Rams should be more intriguing for fantasy purposes than a playoff threat in loaded NFC West

Scott Pianowski, Liz Loza and Dalton Del Don
·6 min read

The Yahoo Fantasy analysts will preview all 32 NFL teams between now and the eventual start of the 2020 draft season. Here, we’ll tackle pressing fantasy questions, #FantasyHotTaeks, and team win totals. Next up, the Los Angeles Rams.

Todd Gurley is gone; the Malcolm Brown-Darrell Henderson Jr.-Cam Akers triumvirate remains. What’s your prediction for this backfield and how should fantasy drafters proceed?

Dalton: Henderson was a huge bust last season, while Akers enters the league already as the far better pass protector (something the Rams ask their RBs to do more than most teams), is coming off an impressive college campaign and is accustomed to running behind a poor offensive line. The Rams don’t have a good quarterback, but they do have Sean McVay, and Akers will be replacing a running back who led the NFL in touchdowns over the last two seasons despite missing multiple games and playing on one leg (and finishing last in yards per route run by a mile last season), so the rookie’s upside is extremely high in this system. Hopefully Malcolm Brown doesn’t ruin it.

Liz: The Rams have been steadfast in their commitment to Brown, as evidenced by matching the Lions’ offer sheet in March of 2019 and by the fact that he was second in team snaps last year. He may never be L.A.’s RB1, but he’s not going away.

Henderson is in possession of awesome burst and balance, but he was largely ineffective last season. He’s also still rehabbing an ankle injury that he sustained in mid-December.

Clearly, the Rams brass wanted to add depth to their backfield in the wake of Gurley’s departure and Akers’ suddenness paired with his ability to create (especially behind a woeful offensive line) captivated the team’s front office. The FSU alum is, therefore, likely to be the favorite for RB1 duties, but the wealth in this backfield figures to be shared. Sean McVay admitted as much in May.

Scott: I’ll consider Akers if where he goes in drafts is reasonable. Otherwise, there’s nothing much that interests me in this group. All context clues point to the Rams wanting Akers to be that guy, and that’s important.

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Cooper Kupp enjoyed a full-on breakout 2019 season en route to a top-five positional fantasy finish. Do you think his current ADP (43.2) is overvalued, undervalued, or just right?

Liz: Kupp managed 16 red zone receptions over 16 games last season (WR3). He also averaged 1 red zone catch per game in 2018. Goff’s desire to feed Kupp high-value looks is obvious, which is why he should be the Rams top-ranked receiver. Given the respective exits of Todd Gurley and Brandin Cooks, Kupp’s opportunity share figures to stay steady. Selecting him in the third round as a low-end WR1/high-end WR2 makes solid sense.

Scott: It’s just about right, though Robert Woods is a little more interesting to me if he gets a bump of touchdown regression (Woods is not the type of guy built for a 10-touchdown season, but something in the 5-7 range is doable, plus the tacked-on rushing production is lovely).

Dalton: That seems about right. Kupp’s playing time fell off dramatically down the stretch last season, but Brandin Cooks is gone, so that doesn’t figure to continue into 2020. The Rams will feature far more 12 personnel this season, so the big question is how Kupp performs outside of his usual slot role. But with a fading defense (and TD machine Todd Gurley gone), Robert Woods ignored in the RZ and in a division that should feature a bunch of high-scoring games, Kupp has top-five WR upside.

[2020 Draft Rankings: Overall | QBs | RBs | WRs | TEs | DST | Kickers]

Los Angeles Rams projected lineup.
Los Angeles Rams projected lineup.

Is Jared Goff the best 2020 example of a bad QB in reality, but one who can still help you in fantasy?

Scott: He’s solid in reality; not great, not bad. McVay is obviously the puppeteer. Goff is a solid option if you prefer to fill the quarterback spot on a budget. Boring value is my jam, so Goff is on my proactive-draft list.

And because there wasn’t any question tied to Tyler Higbee, I will pound the table for him here as his late-2019 run qualifies for Signature Significance. That genie is unlikely to go back in the bottle. He’s currently the TE9 in Yahoo pools, and has a great chance to outperform where he goes in drafts.

Dalton: Yes he is. Thanks to McVay, Goff is one season removed from posting a top-five fantasy QB season (despite a mediocre 0.6 CPAE) and finds himself in arguably a better situation to put up stats in 2020 with a declining defense, Gurley (and his 42 rushing TDs over the last three years) gone and the Rams being loaded with Robert Woods, Cooper Kupp, Tyler Higbee and Gerald Everett as receiving options. LA ranked No. 3 in Pace (situation neutral) last year with one of the league’s pass-heavy offenses, and Goff is one of only two quarterbacks in the league who has a pair of WRs in the top-20 and a TE in the top-10 in ECR, so his ADP doesn’t make sense.

Liz: Goff is an average to above-average QB who has the benefit of being paired with a wonderfully creative (but still relatively inexperienced) coordinator. He has a solid group of pass-catchers to drag his production, which is helpful since he won’t gift fantasy managers with rushing points. It’s his lack of mobility that keeps him outside of my top-15 players at the position, making him no more than a QB2 in redraft formats.

#HOTTAEK

Liz: As Scott pointed out, hyping Higbee is 100 percent necessary. Talk about a December to remember, the Western Kentucky product averaged 8.6 receptions and 104.4 yards per game from Weeks 13-17, posting a 43-522-2 stat line over the last month of 2019. That kind of production makes talk about L.A. using more 12 personnel quite believable. McVay maintains an undeniable fondness for Gerald Everett but given the team’s offensive changes Higbee should still see enough opportunities to keep him inside of the top-8 fantasy tight ends.

OVER/UNDER on 8.5 Win Total from BetMGM

Dalton: The Rams went all in recently and are paying for it now, with $38 million in dead money on Gurley and Cooks while also taking the NFL’s biggest cap hit ($36 million) this year on a QB who just posted an ugly -3.6 CPAE. At least their new stadium has this awesome double-sided video. I still believe McVay is a good coach and will produce a productive offense despite Goff, but this roster is overmatched in a loaded division, so give me the UNDER.

Follow Dalton: @daltondeldon

Follow Scott: @scott_pianowski

Follow Liz: @LizLoza_FF

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