A Look Inside: 2021 Los Angeles Rams

The Rams have not been “The Greatest Show on Surf” since 2018. Last year, they were 11th in total offense (377 yards per game), 13th in passing offense (250.9 ypg), 10th in rushing (126.1 ypg), and way down at 23rd in points per game. That is less than the Detroit Lions and equal to the Trubisky/Foles-led Chicago Bears. The Rams paired their mostly above-average offense with the #1 defense in football for a moderately successful season, as compared to 2019. However, their scoring offense needs to improve if they want to make another run at a Super Bowl. A change at quarterback will surely help. That’s where we will start.

Note: You can follow the entire Look Inside series with this link and you can watch the full No Punt Intended episode on Youtube below with special guest Josh Brickner, writer for Dyntasy League Football and host of the Cleveland Sports Collective!

 

Quarterbacks

The Rams made quite the splash at QB this offseason. They traded away Jared Goff and more than one first-round pick to upgrade to Matthew Stafford. If you don’t think that’s an upgrade, listen to Sean McVay. He’s talking about having to literally script the entire offense for Goff. It’s like the offense had to have training wheels. Now, insert Matthew Stafford and a touchdown rate of over 5% in the last two years (compared to Jared Goff’s puny 3.6% and 3.5% touchdown rates the last two years, respectively). With the number of pass attempts from Goff the last two years, Stafford would have had 40 touchdowns in 2019 and 27 in 2020. Goff had a measly 42 passing touchdowns combined in the last two seasons. Given the number of attempts and yards, that was still enough to be the QB18 over that span. That’s merely streaming level, but that seems to be the basement for a full season from Stafford.

Stafford should thrive in this system with the weapons this Rams offense has. Cooper Kupp, Robert Woods, Cam Akers, and company are among the best team-based skill positions in the league. Stafford has passed for over 4,000 yards in eight of his last nine 16-game seasons. He has also been a top-10 QB in the league in six of his last ten years. One of those years, he only played eight games due to injury and was on pace for a top-5 season. It seems like a top-10 finish is pretty reasonable in this offense. I mean, after all, Jared Goff was QB7 in 2018 and had a top-12 finish in 2017. Given that Stafford was QB15 last year for the lowly Lions (who missed Kenny Golladay for most of the season), and the potential of this Rams offense, paying his QB10 ADP in the eighth round is worth it for the floor and the ceiling. His 17-game stats could equal 4,900 yards and 32 touchdowns, which is where I currently have him projected.

Running Backs

Cam Akers is one of the most polarizing players in this community during the offseason. There is a portion that loves him and loves the potential in this offense. There is also another big portion of the community that thinks he will be a bust and that he’s not worth his ADP. There is some credence to those arguments. Cam Akers currently has an ADP of 2.02 (RB11). He is going in the first round in some drafts too. He’s going ahead of Joe Mixon, Antonio Gibson, Josh Jacobs, David Montgomery, and others. That’s super risky for someone who didn’t have more than 33% of the snap count until Week 12. He dealt with some injuries and inconsistencies the first 11 weeks. Also, these rookies didn’t get a proper training camp either. That gives some credence as to why Sean McVay went with Malcolm Brown and Darrell Henderson early.

Once Cam Akers got his chance though, he did not disappoint. Between Weeks 12 and 17, Akers had a 16-game pace of 344 carries for 1,360 yards rushing. He was the RB18 in that stretch, despite only having one touchdown. Akers also went for 221 total yards and 2 touchdowns in the two playoff games. The potential is there for Akers to return on the ADP, despite the risk. Add to it that Malcolm Brown took his 101 carries to South Beach, and Darrell Henderson only had a 16-game pace of 72 carries after Akers had his coming-out party.

Cam Akers only had 14 targets in the regular season, but 10 of them came in the last three games. It was clear that once Akers got a hold of the offense, and was healthy, he was the workhorse. Now, add Stafford to the mix. Stafford gave rookie RB D’Andre Swift 57 targets. The RB position got over 100 targets in 2020 and that is not unlike 2019 either. Stafford gave the RB position over 90 targets with Ty Johnson and J.D. McKissic combining for over 70. Matt Stafford throws to the running back. Cam Akers had 69 receptions in three seasons at Florida State. No reason to believe he can’t be the lead target out of the backfield as well. I currently have him projected for 44 receptions.

Darrell Henderson is an interesting handcuff/standalone FLEX option. The Rams routinely have closer to 500 carries as a team, so there is plenty to go around. As previously mentioned, Brown and his 101 carries are in Miami. They only drafted a replacement in the 6th round. It is clearly the Cam Akers/Darrell Henderson Show. Henderson only had 136 attempts and 16 receptions last year and was the RB36. There is room to grow.

Wide Receivers

Cooper Kupp was the WR26 last year and a major disappointment for fantasy football. However, he did have 92 receptions for 974 yards. That’s a very good season for the Rams though. That comes off the heels of 94 receptions for 1,161 yards in 2019. The difference between 2019 and 2020 is touchdowns. Kupp had 10 touchdowns in 2019 and was the WR4. Kupp was on pace for 12 touchdowns in 2018 too, before his injury. However, the worst possible scenario happened for Kupp last year, with only three touchdowns. Stafford has a higher TD%, as noted above. He has supported a WR1 with only 65 receptions (Kenny Golladay – double-digit touchdowns). It’s reasonable to assume that Kupp’s touchdowns will come up under Stafford.

If touchdowns do come up, Kupp will be an immense value. If you take last year’s stats, and just substitute the 2019 TDs, Kupp would have been the WR10. Kupp’s ADP right now (from fantasyfootballcalculator), is WR20. That has value written all over it. Kupp only had 13 red-zone targets and two red-zone TDs last year. Marvin Jones had 14 and three for Stafford. That should give hope that Kupp’s TDs are about to improve. Take him in the fifth for that top-5 upside (without much risk).

Robert Woods is as much of a lock to be inside the Top 15 as anyone. Woods has finished there in each of the last three seasons with the Rams. He was the WR11 in 2018, WR14 in 2019, and WR14 in 2020. He was also very close to cracking the top 10 in each. This is all true despite not scoring very many touchdowns. Woods only has 14 receiving touchdowns in the last three years combined and 4 of those were rushing. This is because he’s averaged 130 targets a season and has been the ultimate safety blanket. This safe, consistent floor should continue as Everett and Reynolds are both gone. so are their 143 targets. Don’t expect a major jump for Woods, but that gives confidence that the 130+ targets will continue. Woods is the WR17 right in ADP. There’s not much risk to get a perennial top-15 receiver.

The other WRs on the Rams worth noting are Van Jefferson, DeSean Jackson, and Tutu Atwell. None of these WRs are worth drafting in redraft (Bestball or a weekly DFS dart throw is a different story). McVay doesn’t really use other wide receivers since Brandin Cooks left. There were 112 targets to Van Jefferson and Josh Reynolds last year and that’s it. That’s only an average of about 36-37 targets between the three of them. If anything happens to Kupp or Woods though, they are worth scooping from the wire.

Tight Ends

There was so much debate over this position in the community last year. Everett or Higbee? Could Higbee repeat his performance from the last five weeks of 2019? Will he bust? There were so many questions. The answer was that Everett and Higbee basically split the TE targets right down the middle. Everett had 62 targets and Higbee had 60. Everett is now out of town though. A rookie TE from Purdue joined the team last year as his “future replacement”.  Does this mean Higbee will be a value this year?  According to fantasyfootballcalculator, Higbee is going in the 12th round. So he’s basically free.

Higbee needs to be a value this year for everyone he burned last season. He was taken in the Top 8 at TE and finished outside of the Top 15. However, now that Everett is gone, there are 62 vacated targets. Higbee has a chance to be targeted way more than last year, even if the TE-target pie is smaller. His competition is Brycen Hopkins, who played just 2 snaps last year, and rookie Jacob Harris. Even if the TE-pie shrinks from 130 to 90, Higbee is a good bet to have at least 70 of those targets. I have him projected at 78 targets. His potential upside is worth the dart throw, even as a post-hype sleeper.

The Rams have the 2nd best odds in the NFC (per CBS) to win the Super Bowl. Have fun with this offense. Everyone is at a value except Cam Akers.