Could the league’s No. 1 scoring offense from a season ago have even more in store this year?
It only took seven games and barely 200 pass attempts as a rookie for former No. 1 overall pick Jared Goff to be laughably labeled a “bust,” but Sean McVay and a new coaching staff unlocked his potential in his second season with 3,804 yards and a 28:7 touchdown-interception ratio as the leader of the NFL’s most prolific offense. Not turning 24 until October, it’s worth noting that Goff put up those numbers as a 22/23-year-old in the first year of a new system with a key wide receiver (Sammy Watkins) not being acquired until August; now, he is entering 2018 with a full grasp of McVay’s offense and the personnel he’s working with.
Goff’s numbers are likely going to end up in line with last season’s, but I think he has the talent to throw for 40+ touchdowns and wouldn’t be surprised if he makes that leap in 2018. The Cal product has everything in place to keep a stable floor with a sky-high ceiling thanks to a great coaching staff, really good skill-position players around him, strong protection up front, and most importantly, individual talent. Goff is a low-end QB1 for me.
Somehow thought to be “overrated” by some people following a disappointing 2016 season, Todd Gurley quieted all the doubters with 2,093 total yards and 19 total touchdowns last year, finishing as the top fantasy running back with 302 points for the season in standard leagues, a substantial 62 points more than No. 2 Le’Veon Bell. The impressive rushing numbers—279 attempts for 1,305 yards (4.7 YPC) and 13 scores—were only bolstered by Gurley’s prowess as a receiver with 64 receptions for 788 yards and six more scores. Not turning 24 until the first week of August, the Rams’ offensive centerpiece is an obvious top-five pick in all formats.
2018 sixth-round pick John Kelly was a somewhat polarizing draft prospect, as some people had him as an early Day 2 pick, but I was on the other end of the spectrum and had him ranked a few spots after the Rams selection at No. 176. Fortunately, though, while he will have zero chance of a lead job with Todd Gurley around, the Rams could be the perfect spot for Kelly to reach his potential if forced into an extended role due to injury. I don’t think the rookie is worth rostering, but McVay’s offense will make him worth a pickup in all leagues if he ends up leading a committee with Gurley out.
Malcolm Brown will also compete for snaps behind the superstar starter, and he could easily wind up as the preferred handcuff once again. Last season, the 25-year-old rushed 63 times for 246 yards (3.9 YPC) and one touchdown, also adding nine receptions for 53 yards. The most likely scenario in the case of an injury to Gurley would probably be Brown taking the short-yardage work with Kelly taking the receiving work—and both mixing in for conventional carries.
Despite being on his third team in as many seasons, Brandin Cooks is still just 24-years-old and won’t turn 25 until the final week of September. Last year, the former first-round pick caught 65 passes for 1,082 yards and seven touchdowns with the Patriots, and in New Orleans before that, he had lines (starting with the most recent) of 78/1,173/8, 84/1,138/9, and 53/550/3 to start his career. Cooks will slide right into Sammy Watkins’ old role under Sean McVay as a versatile deep threat, but he fits the billing much better than Watkins and should have more chemistry with Jared Goff because the two worked out together earlier this year before a trade even happened. Fantasy owners are seemingly wary about Cooks after Watkins was bolstered by touchdowns in 2017, but I think he’s a value at his No. 50 overall ADP.
Robert Woods was one of the biggest fantasy breakouts of 2017 with a 56/781/5 line in 12 games as the No. 1 option for Los Angeles in the passing game (plus nine receptions for 142 yards in a postseason loss), but unlike last year, he could become a secondary option in favor of Cooks, who should handle a lot of short and deep targets. Woods is just entering his age-26 campaign and will remain an important factor for a creative attack, but I have him slightly below his current ADP of early Round 8.
It wouldn’t have been the case if Woods was healthy all season, but Cooper Kupp actually led the Rams receivers in fantasy points in both standard and PPR leagues with 62 receptions for 869 yards and five touchdowns as a rookie. The six-foot-two slot receiver presents a mismatch problem because he’s crafty enough to separate from safeties, big enough to have a size advantage over typical nickel corners, and is too fast for most linebackers. All that said, I think Cooks really cuts into his upside this season, so Kupp—who is actually older than LA’s new receiver—is just a high-floor FLEX that might be overdrafted at his Round 9 ADP.
The starters are locked in, so rounding out the depth chart, second-year receiver Josh Reynolds and Pro Bowl returner Pharoh Cooper will provide special teams value more than anything else barring injury. Reynolds is would be a better pickup in 12-team leagues if one of Cooks, Woods, or Kupp goes down, but I don’t think either is ready to turn into a consistent fantasy option.
2017 second-round pick Gerald Everett caught 16 passes for 244 yards (15.3 AVG) and two touchdowns as a rookie, but he’s currently being drafted as the TE39, which suggests he carries little upside as the main receiving option at the position in Sean McVay’s offense in 2018. I’m apparently alone, but I think that’s a huge mistake. Thought to be McVay’s version of Jordan Reed when he was drafted, Everett should be a high-upside TE2 entering his second season and is a top-200 overall player for me.
Tyler Higbee caught 25 passes for 295 yards and one touchdown last season, and if Everett doesn’t improve as a blocker, there’s a chance he stays atop the depth chart in 2018. That would probably just lead to frustration for fantasy owners and limited fantasy value for both guys, though, and even if Everett were to get injured, I don’t think Higbee has the upside to be worth considering in 10- or 12-team leagues outside of a tight bye week.
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