Welcome back to another installment of our Team Previews, as we're navigating the NFC West Side Story this week. No, there aren't any jazzy numbers or Broadway ballads today, but we will try to answer a couple of questions like: Can Todd Gurley's knee handle a full workload? Will the real Jared Goff please stand up? What can we expect from Cooper Kupp this season? Grab your sunglasses, as we head to Tinseltown and take a closer look at three of the Rams' fantasy relevant players.
LOS ANGELES RAMS
In 2018, the Rams (almost) had no trouble scoring on people. Be it through the air or on the ground, there was no stopping them, until the Patriots did it in the Super Bowl. (Yes, I know the Bears handled business against them too, but for purposes of this article, let’s go back to the Super Bowl.) A Star Was Born last season with Jared Goff, or so we thought for most of the fantasy season.
After the Patriots held the Rams to 3 points in the Super Bowl, Jared Goff was left Singin’ in the Rain as most people in the fantasy community proclaimed “TEAMS HAVE FIGURED OUT JARED GOFF!”. Well, most teams aren’t the Patriots, and most coaches aren’t Bill Belichick. So, what do we do with Jared Goff in 2019? We draft him at his current ADP as a value that will outproduce his ADP!
In 2017, the Rams threw the ball about 53% of the time. Last year, they threw the ball 55% of the time. They also had the lead in most of their games in 2018. Sean McVay loves to throw the ball, and I expect that passing percentage number to get a bit higher. With Todd Gurley’s knee (I’ll get to that next), we will see more production through the air.
Last season, Goff ranked 4th in Average Completed Air Yards, 8th in Average intended Air Yards, 4th in Yards and 8th in Touchdowns. So, what does this mean? Jared Goff is actually really good. He has improved each year since getting to the NFL, and dramatically so since McVay became his head coach. Goff is getting better each year, and with his ADP so low to his expected production, there’s no reason to not target him.
After putting Kyler Murray in my top five Quarterbacks yesterday, would I be crazy to put two NFC West Quarterbacks finishing in the top 5? Short answer, YES! But I am doing it anyway because the numbers don’t lie. With an expected production of 375/562/4951/34TDs/9 INTs, and 27/89/1 rushing, Jared Goff will firmly finish as a top 5 Quarterback in 2019.
The biggest question this fantasy off season is, what do we do with Todd Gurley? Ever since his knee got injured against the Chiefs in week 11, he never looked the same. He did have a nice game against the Cowboys in the playoffs, but even there, was outproduced by CJ “was cut by 3 teams in 2018” Anderson. Gurley having arthritis in the knee shouldn’t be a shock as a majority of people with previous ACL tears do get arthritis in their knee. Does this mean he will see a reduced workload? Most likely. But L.A. has kept it Confidential, and there’s not a lot of news about how they will use Todd Gurley.
The Rams drafted stand out Darrell Henderson, and matched the Chicago Bears’ offer sheet to retain Malcolm Brown. Don’t forget the Rams also have John Kelly on their roster too. So, the question returns of, what do we do with Todd Gurley. McVay has used multiple backs before, most notably in 2015 with the Washington Redskins, where he gave touches to Alfred Morris, Matt Jones and Chris Thompson. Alfred Morris led the committee with 47% of the rushes. Not inspiring for us fantasy players who love workhorse running backs. Todd Gurley is a better running back than all three of those guys, and aside from a season ending injury, there is no way his usage will dip that low. I do expect them to pull back Gurley’s usage, but I still anticipate him to get between 55-60% of the running back touches. For comparison, the last two years he’s averaged about 65%.
Todd Gurley’s ADP has dropped to RB8, at the end of the first round. Will there be risk with drafting Todd Gurley this year? Yes. But the reward far outweighs the risk. I predict Gurley to have around 260/1261/16 rushing, and 52/527/3 receiving. That would put him as my overall RB2 for the season. These projections are on the higher end of what I expect from him, but they may go down based on information that comes out this summer. Make sure to check the pre-draft rankings on a regular basis before your draft. Also, be a smart fantasy football player and draft Darrell Henderson to handcuff Gurley.
The Rams were/are loaded on offense, and who was the best performing receiver on the team before injury? The man with a big smile to your right. So, if the Rams seemed a little off in the latter part of the season, Gurley's knee might have had something to do with it, but a huge part of the off feeling also came from Cooper Kupp's absence. Starring as Goff's safety net, Kupp was taking the league by storm. Through five weeks, before his initial injury, Cooper Kupp was the second overall leading wide receiver for fantasy in 2018, only behind Adam Thielen. His pace was a little unsustainable, but there's no question that Goff loves his little Tin Kupp.
From 2017 to 2018, Kupp's target, reception, yards and touchdown shares all went up, and he was actually on pace to go for over 1000 yards receiving with double digit touchdowns. Aside from a healthy Todd Gurley, a healthy Cooper Kupp might have changed the way the Super Bowl played out. In the first five weeks of the season, Cooper Kupp had 24% of the Rams' targets, 25% of the team receptions, 25.3% of the receiving yards and 41.6% of the total touchdowns.
How do I see our little Kupp of Life performing this year? After Goff has had more time to build chemistry with Brandin Cooks, and maybe some more four wide receiver sets, I expect a little regression from what his pace was last season, but not much. I have him going 104/72/906/9 for my initial progressions. He's currently being drafted in the fourth round as WR19. That seems about right. I would absolutely be targeting him, but I'm not reaching for him, yet. If Gurley's injury does appear more serious than I believe it is, I'll be bumping Kupp's usage up, and could see him finishing as a high end WR2 or low end WR1.
As always, thank you for your continued support. I'll be back tomorrow with three players from the San Francisco 49ers. Follow us on Twitter @FF_Pilots, and you can follow me @MichaelVoyu.