Photo by Chris Williams/Icon Sportswire
Whether you’re a faithful Rams fan or simply a fan of quality football in general, could you have asked for a better season from first-year coach, Sean McVay and a fairly revamped roster? Don’t even bother trying to justify your “foresight”, no one could see this kind of turnaround in so little time. Considering the extremely mediocre legacy of Jeff Fisher left behind, resurrecting the franchise would require a culture change. Hindsight is 20/20, but Rams‘ brass hired the perfect person, in McVay. They already had invested a first-round pick in Jared Goff, who had plenty of question marks coming off, basically a half season of pure losing. He went 0-7 as a starter, 5:7 Int: TD ratio and a 63 passer rating – not a whole lot of positives gained. That is, of course, unless you get the right leadership with the right message.
Fast forward to the 2017 season, where Jared Goff threw 28 touchdowns, the leading receiver was a rookie in Cooper Kupp, Todd Gurley bounced back in a big way (885 rushing yard in 2016 to 1,305 in 2017) and they finished the regular season 11-4. The defense wasn’t as good as it should have been, given all the talent they had/have, but it did enough to help keep the team extremely competitive every game. That rapid improvement is simply rare and very impressive. Entering their 2018 season, the team hopes to, obviously improve, but to challenge for a better finish in the post-season that left plenty to be desired. That same desire spurred them to replace Sammy Watkins, who joined the Chiefs in the off-season, with an upgrade, in Brandin Cooks. Most of the roster remains intact, otherwise. They are, however, still without all-world defensive tackle, Aaron Donald, who is awaiting a very large and well-deserved contract. Hopefully, they can work something out soon, for the entire team’s sake. I mean…just look at #99 here:
As in all cases, the fantasy outlook on a team is reflective of what is or has happened on the field or the trainer’s room. Let’s see who should be on your “watch-list” heading into your fantasy draft.
(QB1) Jared Goff
As highlighted prior, Goff improved greatly in 2017, passing for more than 3,800 yards and, maybe most importantly, took care of the football – throwing seven interceptions in 15 games. He ended the season with a 100+ passer rating and a 62% completion rate. Heading into his second year under the guidance of Sean McVay and with the same offensive line, my confidence in Goff has only risen. Consistency within a roster and the play-calling is one of the big keys to developing a franchise quarterback and, ultimately, a consistent winning culture. Yes, he’s only had one good year, so far, but he passes the eye test, he’s clearly a quick learner and will be, once again lead by great coaches and leading a talented roster. Most top-tier quarterbacks will probably be drafted toward the fourth round of fantasy drafts. Regardless of when this happens, I’d put Goff as the 15th best fantasy quarterback. I strongly disagree with fellow writer, Ben Palmer, regarding where he ranked Goff (18th). Goff has proven to be very good, whereas Patrick Mahomes has not, Marcus Mariota hasn’t enjoyed health nor consistent play and Alex Smith (12) is on a new team without Andy Reid at his side. It’s not the farthest limb to step out onto, but I’m on it, nonetheless.
(RB1) Todd Gurley II (Jr. is too mainstream?)
The reigning Offensive Player of the Year comes into this season as the second-best running back to draft, outside of Le’Veon Bell, just ahead of David Johnson and Alvin Kamara. His ability to catch the ball out of the backfield, now, puts him among the best at his position. He more than doubled his 2016 receiving stats, with 788 yards on 64 receptions ending in 6 touchdowns. We all know how good he is as a runner (almost 5 yards per carry), but if he can somewhat repeat these numbers, he should contend for another POY award.
(WR2) Brandin Cooks
The last we saw of Brandin Cooks in action was him lying motionless after being destroyed on a (legal) blindside hit by Malcolm Jenkins of the Eagles in Super Bowl 52. It was a very unfortunate end to his season, as the Patriots went on to lose the game in stunning fashion. But before that injury, he had a pretty good season with his new team. It wasn’t the same production as it was while he was in New Orleans, but surpassing 1,000 yards isn’t something to lament, either. He has now stacked 3, 1,000+ yard seasons! That’s something of an anomaly, considering his size (5’10”). It must be nice, having two sure-fire Hall of Famers, Drew Brees and Tom Brady throw you passes, right? Even though he now has a much younger quarterback in Goff, things should not regress much. As I mentioned, I think Cooks is an upgrade from Watkins. Cooks has proven he can be extremely productive, stay on the field and play both, inside and outside the numbers. He has improved his average reception yardage each year, which indicates both consistent ability to get down the field quickly and create separation against much bigger cornerbacks. In my opinion, he’s easily a solid top 18 option in fantasy, as I’d slide him in front of Doug Baldwin and Marvin Jones in this list written by our very own Brennen Gorman. How this will impact the other receivers on the team, remains to be seen.
(WR3) Cooper Kupp
Cooper Kupp is one of the more interesting cases when discussing fantasy value. As a rookie, he lead the Rams in receiving despite starting in just six games! He showed excellent route running, strong hands and deceptive speed. The All-Pro receiver ended with 94 targets playing “second-fiddle” to Sammy Watkins, outproducing both he and Robert Woods. I don’t necessarily think he’ll repeat as the team’s leader in receiving yardage, but he should still see a high enough volume of targets to render him a top 30 spot on the receivers list.
(D/ST4) Los Angeles Rams
In Michael Miklius’ QB List article ranking all 32 NFL defenses, he put the Rams as #2. I have to disagree slightly, considering how good the Vikings and Eagles still are, due to the number of yards they allowed per game last year – they allowed 4.7 yards per rush and a 58.4% completion rate in 2017. I will concede such a high ranking due to the fact they added DT Ndamukong Suh to play alongside Aaron Donald. I pity the offensive lines tasked with blocking those two. They also added two of the league’s best corners in Marcus Peters and Aquib Talib. Defensive coordinator, Wade Phillips should have this group ready to rock come September. The rest of the NFC West is going to have its hands full, that’s for damn sure.
Other candidates to consider for your roster should include the aforementioned (WR4) Robert Woods and (TE4) Tyler Higbee who has impressed during camp.
This team is dynamic and loaded with fantasy stars. For me, it’s one of those premium situations that provides low-stress decision-making – a safety net for when your friends get impatient during your turn to draft. Don’t overthink it; draft a starter for the Los Angeles Rams.