The Rams finished 2019 with a (9-7) record, finishing third in the tough NFC West. The team ranked 11th in points scored, 4th in pass yards averaging 281.2 per game, and 26th in rushing yards averaging 93.7 per game in 2019. Last season it was obvious that the team’s biggest area of weakness was their offensive line. The rushing rank listed above should be a clear indication of this. Their best player is 39 years old in Andrew Whitworth and this offseason didn’t make any really significant upgrades. McVay is a bright coach and understands that this team needs help in this area hence why we saw more 12 personnel to close out 2019, and a change from a zone blocking scheme to a more gap blocking attack. Another reason that led to the increased 12 personnel last season was the injury to Cooks. In 2018 the team ran 3 wide receiver set 93% of their offensive snaps, so what can we expect out of this offense scheme wise in 2020? This season we feel for the first time right out of the gate the Rams will be very multiple meaning we will see 12 and 11 personnel used regularly, with two tight end sets being used more than the beginning of last season.
Jared Goff (QB) – Goff saw some regression last season in the touchdown department falling to 22 from 32 in 2018. That is a 1.2% drop in touchdown rate as his career average is 4.7%. Goff since entering the league proved to be pretty consistent, over the last two seasons as he put up top 12 numbers in 43.8% of his games. What was different last season compared to the years prior was that lack of upside, as he failed to top 25.2 fantasy points in a game all season. In 2018 he was over that mark 5 times. A lot of the regression Goff saw in 2019 is due to the decline of the offensive line. PFF ranked this front five as the second worst in the NFL. Goff relies on a clean pocket to be able to perform at his ceiling. If Goff is able to rebound this season his ceiling would be somewhere in the neighborhood of 4,700 yards passing and 30 touchdowns, which would be good enough to put him that back end QB1 conversation.
Fantasy Spin: Jared Goff coming off a down year is very affordable for us in 2020. Goff currently has an ADP of 119 which puts him in the back end of the 10th round. We feel positive touchdown regression could be coming for Goff, so he enters 2020 as our 19th ranked quarterback in redraft and our 15th in dynasty leagues.
Cam Akers/Darrell Henderson/Malcolm Brown (RB) – Cam Akers will be the back out of this trio to target, as we feel before too long he will emerge as their starting back. Akers played behind a terrible offensive line at Florida State which is good because the Rams o-line is equally as bad. Akers could actually make this line appear a lot better than it is, as he is a good inside runner, and very good in space catching the football. Cam Akers has a great feel for defensive fronts before the snap and understanding which defender may be unblocked. This football IQ and recognition shouldn’t come as a surprise as Akers is a former high school quarterback. After the snap Akers demonstrates he has great feel for the fluidity of gaps, meaning he sees the gaps as the play progresses. Akers led this draft class in yards created per attempt show casing these attributes. Henderson was so over hyped coming into the league when he shouldn’t have been in our opinion. The McVay offense is very complex and tough to learn. Henderson struggling proves he isn’t equipped to be the lead back in this offense. Akers has a real shot to be special in this offense, as he is a superior talent over Henderson. Malcolm Brown was given an offer sheet as insurance policy for Gurley in case the knee didn’t hold up they wanted that veteran in the system to be in place. So when we take all these factors into account it boils down to one thing and that is Cam Akers is the target here in this backfield as he is going to surprise some people with what he does as a pro.
Fantasy Spin: Akers is a highly creative back who can be a solid starter for the next several years. Many are concerned about Henderson and Brown limiting his upside but at the very least we feel Akers will open week one as the 1A in this committee. Then his talent will shine and allow him to open up the gap to become this team’s starting back. With this thinking in mind we have Akers entering 2020 ranked as our 17th running back in redraft and 16th in dynasty formats. Henderson comes in ranked as our 51st running back in redraft and 38th in dynasty. Brown is the least appealing back to own in this backfield as he comes in ranked as our 62nd back in redraft and 63rd in dynasty formats.
Copper Kupp/Robert Woods/Van Jefferson/Josh Reynolds (WR) – Woods comes into 2020 as one of the most underrated and disrespected players there is in the league. When looking at the Rams receivers Woods will likely be the player to benefit most with the Cooks departure. In addition to that the teams move to more 12 personnel also bodes well for Woods. From week nine on Woods ranked second in fantasy points per game with an average of 19.2. Woods also ranked 4th among all wide receivers in targets during this span. Cooper Kupp finished 2019 top 12 in fantasy last season from an incredible early season. From week nine on Kupp’s numbers and fantasy value tanked. This doesn’t have to do with talent, as he is one of the best route runners in the league, but had to do with the switch to 12 personnel. Kupp was the odd man out as the slot man is taken away in this two tight end formation. So it shouldn’t be a surprise that with fewer offensive opportunities his target share suffered as well, going from 27% all the way down to 15%. Even with this decline Kupp is still being valued more than Woods in this offense by many according to ADP. We are telling you right now that are a mistake. Woods over the last two seasons has been one of the top wide receivers for fantasy. In 2018 he finished the season 11th in total fantasy points at the position. Last season he finished the year with over 1,100 yards receiving, but failed to find the end zone consistently, only 4 others have exceeded 1,100 yards and scored twice in NFL history. This could be the reason some people are not high on him, but positive touchdown regression is likely on the way. Ironically the Rams drafted a receiver in Van Jefferson who comps similar to Woods. Jefferson is liked by the coaching staff but bring on concerns of his lack of explosive ability, as he isn’t a very good runner. Jefferson was able to make up for the running deficiency by creating separation through his high end route running ability. In fact in terms of this draft class Jefferson ranked 2nd behind only Jerry Jeudy in this class in terms of route running. A perfect illustration of Jefferson creating against top corners was his game against LSU last season. Then we can’t forget about Reynolds who figures to fill that Cooks role in 2020. Reynolds is long, quick, and knows this McVay offense. In terms of fantasy however he just doesn’t appeal to us much as a fantasy asset.
Fantasy Spin: Woods currently has an ADP that puts him as the 23rd wide receiver being taken in redraft. This is criminal after he finished 2018 as WR11 and 2019 as the 11th ranked receiver in fantasy points per game. Woods is an absolute target in drafts this summer. We have Woods entering 2020 as our 13th ranked wide receiver in redraft and 26th in dynasty leagues. Kupp with our concerns in usage comes in ranked as our 20th wide receiver in redraft and 25th in dynasty formats entering 2020. Josh Reynolds comes in ranked as our 84th wide out in redraft and 82nd in dynasty. Van Jefferson makes for a better dynasty prospect than redraft as it should take a little time for him to emerge in this offense. Jefferson entering 2020 ranks as our 64th wide receiver in dynasty formats.
Tyler Higbee/Gerald Everett (TE) – in 2019 the teams switch to 12 personnel had to do with several factors as mentioned above, and talent at tight end is another reason not mentioned. No not Higbee the team, especially McVay, wanted to get Everett more snaps as he was flashing the upside and talent that led McVay to draft him in 2017. The problem was shortly after Everett got dinged and Higbee emerged, and proved to be equally if not more talented than Everett. Coming out Higbee was comped to be a bit Travis Kelce like, and last year we finally saw those similarities on the field. Higbee is a big athletic tight end who is dangerous after the catch. NFL insider Adam Caplan stated, “I have had defensive coordinators tell me they were so afraid of Higbee and his ability, they didn’t know what to do in terms of defending him last season.” That statement should speak volumes to us and make our fantasy ears perk right up. This is the type of player you target especially where he is going in drafts. So having these two good athletic game changing tight ends it shouldn’t be surprising the Rams would like to get them both on the field more together. One thing to keep in mind Everett is on the final year of his rookie deal and the team did draft one of the top prospects this past draft in Brycen Hopkins, which could mean a trade or a definite 2021 departure for Everett. With that being said Higbee in dynasty formats gets a big boost.
Fantasy Spin: We feel even if Everett gets more snaps than he had in 2019 Higbee is still the tight end to target in this offense. What he showed to close out 2019 was unbelievable production that saw him ranking as a top two option at the position during that span. For this reason we have Higbee entering 2020 ranked as our 6th tight end in redraft and 7th in dynasty formats. He is an absolute target in drafts for those who want to wait at the position a bit. Everett does offer some upside as a late round dart or Higbee insurance in case he emerges as the tight end to own in LA. We view and have Everett ranked as our TE29 in both redraft and dynasty entering 2020.
Defense – this unit ranked 17 in points allowed, 19th in rushing yards allowing an average of 113.1 per game, and 12th in pass yards allowing an average of 226.6 per game during the 2019 season. The team loses Fowler but bring in Leonard Floyd to replace him on the edge. This defense does have star power at defensive tackle in Aaron Donald, and Cornerback in Jalen Ramsey. The team brings in a Vic Fangio disciple in Brandon Staley who is being regarded as one of the next best upcoming play callers in the league.
Fantasy Spin: This defense will again be drafted as one of the top defenses this summer for fantasy. We currently have this defense ranked 10th coming into 2020. The talent on all levels makes this defense a one to target, just know that much like most defenses there will be down weeks with this unit, but the upside is obviously there as well.
Strength of Schedule
The Rams wide receiver corps will face the 7th toughest schedule this fantasy regular season. Their playoff schedule will be the toughest during weeks 14-16. The Backs will be looking at the 10th toughest schedule during the fantasy regular season. The backs will then have the 6th toughest schedule during the fantasy playoffs. Goff will face the 16th easiest schedule during the fantasy regular season, and the 3rd toughest during weeks 14-16. Higbee and Everett will face the 15th toughest fantasy regular season schedule and will face the 2nd toughest playoff schedule from weeks 14-16.