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Fantasy Football Team Previews: Los Angeles Rams

The Los Angeles Rams will try to shake off a disappointing 2019 season.
Robert Woods seems to be in store for another solid fantasy season. (Twitter // @PFF_Fantasy)

2019 summary

Record: 9-7 (3rd in NFC West)

2019 Offensive Points-Per-Game: 24.6 (10th)

2019 Total Defense-adjusted Value Over Average: 5.2% (12th)

The 2019 Los Angeles Rams struggled to rekindle the offensive success it experienced during their trip to the Super Bowl in 2018. Quarterback Jared Goff set career-best marks in completions and attempts yet failed to top his 2018 passing yards and touchdown totals. He did, however, tossed a career-worst 16 interceptions while his yards-per-attempt dropped from 8.4 to 7.4. Todd Gurley received the fewest carries of his career while also stumbling to a 3.8 yards-per-carry, still managing an RB14 finish in PPR. Both Cooper Kupp and Robert Woods reached the 90-receptions plateau, but it was Kupp leading the way with 10 TD receptions to Woods’ two. One major change for the Rams last season was the increase in 12-personnel usage. In 2018, Los Angeles operated out of the formation on just 7% of its plays. In 2019, that number jumped up to 21%. This has a lot to do with the fact that both Gerald Everett and Tyler Higbee performed well at certain parts of the season. Higbee’s strong finish – 522 receiving yards on 43 receptions over the final five games – was exceptional.

Major additions

  • OLB, Leonard Floyd
  • DT, A’Shawn Robinson
  • RB, Cam Akers
  • WR, Van Jefferson
  • OLB, Terrell Lewis
  • S, Terrell Burgess
  • TE, Brycen Hopkins

Major subtractions

  • LB, Clay Matthews
  • WR, Brandin Cooks
  • FS, Eric Weddle
  • RB, Todd Gurley
  • DE, Dante Fowler
  • ILB, Cory Littleton

4 major storylines for 2020

Who will emerge as the leader in the backfield?

Darrell Henderson’s rookie season wasn’t anything spectacular. The third-round pick rushed for 147 yards while averaging 3.8 yards-per-carry. He was hardly involved in the passing game, only hauling in four passes across 13 games. Henderson failed to be effective enough to spell Gurley on a routine basis.

The Rams used their first pick in the draft, its second-round pick, on running back Cam Akers. Akers shined behind a putrid offensive line at Florida State University, rushing for 1,144 yards while also bringing in 30 receptions.

Los Angeles head coach Sean McVay stated earlier this off-season that he was open to a running back by committee approach. The committee would feature both Akers and Henderson, as well as Malcolm Brown and John Kelly Recently, Lindsey Thiry of ESPN stated that she expects Akers to get an opportunity early to demonstrate his skills. Using logic, this makes sense as the team is most invested in him at the position.

Overall, this situation will likely take some time to sort itself out. I recommend selecting Akers with his Yahoo ADP of 72.0. He’s someone that I can see being a league-winner down the stretch.

Cam Jared Goff be trusted as more than a QB2?

After a strong third season, many were expecting Goff to take another step forward in 2019. That didn’t happen.

Goff went from being above average to just mediocre last season. He was 14th in yards-per-attempt, tied for 16th in passing touchdowns and tied for the fourth-most interceptions. He ranked third in the NFL in passing yards, but the Rams did pass the ball the eight-most frequently of any team in the league. He also offers next to nothing in the run game, adding just 40 yards on the ground.

I expect Goff to bounce back from his 2019 performance, but I also expect a more balanced offensive approach from the Rams. The selection of Akers, who joins a deep running back room, demonstrates to me that McVay wants to re-establish the team’s run game. In 2018, Los Angeles threw the ball the 24th most frequently of any team in the league, and I can see them returning to a heavier run-game approach. If he can return to being more efficient, there is some value as he is QB28 according to Yahoo ADP.

Can Tyler Higbee carry over his strong finish?

As mentioned earlier, Higbee went off for the Rams down the stretch. Over the final four games of the fantasy football season, Higbee was the No. 1 tight end in PPR fantasy football leagues. It’s worth mentioning, however, that Everett suited up for just one of those games.

Everett’s re-insertion to the Rams’ lineup and head coach McVay’s increased usage of 12-personnel from 2019 have me lower on Higbee than most. Everett is a very athletic tight end that showed last year he can get it done in the passing game, too. That increased target and snap competition, as well as McVay’s desire to utilize Everett better, have me backing down from Higbee. He’s currently my TE11 for 2020.

Who has the better season: Cooper Kupp or Robert Woods?

Last year Kupp finished as the WR6 in PPR fantasy football leagues, outscoring Woods 247.6-212.3. Looking at the numbers, however, the gap between the two wasn’t so drastic.

Woods, who appeared in 15 games, actually finished with more yards-per-game than Kupp. The difference arises in touchdown totals, where Kupp outdid Woods 10-2. As we know though, touchdowns are not a great predictive stat on future performances.

Kupp got off to a great start last season, but when the Rams began to utilize more two tight end formations, Woods seemed to shine more. From Week 8 forward, Woods outscored Kupp 120.3-115. The reason behind this could deal with the fact that Kupp is an extremely talented slot receiver, but with two tight ends on the field, the middle of the field becomes increasingly crowded, making it harder for him to get open. Woods can run efficiently both outside of the slot and on the outside, which makes the shift to more 12-personnel easier for him to deal with.

The Rams likely aren’t going to shy away from increased two tight end looks with Brandin Cooks now out of the picture, so it could be difficult once again for Kupp to get open. In my current rankings, I have Kupp ahead of Woods, but I’m thinking that’s going to change when I release my new rankings on Friday.

Sleeper and Bust

Sleeper: Josh Reynolds

Reynolds has seemingly emerged as Los Angeles’ No. 3 wide receiver early in training camp. He was an impressive player in college with Texas A&M and he’s played well when given opportunities with the Rams. Cooks’ absence will allow him to see the field more and potentially return a fantasy-relevant role. You can draft him extremely late in your Yahoo Fantasy draft.

Bust: Cooper Kupp

Throughout writing this preview, I have talked myself out of Kupp. His overall performance last season was very good, but with added context, there are red flags entering 2020.

Rams Players in Rally Towel’s Top-300 2.0 Fantasy Football Rankings

39. WR, Cooper Kupp

49. RB, Cam Akers

55. WR, Robert Woods

110. TE, Tyler Higbee

120. QB, Jared Goff

159. RB, Darrell Henderson

194. DST, Rams

196. WR, Josh Reynolds

230. TE, Gerald Everett

243. RB, Malcolm Brown

299. WR, Van Jefferson

Download Rally Towel’s 2020 PPR Fantasy Football Cheatsheet 2.0 here.

More from Rally Towel

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