The outlook for the Rams’ offense in 2020 is not great. Sean McVay’s inability to adapt offensively—to personnel, opponents, or gamescript—has hampered his team’s box score productivity. In the closing weeks of the 2019 season, we saw a large uptick in 12 personnel usage (2 tight ends, 2 receivers, 1 running back) when the Rams were winning or within one score (Sharp Football’s 2020 Football Preview). His reliance on 11 personnel (3 receivers, 1 tight end, 1 running back) in emergency situations continues to plague him. Couple that with the Sharp Football’s Strength of Schedule projections and it looks as though his 12 personnel usage will not be as frequent as many have hoped.
- 7th hardest overall
- 3rd hardest slate of opponents in terms of defensive efficiency
- 14th softest blend of pass defenses
- 11th hardest blend of rush defenses
- 12th hardest slate of opponents in terms of offensive efficiency
Jared Goff’s fantasy production has retained fringe QB1/2 production despite the Rams’ offense experiencing an overall decline. The emergence of 2nd and 3rd safety blanket options in Tyler Higbee and Gerald Everett (behind Cooper Kupp) will increase his matchup-based viability. But overall, Goff is not able to succeed on his own and should not be drafted as a reliable QB1. His Completion Percentage Above Expectation (CPOE), a measurement of the quarterback’s ability to make throws based on difficulty or ease, was -3.6—good for 6th worst in the NFL. Fortunately, he can be had as the overall QB19, a fine place for a spot-start option.
As noted on episode 80 of the Establish The Run Podcast, both hyper athletic running backs Darrell Henderson and Cam Akers come from a gap rushing scheme while the Rams run a zone blocking scheme. It’s possible the Rams intend to change their scheme, but if they don’t—which would be more in line with McVay’s reticence to alter his offense even when necessary—it’s worth noting that Henderson adjusted to LA’s zone scheme with just moderate success as a rookie in 2019. Current .5PPR ADP’s have Akers at 6.02, RB28, Henderson at 9.01, RB42, and Malcolm Brown going undrafted. McVay and GM Les Snead showed their love for Brown last offseason when the Rams matched the offer sheet that the Miami Dolphins had signed him to, retaining contract rights to the veteran back. With the abbreviated training camp, rookie Cam Akers could struggle to fully grasp the playbook in September. A more prudent option would be to add one of the veterans at a much more cost-efficient ADP.
Cooper Kupp has been a slot receiving dynamo during his time in the league, rarely having slot route competition. With the emergence of two pass catching tight ends at the end of 2019, things changed. While winning or tied, in the first halves of games, when McVay is still willing to deploy his 12 personnel packages regularly, Kupp is going to be kicked to the outside more frequently than we’ve ever seen. His redzone slot snap percentages are likely to suffer as well. Per Sharp Football’s 2020 Football Preview, the switch to frequent 12 personnel usage resulted in Kupp’s yards per catch to go from 13.7 to 10.3 and his yards per route run to go from 2.36 to 1.66. Such colossal drop offs indicate Kupp is not going to sustain his WR1/2 value. Consider his 3.10, WR13 ADP completely off-limits. Meanwhile, Robert Woods who’s finished between WR17-19 from 2017-2019 in .5PPR has an ADP of 4.11, WR24. Woods will not be affected by switches to 12 personnel because he’s always operated as the Rams’ alpha perimeter receiver. Draft Woods confidently as a rock solid WR2.
With the departure of deep threat Brandin Cooks, Josh Reynolds steps into the No. 3 WR role. Reynolds will be deployable as a matchup option-only, in situations where the Rams will be predictably playing from behind for much of the game’s four quarters. Target the unsexy fantasy option on the waiver wire.
The Rams also brought in six rookie wide receivers this offseason, most notably Van Jefferson, son of former NFL WR Shawn Jefferson. Per Sports Info Solutions’ Football Rookie Handbook 2020, Jefferson is an inside/outside receiver who wins with savvy route running and burst off the line, yet lacks breakaway speed. His style of play compares remarkably well to Cooper Kupp. Although he’s likely to start 2020 slowly as he recovers from the dreaded Jones fracture, it’s possible he is the long term replacement for Kupp. If Kupp’s surgically repaired knee (ACL) slows him in the back half of 2020, as it did in 2019, fantasy players should monitor Jefferson’s waiver wire status.
Note: At times, Sports Info Solutions has donated proceeds from book sales to COVID-19 relief—a worthy cause to look into if one is so inclined.
Last season, Tyler Higbee’s late season explosion won fantasy championships for the masses. This season, he’s being drafted as if a repeat performance is assured, coming off the board with the first pick of the 6th-round in .5PPR scoring. It must be acknowledged, though, that Higbee was not given a chance to produce until Week 10—the week after Gerald Everrett was hurt. Everett totaled a handful of snaps in the remaining weeks. Prior to Week 10, as Cooper Kupp’s knee began to flare up and personnel changes were made, it was Everett who was hauling in double-digit target totals. Each player, Kupp, Everett, and Higbee had outstanding portions of the 2019 season, but each peak came at a time when two of the players were hampered by injury—or in Higbee’s case, not getting playing time.
With the trio now at full health and the aforementioned gamescript-dependent 11/12 personnel deployments, it’s difficult to see how the three of them will coexist in the box score. All three players hurt each other’s shot at running the high-value slot routes that have brought all of them so much fantasy success—especially in the redzone. With the ADP’s of Kupp and Higbee being so high and Everett going undrafted, the latter may be the man to target as a value pick in the last round of your draft.
The Rams’ offense isn’t likely to be a world beater this year, making rookie kicker Sam Sloman a subpar draft choice. It’s worth mentioning that he was the 12th-highest scoring kicker in college football last year though.
Players like Aaron Donald and Jalen Ramsey keep the Rams D/ST as a viable option, given their sack/turnover potential.