High-level fantasy production in both 2017 and 2018 led to Jared
Goff having some hype as a potential top five fantasy QB in 2019,
but it just didn’t fall that way for a variety of reasons.
Many will argue that the Rams’ offense coached by Sean McVay
has been “figured out” by NFL defenses and while that
certainly may be contributing to the steep scoring decline that
the team saw from 2018 to 2019, it should also be noted that the
team was banged up and the offensive line continues to crumble in
front of Goff. Still, some of the blame for the Rams scoring 133
fewer points in 2019 than they did in 2018 has to fall on Goff himself
and the sudden spike up to 16 interceptions that he threw.
On a positive note, Goff did lead the entire NFL with 626 pass attempts
in 2019 and he was able to salvage a top-12 fantasy QB season on
sheer volume alone as he eclipsed 4,600 passing yards for the second
straight season. While we shouldn’t project him to throw the
ball that much again this season, the Rams offense will likely still
be built on a high play per minute ratio, which should lead to Goff
again being near the top of the league in pass attempts. He will,
however, be without Brandin Cooks and the team really did not bring
in any sort of significant replacement for him, so don’t look
for the offense to be constructed the same way that it was in McVay’s
first few seasons with the Rams. We saw in 2019 some of what we
should be expecting this season with fewer downfield pass attempts
and more underneath throws to possession receivers and tight ends.
Goff lacks the rushing credentials to be a truly elite fantasy
quarterback in today’s game, but he’s currently being
selected outside the top 20 quarterbacks in many drafts. There’s
very little chance that he finishes below his ADP right now which
should make him an ideal target as an ideal later-round QB2 in
two-QB or superflex formats.
With Todd Gurley now off in Atlanta, the Rams were expected to
make a move to bring in some sort of competition for the lackluster
backs they had on their roster. They did that by selecting Florida
State running back Cam Akers in the second round, which was actually
their first pick in the 2020 NFL Draft.
Akers broke out as a freshman, rushing for over 1,000 yards on above
5 yards per carry behind one of college football’s worst offensive
lines. While he never really had the truly monster rushing production
that most top two-round running backs provide, he was one of the
more productive pass catchers out of the backfield in this year’s
draft class. The Rams had leaned heavily on Gurley in the passing
game in previous seasons, but practically completely abandoned that
in 2019 as it became apparent that Gurley’s body was no longer
capable of producing the flashy plays we had seen from him earlier
in his career as a receiver.
Akers is not a one-for-one replacement for Gurley by any means and
there’s plenty of reason to believe that he’ll have
to fight for playing time against both Malcolm Brown and Darrell
Henderson, but he is a player that the team invested significant
draft capital in, so it should be assumed that he’s going
to be the team’s top producer at the position even this season.
That may not happen quite as quickly as some would hope, however,
as the NFL training camp situation could lead all rookies to be
less prepared than we’re used to. Of course, running back
is probably the easiest fantasy-relevant position for a rookie to
pick up, but that still doesn’t mean that Akers is just going
to start the season getting 20 touches per game.
The other thing that fantasy owners need to keep an eye on regarding
Akers and the entire Rams backfield is that, on paper, the Rams
face an extraordinarily difficult schedule of opposing run defenses.
Those numbers can certainly fluctuate some from season to season,
but it’s never a good thing when you look and see that your
fantasy running back is facing a top 10 run defense seemingly every
Akers does have some potential value if he ends up being the team’s
primary back, but we just don’t know if that will be the
case, so there’s risk in drafting him where he’s currently
being selected as he may end up simply being the best player in
a multi-back committee on a pass-heavy offense. That’s not
a great recipe for consistent fantasy production.
One of the most over-drafted players in all of fantasy in 2019,
Darrell Henderson shot up draft boards throughout last offseason
when many believed him to be the Todd Gurley replacement. Reports
indicated that Gurley was dealing with a recurring knee injury and
that he could be phased out of the offense as early as that season.
That appeared to be even more clear when the Rams selected Henderson
in the third round of the 2019 NFL Draft.
Henderson, however, was fantasy football’s biggest busts as
he saw just 43 total touches as a rookie while failing to exceed
even 150 rushing yards on the entire season as the Rams continued
to utilize Gurley as their primary back in practically all situations.
There’s still belief in some circles that Henderson could
be an every-down NFL back, but the Rams obviously don’t view
him as that as they invested a second round pick this offseason
on Cam Akers. A committee backfield seems practically inevitable
in Los Angeles and that’s just not very exciting given that
the Rams offensive line situation is still quite ugly.
Another concern with the Rams backfield is that Henderson and veteran
Malcolm Brown weren’t even productive in 2019 despite Gurley’s workload
being significantly reduced in comparison to previous seasons. Henderson
finished with 3.8 yards per carry, caught just four passes on the
season and didn’t flash much in the way of big play upside as a
rookie. It was on a small sample size so there’s still reason to
have hope for the future, but Henderson seems destined to be - at
best - the second option in a committee backfield for the Rams this
The Cooper Kupp vs. Robert Woods debate is one that will leave
plenty of fantasy owners scratching their heads heading into 2020,
but it may be more straightforward than some are making it out to
We know that the Rams are likely going to have to pass the ball
quite a bit, so both Woods and Kupp are in line to be consistent,
productive fantasy weapons regardless of how things play out, but
there could very well be a shift in offensive setup happening in
Los Angeles. We saw some of it in 2019 when the Rams offensive line
was struggling to protect Jared Goff and open up holes for the running
game, which led to the team shifting their offensive personnel groupings.
Previously they were among the heaviest utilizers of three-receiver
sets in the league when they would deploy Woods and Brandin Cooks
on the outside with Kupp in the slot, but they began to shift to
an offensive set that utilized just two wide receivers while adding
a second tight end on the field. This helped bolster the protection
for Goff, increased efficiency in the running game, but it also
led to some big performances for Woods down the stretch.
While he failed to exceed 90 yards in seven of his first eight games
in 2019, Woods blossomed in the second half of the season when he
produced five 90-plus yard games in his final seven contests. Most
importantly, he saw no fewer than nine targets in a game over those
final seven games.
Woods was also quite unlucky in the touchdown department as he scored
just twice despite catching 90 passes for 1,134 yards on the season.
His frame isn’t built to be a mega touchdown scorer by any means,
but two scores on that type of volume is an extreme outlier that
would almost certainly return closer to six or seven scores if he
produced those yardage and reception totals here in 2020. Adding
just a few more scores alone would shoot Woods up the wide receiver
rankings, but there’s a real chance that he actually sees more targets
in 2020 than he saw in 2019 now that Cooks is off the roster. Sure,
the Rams did invest a third round pick in Van Jefferson and Josh
Reynolds is still on the roster, but neither of those players
is likely to command anywhere near the type of target share that
Cooks did, so banking on a healthy Woods to produce at least what
he did in 2019 seems quite safe, with added upside of finishing
as a top-12 player at the position.
While Robert Woods was the unlucky one in the passing game with
only two touchdowns on 90 catches, slot receiver Kupp blew up with
his first 10-touchdown season in 2019 and he did so on 94 catches
for 1,161 yards. Fantasy owners who took a chance on Kupp, who was
being drafted third on his own team among wide receivers heading
into 2019, were rewarded as he finished as the fantasy WR4 overall.
What’s interesting about Kupp’s game log, however, is
how and when his production came. He did the vast majority of his
reception and yardage damage in the first half of the season as
he caught 58 passes for 792 yards and five touchdowns over his first
eight games. That alone would be a quality fantasy season for many
wide receivers and it could be argued that Kupp was the most valuable
receiver in fantasy up to that point, given his ADP heading into
It was around that point, however, when the Rams began to shift
their offensive scheme toward heavier sets. While this affected
Brandin Cooks the most, it also affected Kupp not only in snap
share, but more importantly in target share. Kupp had averaged
nearly 11 targets per game through the Rams’ first eight
games, but that number shrunk all the way down to just under six
targets per game in the Rams’ final eight games.
Certainly getting Cooks entirely out of the offense should lead
to more opportunities than Kupp was seeing in the second half of
2019, but it just doesn’t seem likely that he’s going
to get back to near the 11 targets per game that he was seeing when
he was producing high-end WR1 numbers in the first half of 2019.
He can still be productive on something closer to eight targets
per game, but don’t expect the type of per-target efficiency
that he was producing down the stretch as his low volume and low
yardage totals were being propped up by an unsustainably high touchdown
ratio. Kupp failed to exceed 65 receiving yards in seven of the
Rams’ final eight games, while scoring a touchdown in five
separate contests. There are some receivers who just have a “nose
for the end zone,” but that number is quite high even for
those type of players.
The reality is that the Rams may end up running more 12-personnel
in 2020 than they even did in 2019, which would mean a shift to
the outside for Kupp, who has been the Rams’ dynamite weapon
out of the slot since he came into the league. It’s not
that Kupp is incapable of producing in an outside role, but he’s
certainly better suited to play out of the slot, so expect more
fluctuation in his numbers than what we’ve seen from him
throughout his short career thus far.
With the second of their 2020 second-round NFL Draft, the Rams
selected wide receiver Van Jefferson. The move came in conjunction
with the assumption that Brandin Cooks would be moving on this offseason,
and he did.
While the Rams have historically been extremely heavy in utilization
of three-WR sets under head coach Sean McVay, they saw success in
shifting toward a heavier 12-personnel grouping in the second half
of 2019. That doesn’t necessarily mean that the third WR in
Los Angeles won’t see some playing time, but it’s also
worth considering that Jefferson will have to battle with veteran
out Josh Reynolds for whatever playing time the third WR does get.
That doesn’t sound difficult given Reynolds’ lack of
name value, but Reynolds has flashed production at times when he’s
been given an opportunity and he does know the offense, unlike Jefferson.
Jefferson is more of a dynasty selection than he is someone to
look for production from as a rookie, but there is a world where
he ends up being a starter across from Robert Woods as early as
2021. Cooper Kupp becomes an unrestricted free agent after this
season and if the Rams do end up finding success with two-WR sets,
he may end up being a player that the Rams opt to move on from.
That could mean a great opportunity for Jefferson who is probably
better suited to play outside and make blocks in the running game.
If you’re looking for a player who came out of nowhere and became
a league winner down the stretch at the tight end position in 2019,
look no further than the Rams’ Tyler Higbee. Typically considered
the second-best fantasy TE on his own team over the previous few
seasons, Higbee absolutely exploded once teammate Gerald Everett
went down with an injury. Higbee hadn’t gone over 50 yards in a
single game since Week 11 in 2018, but ended up rattling off four
straight 100-yard games capped off by an 84-yard game over the Rams’
final five contests.
Needless to say, fantasy owners of Higbee’s late season
heroics and he’s now being drafted inside the top 10 at
the tight end position for the first time in his career. Meanwhile,
Everett is still going undrafted in almost all formats, as he’s
outside the top 25 fantasy TEs on most ADP data.
There’s certainly a possibility that Higbee again ascends
into fantasy dominance if the right set of circumstances arrive,
but it’s worth considering that Everett out-produced Higbee
in 2018 and 2019 prior to getting injured. Perhaps the Rams just
didn’t know what they had in Higbee, but it seems more likely
that his production is a small sample size trap that will lead
to disappointed fantasy owners here in 2020.
Now the forgotten tight end in this offense, Gerald Everett is
a player who fantasy owners should be looking into more than they
are at the moment, if for no other reason than that he’s been
the better fantasy player than Higbee throughout their careers when
they’ve both been on the field.
Higbee’s gigantic five-game stretch in 2019, when Everett
was out, was better than anything that either player had produced
for an entire season up to that point, but there’s still a
real possibility that Everett ends up being the better fantasy tight
end - particularly in terms of draft cost - between the two.
Everett is a far superior athlete who had out-snapped Higbee by
a total of 436 snaps to 354 snaps prior to Week 13 in the 2019 season.
He was also the better fantasy producer during that time, even though
neither player was very fantasy relevant. The big difference is
that Higbee played practically every snap for the Rams while Everett
was out and that led to a huge jump in target share. If both players
are healthy, it’s entirely possible that Everett comes close
to or even out-scores Higbee in 2020.
It’s not often that there are two fantasy-relevant tight ends
on the same roster, but if the Rams do end up sticking to the 12-personnel
that they had success with in 2019, there’s a possibility
that the Los Angeles duo of Higbee and Everett both end up finishing
as top-15 players at the position.
Don’t bother drafting Everett in anything other than oddball
leagues where you’re forced to start more than one TE, but
keep an eye on his playing time. If he’s on the field and
seeing targets, and Higbee suffers an injury, he could end up
producing some real nice numbers just like Higbee did down the
stretch this past season.