Los Angeles Rams 2021 Fantasy Previewby Mike Fanelli July 25, 2021 0 comments
After five years with the franchise, the Los Angeles Rams traded Jared Goff and multiple draft picks to the Detroit Lions for Matthew Stafford. With the upgrade at quarterback, many fantasy players are excited about the Rams offense this season. In the offseason, the Rams kept their core together. The only losses were reserves Josh Reynolds and Gerald Everett. Then in the draft, the Rams used their first selection on former Louisville wide receiver Tutu Atwell. All was going well till recently when star running back Cam Akers tore his Achilles. He will miss the season because of the injury. With Stafford under center, let’s look at what fantasy players can expect from the Rams this season.
Make sure to check out all of our other 2021 Fantasy Football Previews.
Quarterbacks – Matthew Stafford
Last season, the Rams leaned on the running game as Sean McVay didn’t trust Goff. Furthermore, Goff didn’t trust himself to throw the ball downfield. However, neither will be the case this season with Stafford under center. Over the last two seasons, Stafford has averaged 17.8 fantasy points and 1.9 passing touchdowns per game. Furthermore, Stafford finished seventh in the league in air yards last season, averaging 283.2 per game. Despite Kenny Golladay missing 11 games last season, Stafford still put up starting-caliber fantasy numbers with a limited supporting cast. Now in Los Angeles, with several talented receivers, Stafford is in a position to have his first top-10 finish since 2017.
Running Backs – Darrell Henderson, Xavier Jones, Jake Funk
Before tearing his Achilles, Akers was in line for a featured workload and a likely top-10 finish. However, with Akers out of the year, Henderson will take over as the lead back. From Week 2 through Week 7 last season, Henderson averaged 14 rushing attempts and 14.1 fantasy points per game. While the Rams haven’t signed a veteran running back, reports are that door isn’t closed for good. As we get closer to the start of the season, the Rams could add someone like Todd Gurley or Adrian Peterson. If they do, Henderson will likely find himself in a running back committee situation instead of a feature role. Between the uncertainly and Henderson’s injury history, drafting him as anything more than a low-end RB2 isn’t a risk worth taking.
Unless or until the Rams sign a veteran running back, 2021 seven-round pick Funk and 2020 undrafted free agent Jones will battle it out in camp to be Henderson’s backup. Rumor is the Rams are high on Jones, and he should be the favorite to earn the No. 2 running back role. Furthermore, some even believe he could take over as the starter this season if Henderson misses time with an injury. With Akers out for the year, the Rams backfield is no longer clear. While Henderson is the only Rams running back you should draft before the last few rounds of your draft, keep an eye on Jones. If the Rams don’t add a veteran, using a late-round pick on Jones is a wise move to make.
Wide Receivers – Robert Woods, Cooper Kupp, DeSean Jackson, Tutu Atwell, Van Jefferson
Woods has been one of the most consistent wide receivers over the past three seasons, averaging 15 or more fantasy points per game every year. In 2020, he matched his career-high 90 catches from the 2019 season but on 10 fewer targets. He also matched his career-high six touchdowns from the 2018 season. Woods became more involved in the running game last season with career-highs in rushing attempts (24) and rushing touchdowns (two). More importantly, he has taken over as the clear WR1 in Los Angeles. Woods had five or more targets in every game last season, including eight or more in half of his games. Woods’ role in the offense will make him a safe floor WR2 with the potential to finish in the top-12 with Stafford under center.
With the Rams turning towards a more conservative run-first offense, Kupp suffered the most. His fantasy points per game dropped by 18 percent from 2019 to 2020, as he had almost 200 fewer yards and seven fewer touchdowns. However, Kupp is still a PPR machine, totaling 186 catches over the past two seasons. When the Rams used two tight end sets last season, Kupp was limited in his totals snaps and, more importantly, snaps in the slot. Last season, Kupp played only 55 percent of his snaps from the slot compared to 65.5 percent in 2019. With the additions of Jackson and Atwell, expect Kupp to play more in the slot this year. Returning to his natural position, Kupp should return to his high-end WR2 status or better this season.
The Rams have done a good job building up the depth at wide receiver. Replacing Brandin Cooks, Reynolds had a career year last season, posting career-highs across the board with 52 catches for 618 receiving yards and 7.8 fantasy points per game. However, he signed with the Tennessee Titans in the offseason. To replace him, the Rams signed Jackson and drafted Atwell. With Stafford under center, both will be used downfield. Also on the team remains high on Jefferson. After a disappointing rookie season, except Jefferson’s role to increase in 2021. In standard sized leagues, none of the three should get drafted. However, keep an eye on Atwell and Jefferson to start the season as they could become early season must add waiver wire claims.
Tight Ends – Tyler Higbee
After his strong finish to close out the 2019 season, Higbee was a fantasy sleeper entering the 2020 season. However, Higbee finished the year as the TE17, averaging 8.5 fantasy points per game. Unfortunately for his fantasy owners, Higbee scored 22.2 percent of his fantasy points in a single game. Removing that game, Higbee averaged only 7.1 fantasy points per game the rest of the season. However, Higbee is the perfect post-hype sleeper candidate. Over the past two seasons, Higbee averaged five targets per game, and his new quarterback loves to target his tight ends. Last season, Stafford targeted a tight end on 24.2 percent of his passes. With Everett now a member of the Seattle Seahawks, Higbee has a chance to break out this year.
Led by Aaron Donald and Jalen Ramsey, the Rams have one of the best defenses in the NFL. Last season, the Rams D/ST finished third in the league, averaging 9.3 fantasy points per game. However, they were only three fantasy points away from finishing as the top D/ST. The unit averaged 3.3 sacks and 1.4 turnovers per game last season. More impressively, they scored when they forced turnovers. Last season, the Rams D/ST converted 18.2 percent of their turnover into defensive touchdowns. While the Rams play in one of the toughest divisions in football, they have a great Week 1 matchup against Andy Dalton and the Chicago Bears. The Rams D/ST will be a top-three unit once again in 2021.
Follow Mike Fanelli on Twitter @Mike_NFL2
Main Image Credit:
Embed from Getty Images