The undefined have been a top team in the NFL since Sean McVay arrived in 2017. After an offseason switch from Jared Goff to Matthew Stafford at quarterback, the Rams reached the Holy Grail in football by winning the 2021 Super Bowl. The success was driven by an all-time season by WR Cooper Kupp (145/1,947/16), setting the stage for follow-through in 2022. Los Angeles flipped WR Odell Beckham for WR Allen Robinson on their depth chart in the offseason, but Beckham still has a chance to return. Cam Akers missed most of the regular season with an Achilles injury, leaving a void at running back for the Rams. He has an excellent opportunity to be a stud lead back, but is Akers an elite talent? His play last season invites some trepidation about his ability to be a workhorse runner. DE Aaron Donald remains a beast attacking the quarterback and defending the run.
Looking back on 2021, the Rams’ offense only did one thing well. They got the ball to Cooper Kupp. He accounted for almost 40% of their passing yards and 46.3% of their passing touchdowns. They rank the ball 40.9% of the time. Their offense gained 500 fewer yards than the Dallas Cowboys (7,082).
Matthew Stafford – click here for fantasy projections
Other options: John Wolford, Bryce Perkins
The Rams ditched the passing game for running backs over the past three seasons. They had a three-year high in targets (76) and touchdowns (4) while ranking last in the league in catches (53) and receiving yards (314). The injury to Cam Akers contributed to a step back in rushing yards (1,641) and rushing scores (10).
Cam Akers – click here for fantasy projections
The injury to Cam Akers handed Henderson the keys to the starting job in Week 1. He played well over eight games (110/507/5 with 16 catches for 141 yards and two touchdowns) while missing Week 3 with a rib issue. After three dull showings (172 combined yards with one score and 11 catches on 43 touches), his season was all but over due to thigh and knee injury plus a battle with COVID-19.
Over the previous two seasons, Henderson gained 1,647 combined yards with 14 touchdowns and 45 catches on 332 touches.
Fantasy outlook: The Rams will get Henderson on the field for a minimum of one-third of their plays. His floor should be 150 touches with 750 yards, five scores, and 25 catches. In the NFFC, his ADP (132) creates an easy buying opportunity in many drafts for some looking to add him as a handcuff to Cam Akers, something I view as a must.
Other options: Kyren Williams, Jake Funk, Xavier Jones
The Rams’ wideouts led the NFL in catches (286), receiving yards (3,964), and touchdowns (31) while gaining 81% of the team’s receiving yards. The most impressive stat was their 13.9 yards per catch, considering the high number of chances. Los Angeles wants to make defenses defend the whole field, which is a huge plus for their wide receivers.
Cooper Kupp – click here for fantasy projections
Robinson finished eighth (254.90 fantasy points) and ninth (262.90 fantasy points) in scoring in PPR leagues in 2019 and 2020. Chicago looked his way 305 times over this span, leading to 200 catches for 2,397 yards and 13 touchdowns. His catch rate (65.6) has been strong over these two seasons.
In 2020, he gained over 100 yards in four contests (10/123/1, 7/101/1, 9/123/1, and 10/103). Robinson had a floor of six catches in 11 of his 17 games played. Twenty-two over his 102 catches in 2020 gained over 20 yards (one in each contest except Week 2).
The Chicago quarterback change led to a sharp decline in Robinson’s output (38/410/1 over 12 weeks) and his opportunity (5.5 targets per game). He missed four of the final seven contests with a hamstring issue and COVID-19. Earlier in the season, Robinson played through an ankle issue.
Fantasy outlook: The Rams signed him to a three-year, $46.5 million deal in March with the plan to make Robinson their WR2. I expect him to have a 120 target opportunity, giving him a chance at 80 catches for 950 yards with six to eight scores. He ranks 27th at wide receiver in the early draft season in the NFFC with an ADP of 67. I expect him to outperform his price point, but I won’t push him up in drafts.
Over the first month of last season, Jefferson offered flash value in two games (2/80/1 and 6/90/1). By the end of Week 10, he had 30 catches for 487 yards and three touchdowns on 53 targets. Jefferson scored in his next three matchups (3/93/1, 6/41/1, and 2/58/1), but his role faded over his final seven games (14/202/0 25 targets).
Fantasy outlook: Surprisingly, Jefferson played better than expected in the deep passing. He finished 36th in wide receiver scoring (168.20) in PPR formats while being challenging to time. His ADP (163) in the NFFC ranks him as the 63rd wide receiver off the board. His next step in growth will result in more catches, but regression should be expected in his yards per catch. Jefferson fits better on a team as a WR5 with a chance at 65 catches for 800 yards and five scores.
Other options: Tutu Atwell, Ben Skowronek, Brandon Powell, Landen Powell, Warren Akers
The change at quarterback for the Rams ended with Los Angeles throwing fewer balls to their tight ends. As a result, they set three-year lows in catches (67), receiving yards (615), yards per catch (9.2), and targets (95).
Higbee won fantasy owners a ton of money in 2019 with 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 touchdowns on 141 targets.
His sure thing price point in 2020 led to Higbee being a bust (44/521/5 on 60 targets). He gained fewer than 50 yards in 13 of his 16 games while never catching over five passes in a game. His only game of value came in Week 2 (5/54/3). Higbee finished with six catches or fewer in each of his games played.
Last year the Rams upped his targets to 85 (60 in 2020). Higbee finished with 61 catches for 560 yards and five touchdowns over 15 games. His only game of value came in Week 18 (6/55/2). Higbee scored fewer than 10.00 fantasy points in 12 of his 18 starts (including the postseason). Despite the appearance of weakness, only 13 other tight ends outscored him last year.
Fantasy outlook: Higbee appears to be a one-hit-wonder, but his chemistry with Matthew Stafford should improve in 2022. He ranks 19th at tight end in the high-stakes market in early July. At best, I see 65 catches for 700 yards and five touchdowns.
Other options: Kendall Blanton, Bryce Hopkins, Jacob Harris
For fantasy drafters waiting on a kicker last season, Gay rewarded them with an excellent season. He made 94.1% of his field goal chances with success from 50 yards or more (4-for-5). Over 24 games with the Rams, Gay missed one of his 65 extra-point.
Fantasy outlook: In early July in the NFFC, he was the fourth kicker off the board. The Rams scored 52 touchdowns last season while creating 34 field goal chances. Gay plays in the right offense, and he makes his kicks. I had him on many teams last season, giving a soft spot for him again in 2022.
In his first five seasons as the Rams head coach, Sean McVay has a 55-26 record, helping St. Louis to four postseason appearances with a Super Bowl victory in 2021. Over his previous three years, he worked as the offensive coordinator for Washington. McVay has 12 seasons of experience in the NFL at age 36.
Liam Coen jumps from college offensive coordinator (Kentucky) to the Rams. Before last year, he worked under Sean McVay as their assistant wide receivers and quarterbacks coach for three seasons.
Los Angeles improved to ninth in offensive yards and seventh in scoring (460 points). The change at quarterback led to the Rams finishing with 88 more points than in 2020 (372).
The defense remains in the hands of Raheem Morris, who worked in the Falcons’ system for six seasons with various jobs. His NFL coaching career started in 2002 as their defensive back coach, leading to the Bucs’ head coaching job for three seasons (17-31). Morris had his first defensive coordinator job in Atlanta in 2020 while finishing the season with the interim coaching position (4-7).
The Rams had the league's top defense in 2020, but they slipped to 15th in points allowed (372) last year while finishing 17th in yards allowed.
Los Angeles lost four top players (LB Von Miller, CB Darious Williams, G Austin Corbett, and DT Sebastian Joseph) to free agency. They signed for a combined $200 million. In addition, P Johnny Hekker moved onto the Panthers. The Rams added LB Bobby Wagner and WR Allen Robinson.
The Rams didn't have a selection in the first two rounds of this year's draft. They focused on their defense with five (CB Decobie Durant – 4.37, S Quentin Lake – 6.33, CB Derion Kendrick – 6.34, and S Russ Yeast – 7.32). Los Angeles picked up a pair of offensive linemen – G Logan Bruss (3.40) and T A.J. Arcuri (7.40) plus RB Kyren Williams in the fifth round.
The Rams fell to 25th in rushing yards (1,683) with 10 touchdowns and three runs over 20 yards. Their rushers gained only 4.0 yards per carry while averaging 24.7 attempts per game.
Los Angeles ranked fifth in passing yards (4,893) with 41 touchdowns and 18 interceptions. They gained 8.1 yards per pass attempt with 65 completions over 20 yards. Their offensive line gave up 31 sacks.
Their offensive line will no longer have the services of LT Andrew Whitworth, who retired in the offseason. His pass blocking has been an asset for the Rams and Bengals for over a decade. Joe Noteboom has a lot to prove as his potential replacement while never earning a full-time starting job in his four years in the NFL. Los Angeles signed him to a three-year $40 million deal in March, showing that they believe in his upside. Rob Havenstein remains a foundation player at right tackle with a higher ceiling in run blocking. Brian Allen finished as a neutral option at center in 2021 after his first season with starting snaps. His pass blocking. Both guard positions look to be in flux entering 2022. David Edwards should earn a starting job after finishing with league-average stats in run and pass blocking.
The passing window for the Rams looks to be diminished entering this season, pointing to fewer impact plays by Matthew Stafford. Their offensive line looks league average at best while needing to improve in run blocking.
The Rams dropped to sixth in rushing yards allowed (1,754) with 18 touchdowns and four runs over 20 yards. Rushers gained 4.0 yards per carry with 26.1 attempts per game.
Los Angeles plummeted to 22nd pass defense (4,109 yards) with 17 touchdowns and 19 interceptions. Quarterbacks gained 7.2 yards per pass attempt. The Rams had the third-most sacks (50).
The bulk of the Rams’ pass rush came from DE Aaron Donald (12.5) and LB Leonard Floyd (9.5). DE A’Shawn Robinson helps vs. the run with minimal value in the pass rush. DT Greg Gaines put more pressure on the quarterback last season while missing too many tackles. He did a better job clogging up the center of their defensive line.
The second level of their defense has the structure to offer more upside, attacking the quarterback and defending the run. LB Bobby Wagner brings a veteran presence with a long history of being a high-volume tackler.
CB Jalen Ramsey should no longer be considered a top player in coverage. He does his job on many downs, but quarterbacks no longer fear him, leading to some touchdowns allowed and many yards allowed. The Rams have two talented safeties who both help to defend the run. However, the second cornerback position does have some downside risk even with Los Angeles adding back CB Troy Hill via a trade in the offseason.
The Rams’ defense gets plenty of respect in fantasy drafts (ranked 6th), but they can be hot and cold. Their success vs. the pass relies heavily on closing the passing window. When they don’t, offenses will have plenty of chances to beat them via the air. Based on their sacks and turnovers alone, Los Angeles will finish the year as a top 10 defense in 2022.
2022 FANTASY OUTLOOKS
AFC East: Bills | Dolphins | Patriots | Jets
AFC North: Ravens | Bengals | Browns | Steelers
AFC South: Texans | Colts | Jaguars | Titans
AFC West: Broncos | Chiefs | Raiders | Chargers
NFC East: Cowboys | Giants | Eagles | Commanders
NFC North: Bears | Lions | Packers | Vikings
NFC South: Falcons | Panthers | Saints | Buccaneers
NFC West: Cardinals | Rams | 49ers | Seahawks