Evan Silva

Offseason Low Down

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Rams Fantasy Preview

Monday, July 10, 2017


Rams 2016 Offensive Profile

2016 Pass Attempts Rank: 27th
2016 Rush Attempts Rank: 28th
2016 Play Volume Rank: 31st
2016 Yards Per Play Rank: 32nd
Unaccounted for Targets from 2016 (Rank): 297 (2nd)
Unaccounted for Carries from 2016 (Rank): 41 (21st)

Projected Starting Lineup

QB: Jared Goff
RB: Todd Gurley
WR: Robert Woods
WR: Tavon Austin
TE: Gerald Everett
TE: Tyler Higbee
LT: Andrew Whitworth
LG: Rodger Saffold
C: John Sullivan
RG: Rob Havenstein
RT: Jamon Brown

Passing Game Outlook

Timid, turnover prone, and frail looking on the field, No. 1 overall pick Jared Goff was a train wreck last preseason and appeared no less lost when the Rams inserted Goff into the starting lineup from Week 11 on. Per Next Gen Stats, a fearful Goff threw an average of 3.74 yards short of the sticks on third-down passes, worst in the league among 33 qualified quarterbacks. Not only did he demonstrate zero ability to diagnose blitz schemes, Football Outsiders graded Goff with by far its worst quarterback DVOA rating in clean pockets since 2010. While it’s not out of the question Goff turns his career around – Eli Manning, Donovan McNabb, and Terry Bradshaw all became successes after poor rookie years – his first season provided no tangible reasons for optimism. The general hope seems to be that bad coaching was to blame under Jeff Fisher and 31-year-old rookie coach Sean McVay can get more out of Goff after helping to develop Kirk Cousins from a poor decision-making backup into a high-efficiency starter in D.C. Unfortunately, McVay and Goff will have to make do with bottom-five offensive line and pass-catching units. For good reason, Goff is getting no respect from July fantasy drafters with a QB28 (MFL10s) ADP.

The Rams made Robert Woods the NFL’s 22nd-highest-paid wide receiver by signing him to a five-year, $34 million contract in March. An inside-the-numbers, short-to-intermediate possession target, Woods logged 49% of his 2016 snaps at slot receiver in Buffalo, where he never cleared 700 yards in four years with the team. Woods did establish career highs in yards per target (8.07), catch rate (67.1%), and yards per route run (1.73) last season and ranked fourth among 54 qualified receivers in Pro Football Focus’ slot-specific catch percentage (80.0). Sure handed but not particularly big (6’0/201) or fast (4.51), Woods nevertheless offers deep-league PPR appeal based on projected target volume in an otherwise unproven pass-catcher corps. Before getting lost as a complementary option on the run-heavy Bills, Woods did flash volume-receiver capability in college with a 111-catch season as a true sophomore at USC. Albeit unlikely to become a serious re-draft factor, Woods is a good bet to outscore his WR60 ADP.

While Woods is projected to mimic Pierre Garcon, McVay’s staff has talked up Tavon Austin as its (homeless man’s) version of DeSean Jackson. An embarrassing bust as a manufactured-touch player under Fisher and seldom used to stretch the field, just 15 of Austin’s 181 career receptions (8.3%) have occurred on passes traveling 15 yards or more in the air. At the same time, Austin has secured 11-of-12 career 20-plus-yard targets graded as “catchable” by Pro Football Focus for 350 yards and three scores and ran a 4.34 forty-yard dash coming out of West Virginia. Goff completed just 4-of-17 attempts of 20-plus yards as a rookie, however, and Austin missed all of spring practices recovering from wrist surgery, eliminating his chances of developing any offseason timing with Goff and preventing Austin from getting a head start on his new role. Austin is merely a low-floor best-ball dart at his WR68 MFL10 ADP.

Third-round pick Cooper Kupp will enter camp as the favorite for third receiver work ahead of fourth-round vertical threat Josh Reynolds and underwhelming holdovers Pharoh Cooper and Mike Thomas. A prolific producer at Eastern Washington, Kupp broke the all-divisions college record for career receiving yards (6,464) on 428 receptions (15.1 YPR) and scored 73 touchdowns. As a plus-sized (6’2/204) slot receiver lacking long speed (4.62) but quick in a short area, Kupp drew some pre-draft comparisons to T.J. Houshmandzadeh. While Kupp is making a huge jump in competition, it’s certainly not out of the question that he’ll make an early impact as a high-percentage route runner with great hands in a weak receiving cast. Kupp is a worthwhile third-round PPR pick in Dynasty rookie drafts.

Holdover Tyler Higbee and No. 44 overall pick Gerald Everett will compete for tight end snaps in a battle that figures to be tilted toward Everett, whom McVay likely envisions as his new version of Jordan Reed. McVay’s 2016 Redskins used three-receiver “11 personnel” at the sixth-highest rate (73%) in the league, so Higbee and Everett may not play together much. Whereas Higbee stands 6’6/249 and flashed promise as a blocker in his 2016 rookie season, Everett (6’3/239) is a rocked-up wideout out of South Alabama who starred as a high school basketball player and posted top-five SPARQ results in this year’s tight end class. Not helping Everett is his small-school background at arguably the toughest position to transition into the NFL and the Rams’ league-worst 2017 tight end schedule based on 2016 fantasy points allowed. While Everett is compelling Dynasty pick, he lacks re-draft and best-ball appeal.

Running Game Outlook

Taking the Trent Richardson career path, Todd Gurley enters his third NFL season having rushed for 90-plus yards in just one of his last 24 games with an abysmal 3.43 yards-per-carry average during that stretch. While pathetic quarterback play and an offensive line that last season ranked 29th in Football Outsiders’ Adjusted Line Yards haven’t helped, Gurley has shown minimal ability to create yards on his own. As a sophomore, Gurley finished 37th among 42 running backs with 100-plus carries in both DVOA and Defense-adjusted Yards Above Replacement, 39th of 53 qualifiers in Pro Football Focus’ Elusive Rating, and 46th of 58 in yards after contact per attempt (2.2). While the additions of C John Sullivan and LT Andrew Whitworth give Los Angeles some credibility up front, the Rams seem unlikely to suddenly become a plus run-blocking team, exacerbated by facing what projects as the NFL’s second-toughest rushing schedule based on 2016 fantasy points allowed. In a league-worst situation in a low-scoring offense and ineffective for a sustained stretch, Gurley is entirely a volume play for 2017. Gurley’s RB10 (MFL10s) and RB11 (FF Calc) ADPs suggest optimism remains relatively high in the fantasy community.

Another concern for Gurley’s 2017 outlook is the addition of Lance Dunbar, who is expected to fill the Chris Thompson role as Los Angeles’ passing-down specialist, potentially curbing Gurley’s receiving usage. In Dallas last year, Ezekiel Elliott averaged 2.3 targets in Dunbar’s 13 games compared to 4.0 targets with Dunbar inactive. Whereas Dunbar is a role-specific scatback, Malcolm Brown is the favorite for direct-backup duties behind Gurley. Brown (5’11/224) is a power back with 4.62 speed who has 56 scoreless yards on 22 career carries. Neither reserve runner is a threat for standalone fantasy value.

2017 Vegas Win Total

The 2017 Rams have a Vegas Win Total of 5.5 games, tied with the Bears for fourth lowest in the league “behind” the Browns (4.5), Jets (4.5), and 49ers (4.5). Despite finishing last year 4-12, the Rams actually overachieved relative to their 2.7-3.3 Pythagorean Win Expectation. This year’s Rams have the NFL’s 14th-toughest schedule, including the league’s ninth-hardest pass-defense slate, which won’t make life easy on second-year QB Jared Goff. While there is some hope McVay and DC Wade Phillips can get the maximum out of Los Angeles’ offense and defense, the Rams simply don’t have enough talent to be truly competitive week in and week out. The over on the Rams would be a lot more attractive in the Browns-Jets-49ers range, which is where they belong. As is, I am expecting another three-to-five-win campaign.



Evan Silva is a senior football editor for Rotoworld.com. He can be found on Twitter .
Email :Evan Silva



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