Three-Point Stance: Gurley, Austin fantasy action stars in LA LA Land

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Gurley is a no doubt first-round pick, but where does he stack up against other elite RBs? (Getty)
Gurley is a no doubt first-round pick, but where does he stack up against other elite RBs? (Getty)

Swapping the muddy Mississippi and humidity of St. Louis for the glitz, glam and perpetual sunshine of Southern California, the Rams are back in Los Angeles after a 22-year departure. In this edition of ‘The Stance,’ fantasy critics Brad Evans and Liz Loza offer their reviews of Hollywood’s newest darlings.

[Yahoo Fantasy Football is open for the 2016 season. Sign up now!]

Le’Veon Bell’s expected four-game suspension further complicated matters at an already uncertain RB position. As a result, Todd Gurley, off a four-star rookie season, is largely viewed as one of, if not THE, safest RB on draft boards. Rank the following in order of predicted finish: David Johnson, Ezekiel Elliott, Todd Gurley, Lamar Miller and Adrian Peterson. Briefly explain your reasoning.

Liz – GURLEY, JOHNSON, ELLIOTT, PETERSON, MILLER

1) Gurley is a beast of a talent who’s running in a ball control offense with zero options behind him. I understand that opposing defenses will try to expose a rookie QB and stack the box, but I think Gurley’s volume, experience, and studliness will keep him producing.

2) Make no mistake, David Johnson is going to get fed, but with Andre Ellington and Chris Johnson available to spell him his touches may not be as robust as Gurley’s. Furthermore, his sample size is considerably smaller and so I have to give the edge to the Rams’ back.

3) In possession of ideal size and speed, Zeke has a do-it-all skill set. Absolutely love this dude. But he is a rookie and it’s not out of the question that he’ll be eased into the season.

4) I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again… AP is half man and half Lamborghini. But the odometer reading is high, and his age started to show towards the end of the 2015 regular season.

5) In an offense poised to – and unafraid of – leaning on a single RB, Miller has next-level appeal in 2016. That said, in the NFL transitions are rarely seamless.

Brad – DJ, ZEKE, MILLER, GURLEY, AP.

1) Johnson is the Optimus Prime of running backs. His ability to transform from between-the-tackles grinder to lethal receiver makes him employable in all facets. Remember, when deployed as the featured back last year (Weeks 12-17) he averaged 17.5 fantasy points per game in Yahoo default leagues, tops at RB over that span.

2) People who ‘fear the unknown’ are going to miss out on an ultra-elite RB. Zeke is that player. Behind arguably the league’s nastiest offensive line, the rookie, who is blessed with plus across-the-board skills, is sure to carry the lunchbox some 18-22 times per game. I would be shocked if he fell short of 1,500 combined yards and 12 touchdowns. And, no, I’m not panicking about a little hamstring strain diagnosed on August 3. He has oodles of time to recover.

3) Finally loosened from the clutches of Dolphins conservatism, Miller is about to establish career benchmarks in every category. He’s essentially the new Arian Foster, a three-down dreamboat who just may flirt with 2,000 combined yards.

4) Too low? Negative. Gurley is a violent, downhill runner with characteristics akin to Peterson. His 2.9 YAC ranked No. 6 at the position. With zero competition for touches, he’s sure to be a high-volume back. However, concerns about the offensive line and persistent stacked boxes signal a good, but not great, 2016. Recall when faced with several eight-man fronts Weeks 9-17 last season, he averaged a pedestrian 3.9 yards per carry.

5) I’m growing increasingly convinced Peterson is not of this world. On the surface, his rushing title was nothing short of extraordinary. So were his secondary stats. No one evaded more tackles than him. Still, his advanced age, limited pass-catching role and generally unappealing environment push him to No. 5.

Many believe Jeff Fisher was chugging the silly sauce when he predicted earlier this summer Tavon Austin would catch 100 passes in 2016. Tossing water on that fearless forecast, OVER/UNDER 74.5 receptions for Tavon this year.

Liz – UNDER. 100 total touches? Absolutely. 100 (or even 74) receptions? No way. The Rams attempted the third fewest (473) passing plays in the league last year, coming in dead last in terms of actual completions (273). While I dig Jared Goff, I highly doubt – that as a rookie – he’s going to significantly improve on those stats. Nor do I buy that Jeff Fisher is interested in creating some sort of aerial attack.

Austin is a gadget player with incredible speed. Yes, I can believe he’ll be more involved, but I just don’t see him catching five balls per game (80 receptions). Give me 59-561-5 TDs via the air and 55-423-2 on the ground.

Brad – OVER. Ok, Fisher was clearly shooting tequila when he declared Austin a 100-catch candidate. That’s sheer craziness. However, 75-80 catches are a definite possibility. The slippery receiver is a textbook safety valve for the young, inexperienced Goff. OC Rob Boras is sure to draw up plentiful high-percentage screens, slants and hooks for No. 11. Around 1,000 combined yards with 8-10 scores for Tavon isn’t the Mexican Love Juice talking.

Outside of Austin and Gurley, most fantasy owners, even those in 30-team leagues, are ignoring the Rams. Glancing at the rather unexciting roster, what DEEP sleeper has the best chance to graduate from the waiver wire this fall?

Liz – LANCE KENDRICKS. Admittedly, Kendricks’ hands aren’t great. Up until this point in his career he’s primarily thrived as a blocking TE. But he did close out 2015 catching all five of his targets in the Rams’ Week 17 loss to San Francisco. Additionally, Jared Cook (who was second in team receptions with 39 grabs last season) is now in Green Bay. Furthermore, the organization recently re-signed the former Badger to a four-year $18 million deal… so they must have a vision for him.

At 6-foot-3 and 243 pounds, Kendricks has good size and a respectable catch radius. As TEs often serve as security blankets for developing signal callers (especially in the red area of the field), the 28-year-old is in line for an increased role.

Brad – BRIAN QUICK. Remember this cat? Two seasons ago the Appalachian State product displayed flashes of consistent WR3 returns. In seven starts, he caught 25 balls for 375 yards and three touchdowns, a respectable 57-857-7 pace. His 16.3 average depth of target and 10.1 yards per target each ranked top-10 at wide receiver position. Sadly though, the shoulder injury that cut short his 2014 greatly hampered his follow up campaign. On the back burner in 13 games last season, he caught only 10 passes for 102 yards and failed to find the end zone.

Quick made vast improvement according to Jeff Fisher throughout the OTA period, a promising sign. Still in his physical prime at 27 and equipped with plus height and adequate speed, he could quietly bounce back. His competition – Kenny Britt, Pharoh Cooper and Mike Thomas – isn’t exactly a murderer’s row.

Bull rush Brad @YahooNoise and Liz @LizLoza_FF on Twitter.