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2023 Player Outlooks: Los Angeles Rams

By HC Green | 6/27/23 |

QB Matthew Stafford
(2022 QB Rank: No.32, 16.8 FPts/G)

While Stafford was coming off the best season of his career (4,886 yards passing, 41 TDs, and a Super Bowl ring), there were less-than-ideal medical reports throughout the offseason that suggested the veteran wasn’t where he (or the team) wanted him to be physically heading into 2022. As it turned out, the balky elbow that made him a risky selection for fantasy owners would be one of his lesser worries, which is never a good thing.

It began in Week 1, when Stafford absorbed seven sacks and tossed three INTs in a primetime beatdown at the hands of the Bills. Things seemed to stabilize a bit in Week 2 when he passed for 272 yards and three TDs, but that was fool’s gold, and Stafford would only pass for more than one TD in a game once the rest of the way. Concussions and a neck injury brought his season to a merciful end on Nov. 20 with Stafford finishing with 2,087 yards passing, 10 TD, and 8 INTs in nine games -- that marked just the second time in the past dozen campaigns that he missed time due to injury.

Retirement was broached during the offseason, but Stafford, who was able to avoid surgery for the spinal cord contusion that led to him being shut down, elected to return for a 15th season. That answered one question, but many remain, all of which really boil down to this: how much does the 35-year-old have left in the tank?

The Rams’ once-potent offense is short on established playmakers, and the offensive line will primarily be relying on a mix of unproven youth and veterans looking to turn the page on injury-filled seasons of their own. Yes, Cooper Kupp is still around, but beyond that it’s unclear where Stafford can turn. While you can’t count out Sean McVay’s ingenuity, Stafford is no more than a mid-range QB2.

Cam Akers

RB Cam Akers
(2022 RB Rank: No.41, 9.7 FPts/G)

A torn Achilles’ kept Akers on the shelf for nearly all the regular season in 2021, but he returned to serve as the team’s primary back during the Super Bowl run. Back at full health, the Rams expected Akers to serve in that role throughout 2022. Instead, he worked behind Darrell Henderson out of the gate and was publicly called out by McVay about a lack of urgency. The relationship between club and player deteriorated to the point that Akers was made a healthy inactive while the team looked to move him before the trade deadline.

The two sides ultimately reconciled, and the former Seminole put together some decent performances down the stretch, highlighted by three consecutive 100-plus-yard outings to close the year. It’s like 2020 when the then-rookie took over as RB1 over the final month and into the postseason, fueling hype for a breakout that was derailed by the Achilles’ injury.

Entering Year 4, it’s still not clear what the Rams have in Akers. He has flashed game-changing ability, but he’s been unable to sustain it. Despite playing in a typically pass-happy offense, he’s never shown any aptitude as a pass catcher, managing just 27 receptions in 29 career games. Still, Akers has drawn praise during the offseason from McVay, who said the back will be a “central figure” on offense. He’s a risk/reward RB3.

RB Kyren Williams
(2022 RB Rank: No.97, 3.8 FPts/G)

As with many of LA’s skill players, Williams’ season was undermined by injuries. First, he broke his foot during the offseason. Then, he sustained a high-ankle sprain in Week 1 that landed him on IR. He got his first NFL carry on Nov. 13 and saw a combined 44 touches over the final eight weeks, so he enters his sophomore campaign very much an unknown at the NFL level.

He’ll face camp challenges from veteran Sony Michel, who led the Rams in rushing in 2021 and was recently re-signed, and sixth-round pick Zach Evans. Whoever emerges from that as the backup would be a watch-list addition or maybe even a late-round stash in deeper leagues given Akers’ spotty history and pending free-agent status that could lead to LA entertaining trade offers once again. For now, it appears Williams has an early advantage.

WR Cooper Kupp
(2022 WR Rank: No.1, 22.6 FPts/G)

How heavily involved was Kupp on offense last season? He missed the final eight games of the season after suffering an ankle injury and still led the team in receptions (75) and receiving yards (812) while his six TDs were second only to Akers (7). His full-season pace: 142 catches, 1,534 yards, and 11 scores. The 30-year-old is one of the toughest covers in the league thanks to his precise route running, and he has the complete trust of Stafford and McVay, so he’ll always be a focal point offensively.

As good as Kupp is, however, we saw last year how a lack of options around him had an adverse effect. After averaging 13.4 yards per catch in Stafford’s first year with the club, that dipped to 10.8, which was the second-lowest of his career. His number of big plays (defined as receptions of 20 yards or more) also cratered -- 30 of his 145 catches in 2021 fit that designation, which was good for nearly 21 percent, while last year that fell to 11 of 75, or 14.7 percent.

Despite some worrisome trends, Kupp is such a high-volume target that he deserves to be in the discussion for which receiver should be selected first in drafts. When considering age and upside, Justin Jefferson looks like the overall WR1, but after that you can absolutely go with Kupp ahead of the likes of Davante Adams, Ja’Marr Chase, and Tyreek Hill.

WR Van Jefferson
(2022 WR Rank: No.73, 7.9 FPts/G)

After posting a 50-802-6 line in his sophomore campaign, Jefferson looked like he was on the cusp of becoming a 1,000-yard receiver for Stafford and company. Instead, he underwent knee surgery early in training camp and wouldn’t make his 2022 debut until Oct. 30, meaning he only shared the huddle with Kupp and Stafford for three games. Even taking that into account, the results weren’t pretty for the Florida product as he finished the season with just 24 catches for 369 yards and 3 TDs.

Jefferson is entering a critical time in his young career as he’ll be a free agent after the season and could be in line for a payday if he can stay healthy and prove he’s a legitimate starting NFL receiver. Looking at the depth chart after Kupp, there’s nothing standing between Jefferson and a major role -- he finished second on the club in receiving in 2021, and that was when he had to share snaps with Robert Woods and Odell Beckham Jr., so his ceiling should be higher in 2023. He’d be an interesting late-round flier as your fifth or sixth fantasy wideout.

Other names to know at the position include Ben Skowronek, who looked like a poor man’s Kupp last season with 39 receptions for 376 yards in 14 games before a calf injury put him on the shelf, and Tutu Atwell, a 2021 second-round pick that has done precious little since being drafted. Veteran Demarcus Robinson was also signed after a 48-catch season with the Ravens, and he seems like a fallback option in case none of the younger receivers step up. Nobody here is worth drafting.

TE Tyler Higbee
(2022 TE Rank: No.12, 9.5 FPts/G)

In a year when seemingly everyone got injured for the Rams, Higbee appeared in all 17 games. It was par for the course as the veteran has missed just four games in seven seasons. While not among the NFL’s most explosive tight ends, Higbee is steady, averaging 62 receptions, 609 yards, and 4 TDs over the past four years. While the Rams did trade for Hunter Long in the Jalen Ramsey deal and spent a fifth-round pick on Davis Allen, there’s no one to challenge Higbee for the pass-catching role.

Although there isn’t a lot to get excited about with Higbee, there aren’t many other options at the position that’ll deliver a more reliable, high-floor play than the durable veteran. He’d be a nice late-round grab for risk-averse owners as a low-end TE1.

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