The 2019 Rams are regarded as an utter disappointment. Everyone I know (myself included) had outrageously high expectations after their 2018 offensive explosion. Although the 2019 Rams offense was still a well you could draw from for fantasy production (QB13, RB14, WR4, WR14, TE8), it still was not the top-tier fantasy offense you saw from them in 2018 (QB7, RB3, WR11, WR13). So what changed? What contributed to their dip in fantasy production?
The dip can mainly be contributed to the deterioration of their offensive line (which we will break down more in the “Quarterback” section of this article), Brandin Cooks’ consistent concussions, and Todd Gurley’s load management.
Free Agent Moves
The biggest differences on this team heading into the 2020 season are (obviously) the loss of Todd Gurley, Brandin Cooks, Dante Fowler, and Cory Littleton, and the acquisition of Cam Akers, Van Jefferson, and Leonard Floyd. They extended LT Andrew Whitworth for three more years, and re-signed DL Michael Brockers.
The Rams turned into even more of a pass-heavy team in 2019. Jared Goff threw 626 times–65 more times than last season. Unless your league has heavy penalties for INTs, more passing volume always leads to better fantasy production. In week 13, the Rams switched to using more 12 personnel packages. As soon as they made this change, Goff went on an absolute fantasy tear. During that stretch from weeks 13-17, he scored: 28.96, 22.32, 22.86, 26.02, and 31.36, with at least 2 TDs in each of those games.
Most Goff owners were frustrated with his performance in 2019. Although ⅔ of his games were 20+ fantasy points, the other ⅓ was so bad that it likely cost you games (at least, he did for me). His lowest 5 scores were: 11.84, 6.52, 5.48, 2.82, and -0.78. Goff also had a career-high 16 INTs. A lot of his issues can be attributed to his offensive line. In 2018, Jared Goff had the 5th highest Time to Throw (NextGen stats) at 2.95 seconds. In 2019, he fell to 21st at 2.8 seconds. Although that may seem insignificant, realize that the entire range of 2019 TtT falls from 3.01 to 2.51 with an average of 2.78. Goff had a 0.02-second advantage over the average QB TtT compared to the 0.2-second advantage over the average QB TtT he had in 2018.
The biggest determining factor for Goff’s fantasy production in 2020 is if the Rams continue to stick to the 12 personnel packages they were running at the end of 2019. IF they continue as they did the end of the year, we can safely expect Jared Goff to finish as a mid QB1 (QB5-8 range). He is the perfect buy candidate–coming off a down year but in a pass-heavy offense with an offensive-minded HC, bad defense, and great surrounding weapons.
Coming into the draft, Cam Akers was my RB3 behind Jonathan Taylor and J.K. Dobbins. I loved his pass-catching ability, his willingness to pass block, and his slippery run style. You’ve probably heard this a thousand times before, but Akers had one of the worst offensive lines in college football, yet he still was able to produce at an elite level.
With 2nd-round draft capital and no one on the RB depth chart in a firm role, it’s safe to assume that Cam Akers will be given the first crack at the starting gig. My only hesitation is that this backfield could easily be more of an RBBC with Henderson and Brown then I’d like for it to be. But be not afraid, Akers is far and away the most talented in that backfield, and I expect him to show that. Besides, he has the most experience running behind a subpar OL.
Darrell Henderson is an enigma. The potential is there, but his competition and snap count are against him. What made Henderson a 1st round pick in most 2019 rookie drafts was his elite explosiveness and record-breaking college career. While at Memphis, he averaged 8.2 YPC (8.9 YPC his last two seasons), which leads the NCAA for all-time YPC. But his rookie campaign was limited because of the pre-claimed backfield – Todd Gurley commanded the vast majority of the snap share. But in the three games that Henderson saw any significant playing time (above 10% snap share), he carried the ball 28 times for 119 yards (4.3 YPC) and caught 4 of 6 targets for 37 yards.
So what can we expect from Henderson for 2020 and beyond? While I think he is a very explosive player, I believe he will be constrained to a satellite-type back for the foreseeable future. Cam Akers has better size, speed, and draft stock. The most damning evidence to support this point is that the Rams spent their first pick of the 2020 draft on Akers. Even though it was in the 2nd round, it was still the very first player that they chose in the draft. They had many needs across the team but still decided to use their first pick on a running back.
Don’t expect too much from Henderson in 2020. He’ll have more of a role than he did his rookie year, but he still will be an injury away from fantasy relevance.
One of the most controversial WR rooms regarding the question: Who is the #1 WR?
Let’s talk about the WR1 for the Rams. His name is Robert Woods. He’s been nothing short of stupendous for the past two seasons. He’s consistent, has good avgAY, good Y/C, and a clear path to even more targets with Brandin Cooks’ departure. He has the vertical threat department locked up. Woods’ numbers the past two seasons speak for themselves:
With some positive touchdown regression and a slight increase in MS% due to Cooks and Gurley’s vacated targets, I would bet some decent money that Robert Woods finishes as a low-end WR1 in 2020. You can find a breakdown of my offensive projections for the Rams at the end of the article.
Generally, the consistent fantasy WR on any given team is most likely to be their slot receiver; but that’s not the case for the Rams. Kupp is as volatile as they come for slot receivers. In the first five games of 2019, Kupp took the league by storm, proving that his ACL was as healthy as ever. His targets over those games were: 10, 9, 12, 15, 17, with 4 TD’s to go along with them. But the 2019 Rams were a tale of two halves. Starting in week 13 when the Rams began to run more 12 personnel packages, Kupp’s targets were: 6, 4, 6, 4, 10 with a TD in each of those games that kept his fantasy value afloat. If this is any indication of how the offense will go in 2020, I fully expect Cooper Kupp to finish behind Robert Woods in fantasy points.
In 2019, Josh Reynolds was only serviceable for the three weeks that Brandin Cooks was on the sideline with a concussion. Reynolds brought in 9 of his 19 targets for 177 yards and a TD, across those three games. Not a bad stat line, but not as good as Brandin Cooks, either. If we extrapolate that pace and apply it to the 2020 season, we can expect roughly 50 receptions on 94 targets for about 800 yards and 5 TDs, which would come up to roughly 160 fantasy points = WR45 in 2019 above Marquise Brown, Tyrell Williams, and Danny Amendola.
From what I’ve seen of Reynolds, this is a pretty safe projection; he could easily add a few extra TDs and increase his catch percentage. He is a great buy candidate for deeper leagues.
Van Jefferson was arguably one of the top route runners in his class – he’s a textbook technician. But his numbers in college weren’t all that impressive. He never had more than 6 TDs in any of his four college seasons, only had a 16.8% target share, 21% DOM rating, and a late breakout age of 22.1. Generally, those aren’t numbers that you want your rookie WRs to have.
But one big thing that Van has going for him is his draft capital. The Rams drafted Jefferson with the 25th pick of the 2nd round – a tall price to pay for a receiver with his college resume. I don’t expect big things for Van. I predict he will become the new Josh Reynolds while Reynolds tries to fill the void of the WR3.
Probably the toughest question to answer about this offense is: Who will be the fantasy-relevant TE?
Up until week 13 of the 2019 season, the answer to that question was Gerald Everett. Even though he wasn’t consistent, he did flash his big-play potential on a few plays here and there. There were even a couple of weeks where he received double-digit targets. But Everett went down to injury late in the year, which gave Tyler Higbee the room he needed to explode onto the scene. But don’t count this athletic specimen out. His freakish athleticism, coupled with his impressive college resume, shows a lot of promise for his potential.
gerald everett is the most affordable late round te w/ monster upside:— the podfather (@Fantasy_Mansion) July 14, 2020
*rams increased 12-personnel in second half
*126 vacated targets
*93rd percentile burst & 82nd percentile agility
*FOUR top-6 tight end scoring weeks thru week 10 in 2019. pic.twitter.com/RYxyHFWEkj
Tyler Higbee was more than likely on a good number of championship teams last year. Higbee exploded the same week several fantasy playoffs started–and he didn’t slow down. Over his last five games, Higbee caught 43 of 56 targets for 522 yards and 2 TDs. Those are absurd numbers–good enough most of those weeks to win his fantasy owners’ matchup by himself. But what can we expect for 2020 with a healthy Gerald Everett?
While Higbee isn’t quite as fast or athletic as Everett, he towers over defenders at 6’6 and 249 pounds. He’s proven that he can be the focal point of their air raid offense. He has reliable hands and has proven his worth as a route-runner. I expect the TE splits to be closer than most people to believe, but I still have Higbee edging out Everett over the long haul to be the more productive fantasy TE.
I’m no IDP expert, so I am going to lean on the Dynasty Nerds IDP team for their more-educated advice for this part of the article.
Here is what I know personally about how good Aaron Donald is: 99 rating on Madden. Our IDP team has Aaron Donald ranked as the #1 DT (which he has finished as for the last five seasons) and the #18 overall IDP. He’s an unstoppable force and constantly bullies opposing OL’s. Donald is going to be an elite fantasy asset for years.
Dynasty Nerds IDP ranked DB7 John Johnson was absolutely stellar in 2018, racking up 119 tackles and 4 INT’s. His 2019 season ended after only 6 games due to a shoulder injury, but he already had amassed 51 tackles and 2 INT’s during that short stint. Count on him to get back to those top 5 DB numbers in 2020.
Dynasty Nerds IDP ranked DB10 Taylor Rapp finished as the DB9 in his rookie season with the Rams. He notched 100 tackles, 2 INT’s and a fumble recovery for a TD across 15 games. The second-year DB looks to solidify the LAR secondary alongside Johnson and Ramsay.
The 2019 9-7 Rams will want to get back to their 2018 13-3 glory days. But to do that, they will need their OL to improve and their rookie RB to perform right out of the gate. Below are my projections for the 2020 LA Rams offense.
If you disagree with any of these projections, shoot me a message on Twitter! I’d love to talk about the variables of this offense with you.
Are you a #NerdHerd member yet? For just $2.99/month, you get access to rankings, extra podcasts, the buy/sell tool, and more on the way. Find me on Twitter @Domffl. You can listen to my terrible fantasy advice on the Fantasy Blitz Podcast. Stream on Apple Podcasts or Spotify.