From rags to riches, Jared Goff went from being perhaps the most
criticized quarterback in the league in 2016 and transformed himself
a respected and legitimate threat throwing the ball in 2017. Goff
saw one of the biggest increases in QB rating from one season
to the next of any player in NFL history. It’s probably
no coincidence that this sudden improvement happened right when
the Rams moved on from Jeff Fisher to Sean McVay, as this obviously
did wonders for the Rams offense as a whole. Goff saw perhaps
the biggest improvement of any player, though, as he benefited
from a more high-tempo offense and particularly saw some benefit
from a little-known rule that McVay was able to make use of. Coaches
can communicate with players until there are 15 seconds remaining
on the play clock and the Rams took full advantage of that rule.
Combine that with some quick play calling from the sidelines,
McVay was able to see the defense on the field and even call audibles
in Goff’s ear prior to the snap.
Certainly the Rams will look to continue to find ways to get
an edge on the opposing defenses, but with a full offseason to
prepare, defenses may opt to give Goff and McVay some faux looks
initially, only to shift once the play call reaches 15 seconds.
Goff is a smart enough player that he could presumably still make
the right changes to re-counter the defense before the snap, but
this is certainly an advantage the Rams had in 2017 that they
might not have in 2018.
A natural candidate for regression, Goff threw just 477 passes
this past season. The only other QBs who finished in the top-12
with fewer than 500 pass attempts were Carson Wentz, Cam Newton
and Dak Prescott. Wentz had historic levels of efficiency and
is likely in line for some regression of his own, while Newton
and Prescott both rushed for six touchdowns in addition to some
impressive rushing yardage totals. Unlike Prescott and Newton,
Goff’s 51 total rushing yards from 2017 show us that he
has a low floor if he has a slow day through the air.
In addition to these concerns, the Rams should be even better
defensively which traditionally leads to fewer passing attempts.
Unless he drastically improves his efficiency - which seems unlikely
- or is given the chance to throw the ball substantially more,
it seems unlikely that Goff will finish at or ahead of where he
did in 2017 when he finished as the QB12 in standard scoring formats.
Goff isn’t likely to ascend to the next level and become
a top passer in the league but fantasy owners should be confident
that the rookie season woes he had are now a thing of the past.
That’s a good thing for Goff’s long-term prospects
the rest of the Rams’ offensive weapons.
A monster rookie season saw Gurley drafted as a top five pick
in many fantasy drafts in 2016, which then led to major disappointment
as Gurley and the Rams offense couldn’t get things going
under head coach Jeff Fisher. Many fantasy owner refused to draft
Gurley going into 2017 because of the down season, but Gurley
made them regret that decision and reignited belief in fantasy
owners by turning in a MVP fantasy season in 2017 with nearly
2,100 total yards and 19 touchdowns.
While his receiving stats last this past season were propped
up a bit by a few dump offs which he took for big yardage, Gurley
has proven himself to be a reliable pass catcher and playmaker.
He was targeted 29 more times in the passing game in 2017 than
he was in 2016. The thing that didn’t change from 2016 to
2017 was Gurley’s usage on the ground. He had 278 carries
in 2016 while he got 279 carries in 2017. The big difference was
that the Rams offense as a whole was substantially improved which
allowed Gurley to increase his yards per attempt by a full 1.5
Now considered one of the top players heading into 2018, Gurley
is in line to see a heavy workload both as a runner and a pass
catcher, with the team not having invested much in the running
back position this offseason. Even in his significant down season
of 2016, Gurley finished as a mid-level RB2, which gives us a
glimpse at what would be his absolute worst-case scenario, presuming
he stayed healthy. The upside, as we’ve seen, is tremendous
with a player like Gurley. He’s one of the league’s
few remaining workhorse-type backs and that makes him a real contender
to again be a league-winner this season.
Malcolm Brown could enter the 2018 season as Todd Gurley’s
primary “handcuff,” for whatever that’s worth.
The fourth-year back saw 18 touches in Week 17 last season when
Gurley and the majority of the Rams offensive starters were sitting,
but was not overly impressive with those touches as he generated
just 61 total yards with no touchdowns. Of course, he presumably
would have been more efficient if the starters in the offense
were also on the field, but the overarching point here is that
he’s certainly no threat to Gurley’s touches.
Brown offers practically no value at all from a fantasy standpoint
unless Gurley gets hurt. In fact, Brown himself might see his
already limited number of touches go down due to the team drafting
rookie running back John Kelly.
A sixth-round rookie from Tennessee who scouts had wildly differing
opinions on, John Kelly enters a situation where he may see very
little playing time for the foreseeable future.
Some scouts saw Kelly as a top five back in the entire class
while others were turned off by his low yards-per-carry in college
and poor athletic testing at the Combine. Kelly was useful in
the passing game in his final season at Tennessee, however, catching
37 passes for 299 yards. He projects to be a pass-catching specialist
if he’s able to make the roster in Los Angeles.
Like fellow back Malcolm Brown, Kelly won’t get enough
playing time to be a fantasy consideration unless Gurley gets
injured. Even then, he and Brown would probably split time, with
Kelly potentially being the more interesting player to own due
to his pass catching upside. Still, neither player should be drafted
in most scoring formats unless it’s a very deep league and,
as a Gurley owner, you’re just looking to lock up the Los
Cooks finds himself in his third home in five seasons as a pro
after spending the first four years of his career playing with
future Hall of Famers Drew Brees and Tom Brady. He’ll now
move to Los Angeles where he’ll play with third-year quarterback
Jared Goff. While Goff certainly took a huge step forward in 2017,
it’s not a stretch to say that Goff will have a tough time
getting the ball to Cooks in the same way that Brees and Brady
While he’s finished as a WR1 numerous times, Cooks has
never surpassed 84 receptions, 1,200 receiving yards or achieved
double-digit touchdowns receiving in a season. He has, however,
been consistent in his production over the past three seasons,
going for between 1,082 yards and 1,173 yards and between seven
to nine touchdowns in each of those three seasons.
Cooks enters a crowded Los Angeles pass catching group which
saw both Cooper Kupp and Robert Woods catch 56-plus catches, along
with Todd Gurley who added 64 receptions of his own. Cooks presumably
replaces Sammy Watkins, who joined the team late in the offseason
and never seemed to get fully acclimated in the offense. Watkins
was targeted just 70 times in 15 games, but did lead the team
with eight touchdown receptions.
Given his track record and the fact that he’ll get to spend
an entire training camp with the Rams, Cooks should get a healthier
target share than Watkins did, but that still could limited him
to fewer than 100 targets. Cooks saw no fewer than 114 targets
in each of his past three seasons, playing with elite-level quarterbacks,
and he still didn’t put up elite fantasy numbers. Cooks
is typically being drafted somewhere around 15th-to-20th at his
position, so there is some upside here, especially if Woods were
to be injured at some point during the season.
Woods’ 2017 numbers don’t jump off the page on a
per-target basis, but he did excel in in one key area - QB rating
when targeted. On pass attempts from Goff to Woods, the duo managed
an impressive 114.9 passer rating in 2017. That’s good enough
for sixth-best of any duo in the entire league.
Woods only played 12 games but was on pace for 113 targets, which
would have led the team despite it being his first year in a Rams
uniform. Staying on that kind of pace for targets might be difficult
this season when you look at the track record of wide receivers
in Sean McVay offenses. In his four years as an offensive coordinator
or head coach, no player in a McVay offense has ever reached 115
targets in a season.
Brandin Cooks will almost certainly see more targets than Sammy
Watkins did in 2017, while Cooper Kupp could also see a bit of
an increase in targets now that he’s played a full season
in the league - both of these things would hurt the potential
target upside for Woods this season. Woods is not a bad bet to
end up leading the Rams on the year but that could still mean
that he sees fewer than 100 total targets on the season, which
will likely not be enough to allow him to ascend to much more
than a mid-to-low-level WR2.
In a draft class which featured the likes of Corey Davis, Mike
Williams, John Ross, JuJu Smith-Schuster and Zay Jones, it seemed
unlikely that a slot receiver going to a team that had previously
finished the season as one of the league’s worst offenses
could possibly lead all rookie wide receivers in catches. But
that’s what happened in 2017 when Cooper Kupp caught 62
passes for 869 yards and five touchdowns, while sitting out in
Week 17 as the Rams had nothing to play for.
As the Rams primary slot receiver, Kupp played more than 50 percent
of his snaps from the slot. This is good for consistency purposes
because we don’t have to worry about him transitioning into
a new role now that the Rams added Brandin Cooks, who primarily
Cooks will likely see a larger target share than Sammy Watkins
did, but that shouldn’t cut too much into what Kupp does.
The ceiling isn’t particularly high for Kupp given the average
depth of target that he sees as a pass catcher and the fact that
he isn’t a big time end zone threat, but Kupp does have
a decently high floor, particularly in PPR formats which makes
better use of his volume-over-big-play style.
Second-year tight end Gerald Everett is the tight end you’ll
want to take a chance on, if any, in the Los Angeles offense this
season. While third-year tight end Tyler Higbee is competition,
Everett is a substantially better athlete, but perhaps most importantly
was a player drafted by the McVay regime in the second round of
the 2017 NFL Draft.
That type of draft capital, combined with superior measurables
and a year of learning the system, should lend its way to Everett
seeing the field much more this season than he did as a rookie.
Everett was only on the field for 37.3 percent of the Rams’
passing plays in 2017, while Higbee was on the field for 48.7
percent of the Rams’ pass plays. Still, when he was on the
field, Everett saw a significantly higher target share than Higbee,
which leads us to believe Everett has the bigger fantasy ceiling
between the two.
Unfortunately, these two players will likely continue to vulture
one another’s work in the passing game which makes it tough
to trust either of them from a season-long perspective. They still
could have some value in DFS, though, particularly if the other
player misses time with an injury.