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California Love: The Fantasy fall-out from Matthew Stafford heading to Hollywood

The first blockbuster of the offseason hits the ledger. @MattMacCoyNFL breaks down the fantasy implications.

Earlier this week, we heard rampant speculation that the Los Angeles Rams were emerging as a legitimate candidate for the services of Matthew Stafford. I, for one, initially rebuffed the notion of the Matthew Stafford-Rams marriage. What type of trade package could the Rams possibly put together that would make sense for the Detroit Lions? Then Saturday night happened.

The Rams ship their 2022 first-round pick, their 2023 first-round pick, their 2021 third-round pick, and Jared Goff in exchange for Matthew Stafford. The haul was two-fold. The Rams clearly wanted to upgrade at their QB position as they had lost confidence in their former QB Jared Goff. They also needed to find a suitor that would be willing to take on Goff’s remaining contract and knew that they would likely have to attach draft capital in the deal in order to get it done.

Now we have a lot to talk about, in particular, who benefits from this deal and who will see their Fantasy value negatively impacted.

WINNERS

Matthew Stafford

Credit: Stampede Blue

We must begin with the headliner. Matthew Stafford is clearly the primary winner here. Stafford moves on from a dysfunctional NFL franchise, the only one that he has ever known, to one that has much more stability and moves with a purpose–a willingness and aggressiveness in order to try to win a Super Bowl.

Last season, Matthew Stafford was throwing to Marvin Jones, T.J. Hockenson, Danny Amendola, and Quintez Cephus. The speculation around Detroit is that Kenny Golladay has played his last game for the Lions, so things were not looking great for Matthew Stafford in Detroit.

His new scene in Los Angeles is one that is much more promising. Cooper Kupp, Robert Woods, Cam Akers, Tyler Higbee, and Van Jefferson provide Matthew Stafford more firepower and more balance than he has ever had. I would anticipate close to 600 passing attempts for Matthew Stafford in the new-look Rams offense. Stafford hasn’t flirted with that number since 2016.

When the Rams offense was clicking on all cylinders, a lesser Quarterback in Jared Goff was producing 4,600 yard passing seasons. I believe Matthew Stafford will surpass that number with room to spare. Matthew Stafford will certainly be on the QB1 radar as we head into the 2021 Fantasy season.

Initial Projections: 4,800 yards passing, 150 rushing, 32 TD, 12 INT

Cam Akers

IMAGE SOURCE: Associated Press
Credit: Associated Press

From Week 13 on in the 2020 season, the Los Angeles Rams clearly turned the reigns of the backfield over to their dynamic rookie Cam Akers. From that time on, including the playoffs, Akers averaged 22 carries a game. I’m not suggesting that type of workload, but averaging carries in the high teens certainly feel appropriate.

The most exciting thing is the pass-catching match that Cam Akers makes with Matthew Stafford. From Theo Riddick to D’Andre Swift, Matthew Stafford has also been comfortable targeting a pass-catching RB out of the backfield, which will elevate Cam Akers fantasy status to new heights.

Fifty receptions may be a tad aggressive, but it should not be far off.
Remember, when the Rams were at the heights of their powers, Todd Gurley would gain 80+ targets with regularity. If you’re asking yourself, ‘how many backs accounted for 50+ receptions in 2020?’ The answer is just eight. Cam Akers could be on the verge of reaching elite company.

Initial Projections: 270 rush attempts, 4.5 YPC, 1,225 rushing yards, 48 receptions, 430 receiving yards, 9 total TD

Robert Woods and Cooper Kupp

Credit: DraftKings Nation

Entering into the 2020 NFL season, we had Robert Woods and Cooper Kupp as borderline WR1 candidates. As you now know, neither played out the way we had hoped.

We know what Robert Woods is at this juncture. You can pencil him in for 130-140 targets, a handful of manufactured touches in the run game, and he remains one of the more reliable pass-catchers in the league. We saw a large dip in his receiving numbers, notably his YPC average from 14.2 in 2018, to 12.6 in 2019, to 10.4 (the lowest of his career) in 2020.

Some may point to this as a negative trend. I will rather point to the fact that this is an opportunity to acquire Robert Woods at a value. Woods likely suffered as the inadequacies of Jared Goff arose to the surface. I have Robert Woods poised as a prime bounce-back candidate in 2021.

Similar to his teammate Woods, Cooper Kupp has seen a decline in YPC from 14.2 in 2018, to 12.4 in 2019, to 10.6 in 2020. Kupp is more of the bigger play threat down the field. Earlier in his career, Jared Goff and Cooper Kupp had a great connection. Give Matthew Stafford some time to develop rapport with Cooper Kupp in the off-season, and you’ll see his numbers rise as well.

Initial Projections:

Woods: 135 targets, 95 receptions, 1,150 yards, 7 TD, 20 rush., 150 yards, TD

Kupp: 135 targets, 95 receptions, 1,150 yards, 8 TD

LOSERS

Jared Goff

Credit: AP Photo/David J. Phillip

If you were counting on Jared Goff as a fantasy producer in 2021 and beyond, it wasn’t due to his talent. Rather, it was due to the McVay offense buoying his value. Seeing that Jared Goff is not attached to the Rams any longer, I am expecting him to get exposed and reveal what we already know–that he is an extremely limited QB, with zero rushing ability and zero upside.

Compound the matters that Jared Goff will have an inexperienced group of pass-catchers, playing for a team that recognizes that they are in store for a long rebuild, and the future is not bright for Jared Goff fantasy owners.

If you can get a late second-round rookie pick in exchange for Jared Goff, I would make that move immediately before the Goff stock officially bottoms out.

Initial Projections: 4,000 yards passing, 22 TD, 16 INT, 100 yards rushing

D’Andre Swift

Credit: Reinhold Matay-USA TODAY Sports

I was very much looking forward to a huge second-year breakout for D’Andre Swift in Detroit. To be clear, I’m not necessarily selling my stocks of D’Andre Swift. I just recognize that his ceiling is significantly lower with Jared Goff at the helm rather than Matthew Stafford.

D’Andre Swift remains one of the more talented young backs in the league, and his skill set is tailor-made for the modern NFL, given his ability to be effective on all three downs, in particular as a receiver out of the backfield.

The fact is the Rams offense moved away from getting their backs involved in the passing game in recent years. They were highly successful and one of the better teams in the league at this very strategy once upon a time. Why the transition? Again, I attribute this to Jared Goff.

To reiterate an earlier point, Matthew Stafford developed into one of the better passers in the league to target his backs as receivers. This is a major downgrade from Stafford to Goff, and I believe it will ultimately negatively impact D’Andre Swift’s usage as a receiver.

Initial Projections: 190 rushing attempts, 4.5 YPC, 850 rushing yards, 58 receptions, 450 receiving yards, 8 total TD

T.J. Hockenson and Kenny Golladay

Credit: DKNation

The hype for T.J. Hockenson was about to reach a crescendo with Matthew Stafford. Now that he will be introduced to life with Jared Goff under center, I’m afraid his fantasy value is going to plateau. I’m not saying that I’m selling. I just wouldn’t rush out to buy additional Hock stocks. Hold the line.

As for Kenny Golladay, it feels like a foregone conclusion that he has played his last down as a Detroit Lion, BUT, if the Lions do surprisingly franchise tag the talented receiver and force his hand, returning to Detroit is about a worst-case scenario that Kenny Golladay could find. Speaking for Fantasy players, we much rather see him hit the open market and find life in a significantly better passing offense.

Initial Projections:

T.J. Hockenson: 80 targets, 62 receptions, 680 yards, 6 TD

Kenny Golladay: Destination- New Team; Projections- TBD

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