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Todd Gurley
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Rams Fantasy Preview

by Nick Mensio
Updated On: August 15, 2019, 7:03 pm ET

2018 Stats (Rank)

Total Offense: 6,738 (2nd)
Offensive Touchdowns: 55 (3rd)
Offensive Plays: 1060 (4th)
Pass Attempts + Sacks: 601 (14th)
Rush Attempts: 459 (8th)
Unaccounted for Targets: 11 (32nd)
Unaccounted for Carries: 50 (21st)

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Coaching Staff

Embarking on his third season as the Rams’ head coach, Sean McVay’s offense jumped from 10th to second in total yards last season and averaged three more points per game (32.9) after leading the league with a 29.9 mark in 2017. Only the Chiefs scored more points a year ago. Due to all of the success, McVay’s staff keeps getting raided by other teams looking for head coaches. Last offseason, the Titans and Raiders poached OC Matt LaFleur and QBs coach Greg Olson to run their respective offenses. And this year, it was QBs coach Zac Taylor who landed the head-coaching job for the Bengals. This is why it’s extremely important to have a head coach who calls his own plays like McVay does in L.A. The churning of the coaching staff doesn’t affect gameday operations as much as it would some other clubs. On the defensive side, DC Wade Phillips’ units have been leaky but have shown a bend-but-don’t-break resolve and played extremely well to end last season against the Saints and Patriots, even if the Rams lost the Super Bowl. Phillips continues to adapt to the new game despite his advanced age.

Passing Game

QB: Jared Goff, Blake Bortles
WR: Brandin Cooks, Josh Reynolds
WR: Robert Woods, KhaDarel Hodge
WR: Cooper Kupp, Mike Thomas
TE: Gerald Everett, Tyler Higbee

Another year removed from Jeff Fisher and a second under McVay, Goff took a big step forward in 2018, finishing fourth in yards (4,688) and sixth (32) in passing touchdowns while also raising his completion percentage to 64.9. Goff’s splits under pressure are troublesome, and the same is true for his home vs. road production, but there’s no question Goff is capable of winning and posting big-time numbers when he has the talent he does around him in L.A. Goff was the overall QB7 last year and 10th in fantasy points per game. The Rams lost a couple key offensive linemen in LG Rodger Saffold and C John Sullivan, replacing them with two inexperienced bodies, but Kupp is coming back from a torn ACL after missing half of last season. Kupp is huge for Goff both on third downs and in the scoring area. And with Kupp, Cooks, and Woods, the Rams have one of the best receiving trios in the sport. Goff has his doubters, but he could theoretically build on his already-awesome 2018. He’s been more than fine as a QB1 for fantasy and someone with which owners can win. He’s also playing for a second contract with just two years left on his current deal. McVay said Goff will be extended.

Acquired from the Patriots last year, Cooks’ first season with the Rams was a monumental success. He was four catches away from a career high with 80 grabs and set a new career best with 1,204 yards while scoring five times. Cooks finished just outside the top 12 as the WR13 in PPR leagues. Kupp’s return could affect Cooks’ target share, but this is an offense that can very easily support three wideouts when it barely uses its tight ends. The Rams would have to take multiple steps back for one reason or another for Cooks to not have another big year. Cooks somehow is still just 25 years old and won’t turn 26 until after Week 1.

Woods elevated his game multiple levels in 2018, bagging his first career 1,000-yard season with an 86-1,219-6 line, setting career bests across the board. He’s one of the most underappreciated wideouts in the league and is someone who is willing to do all the little things and the dirty work to be a great real-life player. Woods is a willing blocker and makes the tough catches in tight areas. His massive season was good enough for the WR10 finish in PPR formats. He just turned 27 in April and is very much in the prime of his career. Like Cooks, Woods shouldn’t be affected much, if at all, by Kupp’s return from ACL surgery. Reynolds simply will be phased back to the Rams’ No. 4 wideout and first in line if there’s any injury. Woods is as solid as they come as a fantasy WR2 with sneaky WR1 upside. Woods is currently being drafted as the WR17, which could again be viewed as a bargain by season’s end.

Kupp is the lone question mark in this passing offense. He started 2018 absolutely red-hot, compiling a 30-438-5 line over the first five weeks only to sprain his MCL and miss a couple contests. Kupp returned but later tore his ACL, seeing his season end with 40-566-6 through eight games. He was obviously on pace to be a third 1,000-yard wideout for L.A. who scored double-digit touchdowns. At the time of his injury, Kupp was pacing the Rams in red-zone targets as someone Goff leaned on heavily anytime the team was in the scoring area. Kupp did some individual drills this spring, suggesting he could gain clearance early this summer. Kupp should firmly be in the back end of the WR2 conversation as long as his rehab goes smoothly.

The tight end position simply hasn’t been a focus since McVay took over. Everett improved on his 2017 rookie season but still failed to top 50 yards in any of his 16 regular-season games and scored all three of his touchdowns in a two-game November stretch. Everett has talent, but he simply gets lost in the shuffle when there are bigger mouths to feed ahead of him. He’ll surely pop for a big game here or there, but those will be wholly unpredictable. Higbee had almost an identical 2018 as he had in 2017, seeing his catches go from 25 to 24, yards 295 to 292, and touchdowns one to two. He’s obviously not a fantasy option and is more of the inline blocker.

Running Game

RB: Todd Gurley, Darrell Henderson, Malcolm Brown
OL (L-R): Andrew Whitworth, Joseph Noteboom, Brian Allen, Austin Blythe, Rob Havenstein

Gurley is obviously the big question mark for the Rams. The unquestioned best running back in the league the first 10 weeks of last season, something happened injury-wise in the shootout with the Chiefs in Week 11. Despite a combined 105 points between the two teams, Gurley totaled 94 scoreless yards on 15 touches. Gurley rebounded the following week in Detroit for 165 yards and two touchdowns on 26 touches. But it was mostly downhill thereafter with Gurley sitting the final two games of the season. Something is going on with his knee, but the exact details remain mostly unknown. His trainer admitted Gurley is dealing with an arthritic condition in his surgically-repaired knee. The Rams have done their best to prepare for any potential Gurley absence, matching the Lions’ two-year offer sheet to Brown and then taking Henderson with a third-round pick. All reports have suggested the Rams plan to scale back Gurley’s workload in 2019. However, even a more lightly-used Gurley can be an elite fantasy weapon. This doesn’t necessarily spell doom for his outlook. Gurley’s upside is unmatched in McVay’s offense; the floor is the concern. Everything laid out makes Gurley more of a second- or third-round fantasy selection rather than the No. 1 overall pick he’d been sans knee concerns.

The No. 2 running back job will be one to watch very carefully this preseason. Most across the industry are simply assuming Henderson wins the job, and that’s evidenced by his skyrocketing average draft position (ADP) that has worked its way into the sixth round as the RB32. That’s extremely rich for someone who may not even be the sure direct backup to Gurley. And even if Henderson wins that job, it’s no sure thing Gurley will have his touches dialed back. But if Gurley does end up getting hurt and Henderson is the No. 2, then the upside is obviously there. It’s a risk-reward selection, and one that I’m not particularly willing to take right now. I’d much -- MUCH -- rather take the 14th-round stab at Brown. It’s a far more palatable price.

The Rams were lucky Whitworth decided to delay retirement and come back for another season because they watched longtime LG Rodger Saffold leave for a big-money deal with the Titans. Saffold was one of the best guards in the league last season, grading out as Pro Football Focus’ No. 5 left guard, checking in at No. 3 as a run blocker. Noteboom was a third-round pick in 2018 and played 78 snaps as a rookie. He’s a college left tackle being asked to step in at guard. Meanwhile, Allen was selected in the fourth round a year ago and played 36 snaps in year one. This is a very inexperienced duo. It’s a line that looks worse on paper, but the coaching staff has worked wonders with former UDFA Blythe and turned Havenstein into a top-end right tackle. OL coach Aaron Kromer is one of the best in the sport. It could work out seamlessly.

Win Total

The Rams’ win total sits at 10.5 in most spots with a decently-sized fee on the over (-140), which makes sense considering the Rams have won 11 and 13 games in McVay’s two seasons. L.A. obviously lost Saffold on offense, but that unit remains largely the exact same outside of Gurley’s questionable health. On defense, the team let Ndamukong Suh and Lamarcus Joyner walk as free agents and cut ILB Mark Barron. They added Clay Matthews and Eric Weddle. The division has gotten better with Arizona’s infusion of offensive talent and San Francisco’s return to health. At best, the Rams’ strength of schedule is neutral. They open at Carolina, vs. New Orleans, and at Cleveland. That’s a tough three-game set to start with, but the Rams have to be considered NFC favorites heading into training camp. Over 10.5 is the better bet.

 

Nick Mensio

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