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Los Angeles Rams – 2019 A Look Inside

Contributions from Joshua Hudson, Chris Molina, Chris Tyler, & Joe Zollo

After trading out of the first round (they presumably wanted a Center, and all the good ones were gone), the Rams made some solid picks. Taylor Rapp, the Safety out of Washington, was my favorite safety in this class. He has a nose for the ball and goes sideline to sideline as well as anyone. His game tape is awesome and should help the team replace the production of Lamarcus Joyner, who signed a free agent deal with Oakland. The big pick though was in the third round- RB Darrell Henderson out of Memphis. Henderson can ball, but it makes us wonder- how concerned are the Rams about Todd Gurley’s arthritic knee? Henderson instantly becomes the number one fantasy handcuff. You know, if he can beat out Malcolm Brown and John Kelly. Should be easy, but stranger things have happened. Their other two third round picks — David Long and Bobby Evans — provide solid depth pieces. The Rams are loaded and needed reinforcements, something they accomplished in the first three rounds. – The Hudsonian, Joshua Hudson

How much do you trust Todd Gurley’s knee? That may be the most important question of the offseason. For anyone playing Fantasy Football. Seriously. Gurley has been the most dominant fantasy running back over the last couple of years and the announcement that he has (or is developing) arthritis in his knee — it’s quite discouraging. Luckily, the Rams have a good amount of depth behind him, with Malcolm Brown and third round pick Darrell Henderson. Goff has been a solid fantasy QB the last couple of years (QB8 and QB9 in 2017 and 2018, respectively), and he has a trio of talented pass catchers to ensure he remains a top 10 QB in 2019. Cooper Kupp, coming off an ACL tear, rejoins his top 20 brethren Brandin Cooks and Robert Woods to form arguably the best trio of wide receivers in the league. Gerald Everett had a few good games and has talent, but with so many mouths to feed in this offense, Everett is nothing more than a late round flier in Best Ball formats in the event any of the receivers succumb to injury. – The Hudsonian, Joshua Hudson

The Los Angeles Rams were a historic offense in 2018. They finished second to the Kansas City Chiefs in points-per-game and yards-per-game. I compared the Kansas City Chiefs to the Olympians of Greek folklore. If the members of the Kansas City Chiefs offense are the Greek Gods, then the Los Angeles Rams are the almost-as-cool Roman equivalent. McVay and Goff have another year to run the offense together. All four of the leading receivers from 2018 are back. The Rams spent a high draft pick on a highly-touted rookie RB to complement Todd Gurley. Both starting tight ends are back. Finally, the offensive line is ranked in the top 10 as per Pro Football Focus. Therefore, there is upside to be had across the roster. The upside is most significant for wide receiver Brandin Cooks, who will go to battle for you every week, almost as if he is the Roman God of War: Mars. Let me explain why.

For the last four years, Brandin Cooks has been the WR16, or better, from weeks 1-16. In 2015, Cooks was the WR11 after week 16. In 2016, Cooks was the WR7 in that same time-frame. In 2017, Cooks was the WR13. However, last year he slipped to the WR16 in that time-frame. That fantasy finish was the result of 80 receptions on 117 targets for 1,204 yards and five touchdowns.  The good news is that was Cooks’ fourth straight 1,000-yard season. More good news- Cooks’ 2018 season was eerily similar to his career average from 2015-2017. Those average numbers were: 76 receptions on 120 targets for 1,131 yards, and eight touchdowns a season. Mars – I mean Cooks – has gone to battle for fantasy owners every year.

That is the case despite Cooks’ touchdown numbers going from an average of eight down to five. However, Cooks did have plenty of opportunities to score touchdowns despite the low overall number. Jared Goff attempted 101 pass attempts in the red zone. Cooks had 15 red zone receptions and six 10-zone receptions. His 88.2% catch rate in the red zone was third in the NFL for pass catchers who received 10 or more red zone targets (17). The high catch rate and amount of receptions only resulted in a 20% conversion rate for touchdowns (three in the red zone; two in the 10-zone). You never know how the red zone targets will be spread around in a McVay system, but 17 out of 101 targets for a 20% market-share-receiver seems like a reasonably safe floor. That touchdown rate is bound to increase too, because Cooks will finally have an off-season in the same system with the same players. He went from New Orleans in 2016, to New England in 2017, and then to Los Angeles in 2018.

Right now, you can get Brandin Cooks at the fourth pick of the fourth round. He is going off the board as the WR16 on Sleeper mock drafts. That means he’s being valued right where he finished Week 16 last year. Remember, that was his worst mark from weeks 1-16 in the last four years. Also, don’t forget it’s because he only scored five touchdowns, despite 15 red zone receptions, and six 10-zone receptions. Cooks’ 17 red zone targets could also increase considering Gurley had 19 last year and his status is still somewhat up in the air for an entire season. Will his snap count go down? If so, by how much? Will he play all 16 games? Those are very important questions for the Rams, and it could allow Brandin Cooks some room to grow.

Therefore, if you want a Roman God on your team, then get the guy who will go to battle for you every day. Take Brandin Cooks (Mars) in the fourth round with the touchdown upside I described. Three more touchdowns last year would have put him at a WR1. He has finished Week 16 as a WR1 in two of the last four years. Safe floor, too. That’s a great combination in the fourth round for your likely WR2 or even WR3 (depending on how your first three rounds shake out). – Chris Molina

Yes, Todd Gurley is the downside, and it shouldn’t even be a question after he couldn’t get over some knee pain to play in the two biggest games of the season. Gurley has some of the best talent in the NFL, but has no desire to be on that field when it matters, and I seriously think that is going to hinder him this year. Do not be surprised if Gurley misses half the season due to “knee soreness.” And if you draft him, you better handcuff rookie Darrell Henderson with him.

I cannot sit here and tell you that Gurley doesn’t produce, because he does. I can’t write about how he is only a one-dimensional player, because he is not. The one thing I can write about is how the Rams drafted a running back in the third round this year, and that draft pick told me that they don’t believe Gurley can stay on the field. In his four-year career, Gurley has only played a full 16 games once and that was the season he ran for under 900 yards and only six touchdowns. When Gurley is on the field, he is going to produce. But with his ADP of RB8 right now, it is not worth the injury risk with this guy. Guys like Joe Mixon, Nick Chubb, and Aaron Jones are being taken after Gurley, and those guys can provide similar numbers and more injury security than Gurley can going into 2019.

I would not be feeling this way if the coaching staff did not blatantly lie about Gurley’s status throughout the playoffs and Gurley’s unwillingness to want to be on the field in the two biggest games of the year. Let’s not forget that people were talking about C.J Anderson like he could be a starter in the NFL again, so why couldn’t Darrell Henderson come in and replicate what Anderson did? After all, Henderson is younger, faster, quicker, and an all-around better running back than Anderson in his current state. Henderson tied DeAngelo Williams for the school record in rushing touchdowns in a season and became the second running back in Memphis history, along with Williams, to eclipse 3,000 career rushing yards and 1,900 yards in a single season. Most GMs and teams would not draft a viable backup, and even starter, in the third round with a guy like Todd Gurley at RB1 if they were not concerned about his health. Just saying. – Joe Zollo

If this were 2018, Todd Gurley would be the pick and I’d only need to write one sentence. Okay, maybe two. But with Gurley’s knee issues to close last year, and not a ton of encouragement displayed this off-season, the Rams need someone they can trust. After back-to-back top 20 finishes (on a fantasy points per game basis) among wide receivers, the perennially undervalued Robert Woods fits the bill.

Last season, Robert Woods had only one game where he scored less than 12 fantasy points in Club Fantasy scoring, and was tied for the eighth highest percentage of weekly top 24 finishes among wide receivers. Since coming to Los Angeles, Woods has been a consistent threat at the wide receiver position. Over the last two seasons, Woods has averaged more fantasy points per game, more receptions per game, and more targets per game than both Brandin Cooks and Cooper Kupp. In 2018, Woods led the team with a 23.1% target share. Before missing four games to injury in 2017, Woods was well on his way to topping 100 targets and leading the team. Cooks is the deep threat. Kupp runs a lot out of the slot, but Woods has his fair share of slot receptions (over 20% of his receptions the last two years have come from the slot).

Woods is the clear cut WR1 on this team as the do-it-all option and the one who has Jared Goff’s trust to move the chains. Woods’s current ADP has him going later than A.J. Green (already injured) and behind Brandin Cooks. I’ll definitely take Woods as the better value and be more than happy with his solid WR2 play with top 12 upside. – The Hudsonian, Joshua Hudson

If Darrell Henderson isn’t on your 2019 watch list, then you’re crazy. Henderson, if you didn’t know, was one of my top five running backs entering the season. He’s a solid runner with impressive vision and great footwork to extend plays out of the backfield. With impressive career stats at Memphis, how can you not respect him coming in? Running the ball a career 431 times for 3,545 yards and 36 touchdowns and receiving the ball 63 times for 758 yards and eight touchdowns shows he’s an impressive prospect. Now when you combine his talents with the Los Angeles Rams offensive line, believe me when I say draft him. The obvious is that he will be a back up to Todd Gurley (who is coming off of a knee injury), but he has star quality. If you’re looking for a RB2 — or at the very least someone on the bench — draft Darrell Henderson. He will not disappoint. – Chris Tyler

Darrell Henderson is definitely someone to keep an eye on because of Todd Gurley’s injury history, but someone that seems to be very undervalued in fantasy is Gerald Everett. Everett finished TE20 last season, which is saying he is a lower value bench player. This year, Everett could see a spike in targets. At some point, Jared Goff is going to have to target the tight end position, and Everett would be the number one target. Currently, in PPR leagues, Gerald Everett is being taken as TE31 in drafts. He is being taken after names like Darren Walker and Matt LaCosse, both of whom are projected to be backups in their respective offenses. Sure, Everett won’t be a top option in the offense, but he can be used as a viable backup who can fill in when the skill position players on the Rams inevitably get injured. – Joe Zollo

We are here to talk about one player and one player only, Aaron Donald. The best defensive, and possibly overall, player in the league is the only person on this defense that even matters. Donald has continued to be overlooked when it comes to fantasy football the past couple of years, and it blows my mind as to why. He is consistently at the top of the list when it comes to end-of-season points at the defensive linemen position in fantasy football, and he was just 12 points shy of first place last season. Something you get with Aaron Donald that many don’t think about is his health. Donald has only missed two games throughout his five-year career, and he has always wreaked havoc when he is on the field. Don’t hesitate to take Aaron Donald in the seventh or eighth round because his value spoke for itself last season. – Joe Zollo