2020 Los Angeles Rams Fantasy Team Preview: Can Jared Goff Respark Past Success?

SI Fantasy's Team Preview series from high-stakes legend Shawn Childs aims to break down the Los Angeles Rams to evaluate the offense, defense, coaches and everyone in between with a fantasy-slanted analysis.
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Coaching Staff

The change in coaching staff in Los Angeles was a big success in 2017 (11-5) with follow-through in 2018 (13-3 and a trip to the Super Bowl). Last year the Rams slipped to 9-7 due to a sharp decline in points scored (133 fewer pts) and an 11th-place ranking (384 points). The two previous seasons LA finished 1st (478) and 2nd (527) in scoring. They ended up seventh offensive yards in 2019.

Sean McVay went 33-15 in his three seasons as the head coach, helping the Rams to two postseason appearances with a Super Bowl berth in 2018. Over the previous three years, He worked as the offensive coordinator for the Redskins. McVay has ten seasons of experience in the NFL at age 33.

This year the Rams brought in Kevin O’Connell to run their offense. Last year he held the offensive coordinator job for Washington, which came after two seasons as their quarterbacks coach. O’Connell has been a coach for four years while being a former player in the NFL from 2008 to 2012.

Aaron Kromer returns as the run game coordinator while Shane Waldron gets a second season as the pass game coordinator.

Kromer has 20 seasons on his resume in the NFL with a short stint as an interim coach for the Saints in 2012, where he went 2-4. In 2013 and 2014, he held the offensive coordinator job for the Bears. Waldron came through the Patriots’ system with ties to McVay in Washington.

Los Angeles also made a switch at defensive coordinator in the offseason. Brandon Staley only has three years of experience in the NFL, which came in Chicago and Denver as their outside linebackers coach. He’ll have a massive step up in his job while entering 2020 at age 37.

Last season the Rams ranked 13th in yards allowed and 17th in points allowed (364).

Quarterbacks

Jared Goff (RANK - ADP)

The downgrade in production by Todd Gurley led to the Rams trying to win games with Goff's right arm.

He tied league lead in passing attempts (626 – about a ten percent increase over 2018), but Goff had a regression in his yards per pass attempt (7.4 – 8.4 in 2018) and TD production (22 – 32 in 2018).

His only game with over two passing TDs came in Week 17 (319/3). He passed for over 300 yards in six contests, highlighted in two outings (517/2 and 424/2).

This year LA needs to bring back the RB to the passing game (37/260/2 in 2019 – last in the NFL in RB production) while finding another big play WR to replace Brandin Cooks.

The "Sean McVay is an offensive genius" left the building in the Rams' Super Bowl loss against the Patriots. There's some possible upside, but Goff starts the draft season a mid-tier QB2. Los Angeles did add another pass-catching option at running back (Cam Akers) in this year’s draft.

I have Goff projected for 4,376 yards with 27 TDs and 14 Ints in early July. 

Running Backs

Cam Akers (RANK - ADP)

Over three seasons in college, Akers gained 3,361 combined yards with 34 touchdowns and 69 catches on 655 touches. His highlight season came in 2019 (1,369 combined yards with 18 TDs and 30 catches).

He’ll make plays in the passing game, but his pass protection skills may be below par even with strength as an asset.

His path to running back came via the quarterback position, which helps his play-making ability.

The Rams now have two players to help fill the void created by the decline and release of Todd Gurley.

Akers will be an attractive backend RB in the fantasy market who should gain momentum in training camp.

The early view on the value of Akers in 2020 in the high-stakes market is that he will be the top running back option for the Rams.

I have him projected for 898 combined yards with six TDs and 26 catches after my first run of the projections. I expect his outlook to improve as the training camp news is released over the summer.

Darrell Henderson, Malcolm Brown & John Kelly

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Wide Receivers

Cooper Kupp (RANK - ADP)

Despite ranking fourth in WR scoring (270.70) in PPR leagues, Kupp left fantasy owners with an empty feeling over the second half of the year.

He came into the year with questions about his recovery from a torn ACL in his left knee.

Kupp dominated in five (5/120, 11/101/2, 9/121/1, 9/117/1, and 7/220/1) over his first eight games. After a goose egg in Week 10 on four targets, he failed to gain over 100 yards over his final seven contests (36/369/5), but he did end the year with a TD in five straight games.

Over his last 24 games, Kupp has 134 catches for 1,727 yards and 16 TDs on 189 targets. His success breaks down to 16.78 fantasy points per game in PPR leagues, which would rank in the top ten in fantasy points at wide receiver in each of the past three seasons.

The structure of Rams’ offense is in transition at running back, but they should continue to throw a high number of passes.

My early bar is 87 catches for 1,166 yards and nine TDs.

Robert Woods (RANK - ADP)

Woods played well in each of his last two seasons (86/1219/6 and 90/1134/2) for the Rams while adding extra value as a runner (36/272/2).

With Cooper Kupp stealing the show over the first eight games, Woods proved to be the top option over his final seven contests (707 combined yards with 52 catches and two TDs).

He gained over 100 yards in three games (13/164, 13/172, and 8/117) while having a floor of seven catches in eight contests. The Rams gave him double targets in six weeks (13, 15, 11, 18, 11, and 12).

He missed Week 11 with an off the field issue. His only shortfall came in TDs (2). WR2 opportunity, which is helped by the trade of WR Brandin Cooks.

I have him projected for 78 catches for 1,004 yards and six TDs while expecting the Rams to be more balanced on offense in 2020. 

Josh Reynolds & Van Jefferson

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Tight Ends

Tyler Higbee (RANK - ADP)

A fantasy owner will need to debate between fact or fiction with Higbee in 2019. Based on the early ADPs (81), drafters are buying his incredible five-game run (7/107/1, 7/116, 12/111, 9/104, and 8/84/1) to end the year.

Over his first 58 games in the NFL, Higbee caught 86 passes for 884 yards and five TDs on 141 targets.

The Rams moved Todd Gurley and Brandin Cooks in the offseason, which should be a win in his chances. Unfortunately, a full season of tape and more attention from the defense may hinder Higbee’s opportunity.

Also, Gerald Everett is a viable second TE option for the Rams. Torn on his value, but I know one thing for sure, I won’t draft him as a top seven TE.

LA will run plays for him as long as they are still effective in 2020. Reluctantly – 65/659/3.

Gerald Everett (RANK - ADP)

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Defense

The Rams finished 19th in rushing yards allowed (1,809) with 15 TDs and nine runs over 20 yards. Rushers gained 4.1 yards per carry with 27.8 attempts per game.

Los Angeles ranked 12th in pass defense (3,625 yards) with 23 TDs and 13 Ints. QBs gained 7.0 yards per pass attempt. The Rams had the fourth-most sacks (50) in 2019.

In the premium outlook, on defense you'll find write-ups for DE Aaron Donald, DE Michael Brockers, DT A’Shawn Robinson, LB Samson Ebukam, LB Leonard Floyd, LB Micah Kiser, LB Kenny Young, CB Jalen Ramsey, CB Troy Hill, S Taylor Rapp, and S John Johnson

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Team Defense Outlook

Los Angeles has one of the best players in the NFL on the defensive line with high impact value in all areas. Unfortunately, the remaining talent at the first and second levels of the defense don’t grade as league average players or better as a group. The Rams have a chance to hold their own against the run. Their secondary has three players that should rank well in overall play in 2020.

Overall, a hot-and-cold defense that will bully weaker offenses if they can play from the lead—more of a second defense for me in the season-long fantasy games.

Free Agency, Draft, Offensive Line, Offensive Schedule & Defensive Schedule

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