The Juggernaut Index is our annual ranking and review of NFL teams for fantasy purposes — repeat: FANTASY PURPOSES. Here, we concern ourselves with a franchise’s likely contributions to the fantasy player pool. We are not concerned with projected wins and losses. Instead, we’re focused on yards and points. As always, we’re beginning with the league’s least useful teams, working our way toward the elite fantasy juggernauts.
Congratulations, Los Angeles. You finally did it. You reclaimed your team, so you’re back in the game.
Look now upon the new face of Rams football and despair …
No, actually the on-field face of Rams football in the season ahead is Todd Gurley, a rare talent even in a league full of freakish athletes. Gurley’s combination of vision, power, footwork and goal-line ability is almost unmatched among NFL backs. Check his rookie highlight reel if you need a reminder. He’s obscene. Gurley averaged 4.8 yards per carry and totaled 1106 rushing yards in a season that began just 10 months after he tore the ACL in his left knee.
If you want to draft Gurley No. 1 overall in a standard fantasy league, you’ll get no argument from me. He’s a monster, an elite talent, the centerpiece — and perhaps only serious piece — of L.A.’s offense. His O-line improved during the 2015 season, and it should benefit from year-to-year continuity. There’s no other player on the Rams’ backfield depth chart who deserves a significant share of the touches. (Benny Cunningham is probably the proper handcuff, given Tre Mason’s legal issues.)
Entering 2016, I’d say Gurley is the favorite to claim the NFL rushing title. As for the rest of this team’s offense … um … well, we’re not exactly dealing with the Greatest Show on Turf.
The Rams dealt away an incredible haul of draft picks to the Titans back in April, positioning the franchise to select Cal quarterback Jared Goff. We can debate whether any QB in this year’s class deserved to go first overall, but for a team determined to draft the position, Goff was the right call. He was much better than Carson Wentz to my eye, facing a higher level of competition. Goff completed 64.5 percent of his throws, gaining 8.9 yards per attempt and tossing 43 TD passes and 13 picks. Even in his worst game (at Utah, 5 INTs), he made impressive throws. He has a pro arm, great touch, and he was mostly terrific when pressured. Long term, Goff has a chance to be a very good NFL quarterback. Short term, you can’t touch him in fantasy leagues unless you’re playing in a two-QB format. He’ll be directing a run-first/run-second offense, and his receiving corps might just be the league’s worst.
Tavon Austin’s year-end numbers were nice enough last season (907 scrimmage yards, 9 TDs), but he only caught 52 passes, as his touches were split evenly between receptions and carries. He was also held below 50 scrimmage yards eight times. Basically, he’s a player you won’t mind owning in a best-ball format, where you get full credit for his occasional 90-yard, two-touchdown game. Austin isn’t a guy you want to lean on each week in a traditional fantasy league, however. Coach Fisher has made noises about Austin potentially doubling his receptions from 2015, but you can simply file that under “hilarious offseason nonsense.” This team isn’t likely to produce a 75-catch receiver, not after completing a league-low 273 passes last season on just 473 attempts. The combination of Jeff Fisher, a first-year QB and a quality defense is not really a perfect storm for passing stats.
Beyond Austin, the Rams’ receiving depth chart is stacked with bad ideas: Kenny Britt, Brian Quick, rookie Pharoh Cooper, et al. These guys are not to be drafted under any circumstances — not in an NFC West-only league, not anywhere. The same goes for veteran tight end Lance Kendricks and rookie Tyler Higbee.
If you find yourself tempted to draft any Rams receiver who isn’t Tavon Austin, just pull out your wallet, pay your league fee to the commissioner and walk away. You’re probably not winning anything, buddy.
Los Angeles’ defense might very well rank third in the division yet still top-ten (top-five?) in the NFL, which is kinda crazy. This group is loaded with high-end IDPs, notably Aaron Donald, Robert Quinn, Mark Barron, Alec Ogletree and Trumaine Johnson. Without question, you’ll be drafting this D/ST in standard fantasy leagues. The Rams open the season against the Niners, so this defense will be an immediate must-start.
And, again, you’ll play Gurley every week, without regard to opponent or field conditions. Leave all other Rams alone.
2015 Offensive Stats & Ranks
Points per game – 17.5 (29)
Pass YPG – 175.3 (32)
Rush YPG – 122.3 (7)
Yards per play – 5.2 (24)
Plays per game – 57.5 (32)