Evan Silva

Offseason Low Down

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Monday, July 2, 2018


Rams Offensive Profile Under Sean McVay

2017 Pass Attempts Rank: 24th
2017 Rush Attempts Rank: 9th
2017 Play Volume Rank: 20th
2017 Yards Per Play Rank: 6th
Unaccounted for Air Yards from 2017 (Rank): 1,086 (17th)
Unaccounted for Carries from 2017 (Rank): 70 (20th)

Projected Starting Lineup

QB: Jared Goff
RB: Todd Gurley
WR: Brandin Cooks
WR: Robert Woods
WR: Cooper Kupp
TE: Tyler Higbee
LT: Andrew Whitworth
LG: Rodger Saffold
C: John Sullivan
RG: Jamon Brown
RT: Rob Havenstein

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Passing Game Outlook

Jared Goff broke out as a second-year pro under the masterful first-year guidance of Kyle Shanahan/Jay Gruden protégé Sean McVay, leading the NFL in yards per completion (12.9) in a progressive offense that carved out a competitive advantage by racing to the line of scrimmage, then audibling to optimized plays based on McVay’s pre-snap coverage reads. After he threw from play action at the NFL’s second-lowest rate (14%) as a rookie, McVay spiked Goff’s play-action passing to a league-high 30% clip. New faces LT Andrew Whitworth, C John Sullivan, WR Sammy Watkins, WR Robert Woods, and WR Cooper Kupp were colossal upgrades on predecessors Greg Robinson, Tim Barnes, Kenny Britt, Tavon Austin, and Brian Quick. There are forward-thinking red flags, though. Rich Hribar noted Goff threw a league-high eight touchdowns on passes behind the line of scrimmage; the No. 2 quarterback threw three. Goff will struggle to sustain his 5.9% TD rate, the NFL’s third-best mark among signal callers with at least 250 throws. The Rams ranked 24th in pass attempts and are unlikely to become a high-volume passing team supported by offensive centerpiece Todd Gurley and Wade Phillips’ top-ten defense. Goff adds zero rushing value to mask any loss of passing efficiency. Will McVay and Goff maintain their pre-snap edge given defenses had a full offseason to prepare? Goff is a respectable late-round pick, but his ceiling is likely lower than many of the passers going behind him such as Matthew Stafford, Matt Ryan, Ben Roethlisberger, and Pat Mahomes.

Brandin Cooks heads to L.A. after three straight 1,000-plus-yard seasons with Drew Brees and Tom Brady to replace Sammy Watkins, who never formed an on-field bond with Goff after the Rams acquired Watkins one month before Week 1. Watkins settled in as a lid-lifting decoy, changing coverage with his speed but finishing fourth on the team in targets. Whereas the 2017 Rams didn’t have a single player clear 95 targets, Cooks averaged 120 over the past three years with a floor of 114. Cooks does have a four-month head start on Watkins after being acquired before the draft, and (fwiw) Cooks and Goff worked out together as far back as early April. On a balanced Rams team, however, Cooks’ projected volume loss is a significant concern for his ceiling and consistency. Cooks is likely better approached as a boom-bust WR2/3 than the borderline WR1 he produced as with Brady and Brees.

Robert Woods enjoyed a mini breakout in his first year as a Ram, establishing career highs in yards per game (65.1) and catch rate (65.9%) and finishing No. 8 among 93 qualifying receivers in PFF’s predictive Yards Per Route Run metric (2.17). Although Woods has never been viewed as a speed burner, Josh Hermsmeyer’s Next Gen Stats work showed Woods moving at a well-above-par pace. Woods’ season could have been much bigger if not for a shoulder injury that cost him Weeks 12-14, then curbed his effectiveness down the stretch. Healthy in January, Woods blowtorched Desmond Trufant for nearly all of his nine catches and 142 yards in Los Angeles’ playoff loss. Woods’ ceiling remains limited by the Rams’ balanced approach and Cooks’ addition, but his role is secure entering season two with McVay and his 23-year-old quarterback. Woods is a serviceable WR3/4 option in the middle rounds of drafts.

 

Editor's Note: The 2018 Rotoworld Draft Guide provides more than 500 extensive player profiles, tiers, projections, Evan Silva’s Sleepers and Busts and much more. Get the NFL Draft Guide now.



Cooper Kupp and Goff hit it off immediately last preseason and translated their chemistry into the real games. As a third-round rookie out of Eastern Washington, Kupp led the Rams in targets (94), receiving yards (869), yards per catch (14.0), red-zone targets (23), and targets inside the ten-yard line (7). In an offense that paid its tight ends minimal passing-game mind and used three-receiver 11 personnel at a league-high 81% clip, Kupp operated as Goff’s high-percentage safety valve in the middle of the field and in critical situations. 67.7% of Kupp’s receptions went for first downs, the NFL’s ninth-highest rate among players with at least 60 grabs. Kupp ran 59% of his routes in the slot and will continue to draw the most-favorable matchups in Los Angeles’ receiver corps against a schedule consisting of elite perimeter CBs Patrick Peterson (twice), Xavier Rhodes, Casey Hayward, Darius Slay, and Marshon Lattimore, among others. Kupp likely lacks a high yardage ceiling, but his touchdowns have room for growth in a high-volume scoring-position role with Cooks, Woods, and Todd Gurley commanding attention at other areas of the field. Like Woods, Kupp profiles as a safe WR3/4 pick in the middle rounds.

Jeff Fisher holdover Tyler Higbee operated as Los Angeles’ 2017 primary tight end, out-snapping second-round rookie Gerald Everett 70% to 29% and out-targeting him 45 to 32. They were used much differently, however; Higbee ran pass patterns on just 37% of his snaps versus Everett’s 70% route-running clip. Drafted 44th overall out of South Alabama to become ex-Redskins TEs coach McVay’s next Jordan Reed, Everett’s sophomore-breakout potential will be largely tied to his ability to unseat Higbee for snaps in McVay’s preferred three-receiver, one-tight end “11” formations. Despite his slow rookie campaign – common for tight ends -- Everett maintains intriguing Dynasty league upside with 4.62 speed, long arms (33”), and a basketball background. The Rams 2017 usage of Higbee and investment into Everett suggest Higbee has already been stereotyped as a block-first tight end by McVay’s staff.

Running Game Outlook

Todd Gurley was the main beneficiary of Los Angeles’ offensive line additions, implementation of spread concepts, and McVay’s commitment to using Gurley as a true every-down back. Whereas Fisher’s staff frequently pulled Gurley for Benny Cunningham in passing situations, McVay proactively featured Gurley’s receiving skills. Only four NFL running backs caught more passes, and only Alvin Kamara gained more receiving yards. Only Le’Veon Bell played more snaps at the position. Gurley entered 2017 having cleared 90 rushing yards once in his previous 24 games with an abysmal 3.43 yards per carry during that span. Playoffs included, Gurley cleared 90 rushing yards in 8-of-16 games under McVay and spiked his per-carry average to 4.80. In Fisher’s final year, Gurley managed a 41% rushing Success Rate, which ranked 36th among 42 qualified running backs at Football Outsiders. Gurley’s Success Rate soared to 53% under McVay, good for No. 5 among 47 qualified runners. The Rams return all five offensive line starters after last year’s unit finished No. 3 in Adjusted Line Yards and No. 2 in yards created before contact per attempt (PFF). Gurley is neck and neck with Le’Veon as this year’s No. 1 overall fantasy pick.

Gurley’s near-every-snap usage leaves Los Angeles’ other backs without game-day roles, but running backs’ raised injury propensity based on the violent nature of the position gives his backups deep-league relevance. 57 of incumbent No. 2 back Malcolm Brown’s 63 carries came in blowouts and meaningless Week 17 with the Rams’ starters resting. Brown has been a replacement-level grinder since going undrafted in 2015 out of Texas. He will be pushed by sixth-round pick John Kelly, a well-built (5’10/216) physical runner who showed plus receiving chops with 37 catches in his lone season as Tennessee’s lead back. Kelly averaged only 4.1 yards per carry, however, and a concerning 27% of his career runs went for no gain or negative yards. He ran a pedestrian 4.64 forty at the Vols’ Pro Day. Kelly’s superior versatility gives him more fantasy upside should he steal the gig, but Brown will enter preseason as the favorite.

2018 Vegas Win Total

The Rams’ Win Total opened at 9.5 with -150 odds to the over, an aggressive response to last year’s 11-5 turnaround. They previously went 13 straight seasons with eight wins or fewer. Factors working against this year’s club include the NFL’s tenth-toughest schedule and regression concerns, including the league’s healthiest roster in 2017 and last year's field-position dominance, which helped spike the Rams' touchdown rate. Los Angeles’ away-game draws are especially imposing this season, beginning with a Week 1 trip to Oakland’s Black Hole, at Seattle, at Denver, at San Francisco, at New Orleans, at Detroit, at Chicago in December, and at Arizona. The Rams’ offensive and defensive personnel and superb coaching on both sides make them a legitimate Super Bowl contender, but their unfavorable over odds and difficult slate have me leaning toward the under as a one-for-one win-total bet.



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



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