers three-down upside, but he will be competing with Malcolm Brown and Darrell Henderson in the Rams’ post-Todd Gurley backfield. It clearly works in Akers’ favor that the Rams already knew what they had in Henderson and Brown and were still willing to invest the No. 52 overall pick, taking Akers three spots ahead of J.K. Dobbins. McVay has talked up his “three really good backs.” The Rams’ aggressive draft investment makes Akers the favorite for lead duties, but it’s just impossible to know how this will shake out. Akers is a classic risk/reward RB2/3.

A hyped summer fantasy sleeper, Henderson did nothing as a rookie, surpassing five carries in a game only three times while catching four total passes. A total of 10 of Henderson’s 43 touches came after November 1. His meager opportunity came despite Todd Gurley running like a shell of his former self. Gurley is gone, but Henderson’s road to an increased role is not paved with gold. Longtime reserve Malcolm Brown remains and No. 52 overall pick Cam Akers is now the highest-drafted back on the roster. Henderson is still only 23, but Akers’ selection speaks volumes. The Rams did not release Gurley with the intention of unleashing Henderson. One of the most explosive players in NCAA history, Henderson remains a Dynasty hold, but he is merely a dart throw in re-draft formats. Henderson had trouble with the Rams’ running scheme.

Headed into his age-27 campaign, Malcolm Brown has shown nothing in five years that suggests he is ready to lead a backfield. He owns a career 3.9 yards per carry average and has caught only 28 passes. Brown is merely steady depth. The other two have far more upside.

 

Win Total

FanDuel Sportsbook has the Rams’ win total set at 8.5 this season, with the juice on the under at -135. McVay has won at least nine games in all three seasons at the helm in L.A., but it is important to note the strength of the NFC West following the 49ers’ Super Bowl appearance, Seattle’s dominance at times, and Arizona’s up-and-coming talent with Kyler Murray. Warren Sharp has the Rams’ schedule pinned as the seventh-most difficult in 2020. L.A. opens with a home game against the Cowboys before traveling to Philly in Week 2 and Buffalo in Week 3. The Rams also play at Tampa Bay in Week 11. Other non-NFC West opponents are vs. NYG, at D.C., vs. CHI, at MIA, vs. NE, and vs. NYJ. Overall, this schedule isn’t too terribly difficult outside of the NFC West. My money would be on the Rams hitting the over on the 8.5 wins. But it all really relies on Jared Goff rebounding and the offensive line gelling in front of him.

Nick Mensio

Nick Mensio has been covering the NFL for Rotoworld since 2012. He can be found on Twitter at @NickMensio.