Rams Fantasy Preview

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2020 Stats (Rank)

Total Offense: 6,032 (11th)

Offensive Touchdowns: 39 (20th)

Offensive Plays: 1,088 (Third)

Pass Attempts + Sacks: 615 (14th)

Rush Attempts: 473 (Seventh)

Unaccounted for Targets: 176 (9th)

Unaccounted for Carries: 154 (8th)

Coaching Staff

This will be Sean McVay’s fifth season at the helm in L.A. His .672 win percentage (43-21) is second to only Bill Belichick among active NFL coaches with at least 40 games of coaching experience. His Rams have made the playoffs in 3-of-4 seasons, going 3-3 in the postseason with one NFC title, but it’s easy to see how much it’s gnawing at McVay that he’s been unable to win a Super Bowl to this point. A true perfectionist, McVay has experienced a ton of turnover on his coaching staff through four-plus years, some of it his own calls and some of it by other teams plucking his assistants in order to “find the next McVay.” McVay jettisoned longtime NFL coach and his first DC Wade Phillips following the 2019 season and hired little-known Broncos OLBs coach Brandon Staley to run his defense in 2020. Staley’s unit led the NFL in yards allowed, and Staley was promptly plucked to be the Chargers’ new head coach this offseason. Veteran coach Raheem Morris will now call the shots on that side of the ball, but it’s expected to be a combination of Staley’s scheme with a Morris twist. On offense, McVay has always called his own plays, and that’s a very valuable thing to have considering his offensive staff has been ravaged by other teams looking for help. Matt LaFleur, Zac Taylor, and Staley are all products of the McVay coaching tree. The Seahawks also hired McVay’s pass-game coordinator, Shane Waldron, as their new offensive coordinator over the winter. OC Kevin O’Connell enters his second year as McVay’s right-hand man. McVay’s offenses like to play fast and run a ton of plays. It’s a very friendly offense for fantasy production, especially when the QB plays well.

Passing Game

QB: Matthew Stafford, John Wolford

WR: Robert Woods, Van Jefferson

WR: Cooper Kupp, Nsimba Webster

WR: DeSean Jackson, Tutu Atwell

TE: Tyler Higbee, Jacob Harris, Brycen Hopkins

Stafford missed the second half of the 2019 season with a back injury, but he was able to return and start all 16 games last year. He only had No. 1 WR Kenny Golladay at his disposal for five games in what was sort of a ho-hum season for Stafford. Nothing really stood out, as he topped 4,000 yards for the eighth time and tossed 26 touchdowns. Throwing to the likes of Marvin Jones, Danny Amendola, T.J. Hockenson and Quintez Cephus, Stafford was fantasy’s QB20. Always at or near the top of the league in pass attempts early in his career, Stafford’s 528 attempts last season were 12th-most in a Lions Offense that ran the fifth-fewest plays. The Lions started over by firing GM Bob Quinn and head coach Matt Patricia, and trading Stafford was part of the rebuild. Detroit sent Stafford to the Rams in exchange for Jared Goff and draft picks. In L.A., he’ll play for offensive guru McVay and he gets to join an offense that likes to play fast and ran the most plays last season. Stafford will be throwing to a wideout trio of Woods, Kupp and newcomer D-Jax. Stafford is still in his prime at just 33 years old and gets major upgrades in the coaching department and skill-position groups. Woods, Kupp, Jackson, and Tyler Higbee are a better foursome than anything the Lions trotted out last season. With Stafford now under center instead of Goff, McVay is expected to be able to open his full playbook, utilizing Stafford’s cannon arm on downfield shots. Stafford definitely has a higher ceiling in the Rams’ offense, but his lack of rushing ability keeps him capped as a back-end QB1 for fantasy purposes. He’d need to throw 40-plus touchdowns in order to become a high-end fantasy starter. It’s certainly doable.

Woods saw his yards per target and yards per catch plummet in the Rams’ Goff-led offense last season. He still managed to see 129 targets, 15th-most in the league, and bounced back to score eight combined touchdowns, six as a receiver and two on the ground. A career-best 24-155-2 rushing line greatly contributed to Woods’ WR19 finish. Stafford’s addition should help 29-year-old Woods get back to the production we saw in 2018 and 2019, before defenses exploited Goff’s weaknesses and put the clamps on McVay’s system. After seeing nearly half of his targets from the slot in 2020, Stafford’s arm strength should allow Woods to produce as an outside receiver this season. His big play potential is far greater with Stafford. Last year, Woods had a meager seven targets of more than 20 yards downfield. He had 20 such targets two short years ago. One of the better real-life wideouts who is willing to do everything the position asks and then some, Woods should have a couple strong seasons left in him as a fantasy WR2.

A down year for the Rams’ passing attack created less-than-ideal conditions for Kupp, whose yards per target cratered to 7.9, a full 2.5 yards per target less than his career high. Goff killed the fantasy upside of every L.A. pass-catcher, including Kupp, who once again operated as the Rams’ slot receiver, seeing 64.2% of his targets from inside. Kupp is a candidate for positive touchdown regression after posting a TD rate of 3.2% in 2020. Kupp entered last season with 21 touchdowns on 283 targets, a robust 7.4% touchdown rate. He should benefit from an influx of speed to the Rams’ offense. DeSean Jackson, along with the threat of Stafford’s rocket arm, should help clear the middle of the field for Kupp. He certainly has the upside to produce a WR1 season as a red-zone dominator out of the slot. Kupp is currently being drafted as the WR21.

Jackson played in just 8-of-32 games for the Eagles the last two seasons but remained a legitimate downfield playmaker when on the field, averaging over 17.1 yards per catch on his 23 grabs in that span and scoring three touchdowns. D-Jax will turn 35 late this season and hasn’t played a full 16-game campaign since 2013. His last 1,000-yard season was with McVay in Washington when McVay was the team’s offensive coordinator. The Rams signed Jackson to a one-year deal after they trotted out maybe the slowest wideout group in the league last season. He should be the primary beneficiary of the Rams’ 32.6% vacated air yards from 2020. Jackson showed last year that he can still turn on the after-burners. D-Jax is the favorite to be the third wideout in three-wide sets alongside Woods and Kupp. His downfield usage will once again make Jackson a highly-volatile fantasy option best left for best-ball leagues.

After closing out the 2019 season on an historic tear, Higbee was primed for a breakout campaign. Unfortunately, Higbee was no exception to the Rams’ offensive struggles with Goff under center. Higbee managed just 521 yards, one yard short of his total from the final five games of his 2019. He routinely split snaps with Gerald Everett and packed the bulk of his fantasy points into four top-12 weeks. The Rams let Everett depart for Seattle in free agency and chose to replace him with rookie Jacob Harris, a WR/TE hybrid they selected in the fourth round. Los Angeles added Jackson via free agency and Tutu Atwell in the second round of the draft, but neither player figures to take meaningful targets away from Higbee. He projects to have a full-time role in an offense that just got a massive upgrade at quarterback with Stafford. Assuming the Rams return to their pass-happy ways, Higbee is a great bet to return TE1 numbers. He’s a post-hype proposition currently being drafted as the TE15 in fantasy.

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Running Game

RB: Cam Akers, Darrell Henderson, Jake Funk

OL (L-R): Andrew Whitworth, David Edwards, Brian Allen, Austin Corbett, Rob Havenstein

The Rams’ Week 1 starter after being taken in the second round of last year’s draft, Akers handled 14 carries for a measly 39 yards. He made it just three touches into Week 2 before injuring his ribs. When Akers returned in Week 5, it was as a backup to Henderson and plodding Malcolm Brown. Akers entered Week 12 with only 62 touches to his name. McVay finally made him the starter and he closed out the year as one of the league’s most dangerous backs despite fighting through a high-ankle sprain. Akers was the overall RB16 in half-PPR points per game Weeks 12-17. The Rams’ lone means of moving the ball during their two-game postseason run, Akers went berserk for 46-221-2 on the ground with three catches for 51 yards on three targets. "I think he's an every-down back, I think he's a very special player," McVay said of Akers over the winter. Akers caught all of 11 passes as a rookie, but that number could easily triple if the Rams treat him like a real bell-cow back. It’s something Akers showed he could do in college at Florida State, too. McVay won’t have to lean on the run as much with Stafford under center, but the quarterback’s presence will make life easier for Akers. He faced loaded boxes on a whopping 37.9% of his rookie snaps, the fourth-highest rate in the league. Akers could easily see 350 touches if he’s able to stay healthy for 17 games. Going as the overall RB11 in fantasy right now, Akers has top-six upside if everything breaks right. The Rams are annually near the top of the league in offensive plays. Todd Gurley scored 54 touchdowns for McVay from 2017-2019 as an All-Pro and legitimate MVP candidate.

At times, Henderson appeared to be the Rams’ best back last season, but that was early in the year before Akers was handed the keys to the car. Henderson’s performance both on the ground and through the air was vastly improved on his lost rookie year, but Akers very much appears to be the present and the future for L.A. Henderson did show well enough in 2020 that the Rams felt comfortable letting Malcolm Brown walk as a free agent, only drafting seventh-rounder Jake Funk as the team’s lone backfield addition. It’s a vote of confidence in Henderson as the clear-cut No. 2 who should get a couple series to himself each week. But don’t expect much more than RB4 production as Akers’ backup. However, Henderson looks like one of the better backups to stash on fantasy benches.

Win Total

The Rams’ win total is set at 10, second-best in the NFC behind only the defending champion Bucs at 11.5 wins. The juice is on the “over” at -130, so expectations are high for L.A. A Super Bowl trophy is the goal for this Rams (+1200) team now that Matthew Stafford is under center and the defense remains largely intact off its stellar season. The loss of DC Brandon Staley could definitely be felt, but the offense should be greatly improved. This NFC West division appears to be the best group of four in the NFL, however, so this is going to be a season-long fight. The 49ers are also pegged with a 10-win total, and the Seahawks aren’t far behind at 9.5 with the Cardinals bringing up the rear at 8.5 wins. Los Angeles’ out-of-division schedule includes home dates with the Bears, Bucs, Lions, Titans, and Jaguars, and road dates at the Colts, Giants, Texans, Packers, Vikings, and Ravens.