👆 if you set fantasy football lineups (or make player prop bets), then you need to see this 👆
Years of terrific coaching and savvy roster management finally culminated in a Lombardi Trophy for the Los Angles Rams last season. They went "all in" on their 2021 campaign, bringing over the likes of Matthew Stafford, Von Miller and Odell Beckham, among others, and it resulted in a Super Bowl victory over the upstart Cincinnati Bengals.
As is usually the case with a Sean McVay offense, the Rams were an exciting offense for fantasy football purposes, and that doesn't figure to change any time in the near future.
In 5 years as the boss of the Rams, McVay's offenses have finished 1st (2017), 2nd (2018), 11th (2019), 22nd (2020) and 7th (last year) in scoring, and 10th, 2nd, 7th, 11th and 9th in offensive yards.
After embracing a run-heavy scheme behind Todd Gurley in his first two seasons as the Rams coach—those Rams finished 9th and 8th in rushing attempts but 24th and 14th in passing attempts—McVay's Rams seem to have morphed into a pass-heavy unit in the last three years, finishing 3rd, 12th and 10th in passing attempts but 18th, 7th and 23rd in rushing attempts.
That said, take a deeper dive into the "why" and the story somewhat tells itself.
In his prime in 2017 (McVay's first year) and 2018, Todd Gurley racked up an absurd 343 touches (64 catches on 87 targets), 2093 yards and 19 TDs in 2017, and 315 touches (59 catches on 81 targets), 1831 yards and 21 TDs in 18.
So yeah; you're gonna run the ball and get the pigskin to your studly workhorse.
But then Gurley's knees fell off in 2019 and he left for Atlanta in 2020, never to be heard from again and leaving McVay and the Rams with a committee of Malcolm Brown, Darrell Henderson and rookie Cam Akers.
So yeah; a shift to a heavier pass approach made sense.
And then they went and got Matthew Stafford to feed Cooper Kupp to a historic season while Cam Akers recovered from a torn Achilles and Henderson + Sony Michel tried to hold down the fort.
So yeah; staying pass-heavy made a ton of sense.
TLDR? McVay assesses his talent and schemes around it accordingly.
And with that in mind, I'd expect another pass-heavy approach in 2022, especially after the Rams went out to get Allen Robinson.
After racking up 398 targets between 2018 and 2020 (he was hurt half of last season), Robert Woods skipped town for Tennessee, leaving question marks about who would fill the WR 2 role in LA, especially since Odell Beckham didn't resign (and remains unsigned).
Enter 29 year old Allen Robinson, the former 1,400 yard and 14 TD wide receiver who spent the last 4 years chasing passes from Mitchell Trubisky and Justin Fields in Chicago. Matthew Stafford instantly becomes the best QB that Robinson has ever played with in his career, and Rams fans and fantasy managers alike should be thrilled about this pairing (even if in the Packer fan in me is still sad he didn't land in Green Bay).
Expect another pass heavy approach with Allen Robinson and—obviously—Cooper Kupp as the main beneficiaries in 2022.
Matthew Stafford 📈
2021 fantasy points: 312.22 (QB 7) - 2021 fantasy points per game: 19.5 (QB 10)
12 seasons in Detroit, 0 playoff wins.
1 season out of Detroit, 1 Super Bowl.
Ribbing aside, 34-year-old Matthew Stafford enjoyed the best season (and 2nd best statistical season) of his career in his first campaign with the LA Rams last year. In 16 fantasy football games, he finished 8th in the NFL in passing attempts (569), 2nd in yards (4648) and 2nd in passing TDs (38).
He was one of the safer options in fantasy football, registering 20 or more fantasy football points in 50% of his games (for comparison, Justin Herbert was also 50%, Tom Brady was 56.25%, Russell Wilson was 38.46%, Lamar Jackson was 33.33% and Aaron Rodgers was 60%).
The ceiling was meh, hitting 25 fantasy points in 19% of his games but never once hitting 30 (which he hasn't done once in at least his last 55 fantasy football games).
Now this offseason there's been reports of a lingering elbow issue in Stafford's throwing arm, leading load management that prevented Stafford from throwing a single football all offseason until early August. on the bright side, NBC Sports' Peter King did say that Stafford's "zip on the ball was very good" during a recent throwing session.
Ultimately, I'm proceeding with cautious optimism and Stafford remains one of my favorite late(ish) round QBs as one of the last of the QB1s to go.
Fantasy Drafts 👍: Stafford is currently the QB 12 around pick 91 (mid 8th round), drafted within the vicinity of Aaron Rodgers, DeAndre Hopkins, Rashaad Penny, DeVonta Smith, Zach Erz, Rashod Bateman, Tyler Lockett, Chase Edmonds, Brandon Aiyuk, Drake London and Dawson Knox.
If you have yet to take a QB, this is probably the time. If you already have, you can ignore Stafford and instead focus on Bateman, Edmonds or Aiyuk.
Draft Kits: I have Stafford in Tier 1C of my fantasy football Draft Kits with Aaron Rodgers, Tom Brady, Dak Prescott and more.
Dynasty Leagues: Entering his age 34 season, Stafford remains a hold for dynasty leaguers. He is, perhaps, a sell-high candidate if this elbow issue proves to be chronic.
Cam Akers 📉 and Darrell Henderson ↔️
Cam Akers was a shocking inspiration last season, tearing his Achilles in July—a devastating blow for excited fantasy footballers and the worst injury historically for RBs to try and recover from—and somehow returning for week 18.
In his absence, Darrell Henderson and Sony Michel split the backfield, combining for 385 touches (just 49 catches on 69 targets...nice), 1788 scrimmage yards and 13 TDs. Individually, Henderson landed as the RB 25 in PPR points (163.4) and RB 21 in per-game average (13.6), and Michel was the RB 32 in PPR points (140.4) and RB 47 in per-game average (8.8).
For most of the season, Henderson was a mostly reliable-if-uninspiring RB 2/3, registering 15 or more PPR points in a solid 58.3% of his games (for comparison, Joe Mixon scored 15 or more PPR points in just 50% of his contests). The ceiling was meh, hitting 20 in 16.7% of his games but never hitting 25.
In a word, Henderson and Michel were "solid" while filling in for Akers who, again, was an inspiration to even make it back on the football field mere months after Achilles surgery; unheard of.
That said, inspiring as it was that Akers was on the field, less inspiring was how he looked when watching him play, not at all a surprise considering no RB has ever returned from a torn Achilles without looking like a shell of themselves. History is not on Akers' side there.
Still, he's just 23 years old and now an entire season removed from the injury, providing hope, if nothing else, that he can regain the form that had people (me...but also others) drafting him in the first round before his injury last season.
Michel left for greener pastures (get it? Cuz the Dolphins where green? Kind of...), leaving the backfield to Akers and Henderson. In mid-August it was reported by The Athletic's Jourdan Rodrigue that Akers and Henderson were splitting "first-team reps pretty evenly," which makes sense considering the seriousness of Akers' injury and Henderson's effectiveness when filling in for him last season.
Rodrigue did continue to say "I would place a safer bet on Akers' emergence long term as the lead, but a lot of that is based on Henderson's health history. Both running backs look sharp in the passing game, where I expect their usage to increase."
Greater usage in the passing game would unlock both their floor and their upside after the Rams finished 23rd in rushing attempts, 25th in rushing yards and 29th in rushing TDs last season.
Ultimately, I'm in the same boat as Rodrigue; expecting a timeshare between Henderson and Akers to start the season with the likelihood that Akers separates himself as the season goes on.
That said, I've taken very little of Cam Akers in the dreaded RB dead zone while I think Henderson makes for a mighty fine late round RB pick.
Cam Akers in Fantasy Drafts 👎: Akers is currently the RB 18 drafted around pick 38 (early 4th round) within the vicinity of Patrick Mahomes, Tee Higgins, Kyle Pitts, Michael Pittman, Justin Herbert, David Montgomery, Diontae Johnson, George Kittle, Terry McLaurin, Jaylen Waddle, Travis Etienne and DJ Moore. While Akers is my favorite RB in that range and I acknowledge he has big upside, I'm letting someone else take the risk/timeshare and soaking up the high-quality WRs in this range.
Darrell Henderson in Fantasy Drafts 👍: Henderson is currently the RB 43 drafted around pick 136 (early 12th round) within the vicinity of Alexander Mattison, Tyler Boyd, Russell Gage, Cole Kmet, Evan McPherson, Cowboys DEF, Saints DEF, Daniel Carlson, Colts DEF, Harrison Butker, 49ers DEF, Tua Tagovailoa, Justin Fields, Skyy Moore, Nyheim Hines and Marquez Valdes-Scantling. Henderson is one of my favorite late-round RB picks in this range.
Draft Kits: I have Akers in Tier 2A of my fantasy football Draft Kits with James Conner, David Montgomery, Javonte Williams and more. I have Henderson in Tier 3A with Kenneth Gainwell, James Robinson, Michael Carter and more.
Dynasty Leagues: Cam Akers is still just 23 and a lot of the shine has worn off after the Achilles injury (and how he looked in the playoffs). If you think he can get back to his pre-injury form—which has literally never been done before—then there's a buy low window here. Henderson has very low dynasty value these days and we've already seen who he is when given the chance to be the guy. He's just a hold right now.
Cooper Kupp 📈
2018 PPR points per game: 16.9 (WR 14)
2019 PPR points: 270.5 (WR 4) - PPR points per game: 19.6 (WR 7)
2020 PPR points: 210.7 (WR 26) - PPR points per game: 14 (WR 29)
2021 (first year with Stafford) PPR points: 412.9 (WR 1) - PPR points per game: 25.8 (WR 1)
Do I even need to say anything about Cooper Kupp? The guy went berserk last season, garnering 184 targets (most by far), 138 catches (most by far), 1829 yards (most by far) and 15 TDs (most by 2) in 16 fantasy football games.
He never once landed under 10 PPR points, he hit 15 in 93.75% of his games, 20 in 81.25% and 30 in a ridiculous 37.5% of his games last year.
TLDR: It was one of the greatest statistical seasons a wide receiver has ever posted.
If you're wondering whether or not we should expect regression, of course we should. Allen Robinson should take away some targets, Matthew Stafford's elbow injury is a slight concern, and, well, posting back to back 191-145-1947-16 campaigns after previously never exceeding 135-95-1162-11 in four years is wildly unrealistic.
But still, don't overthink this; it's clear that Matthew Stafford and Cooper Kupp go together like buffalo wings and ranch. Even if Kupp accomplishes just 75% of what he did last year, that's still 143 targets, 109 catches, 1460 yards and 12 TDs.
I think Justin Jefferson and Ja'Marr Chase belong in the conversation, but I'm still not hesitating to take Cooper Kupp as the WR1.
Fantasy Drafts 👍: Kupp is currently the WR 1, drafted around pick #4 overall after Jonathan Taylor, Christian McCaffrey and Austin Ekeler. I would even take him ahead of Ekeler.
Draft Kits: I have Kupp at the tippy top of Tier 1A of my fantasy football Draft Kits with Justin Jefferson and Ja'Marr Chase.
Dynasty Leagues: Entering his age 29 season, Cooper Kupp's dynasty value will never be higher than it is right now. If you don't see yourself in a competing position, you could get a mega hall for this guy. To be clear, I'm not advising just anyone to sell.
Allen Robinson 📈
2018 (Mitch Trubisky) PPR points: 153.3 (WR 40) - PPR points per game: 11.8 (WR 34)
2019 (Mitch Trubisky) PPR points: 254.9 (WR 8) - PPR points per game: 15.9 (WR 11)
2020 (Mitch Trubisky/Nick Foles) PPR points: 262.9 (WR 9) - PPR points per game: 16.4 (WR13)
2021 (Justin Fields/Andy Dalton) PPR points: 80.8 (WR 84) - PPR points per game: 7.3 (WR 82)
2021 was easily the worst year of Allen Robinson's 8 year career (well...except for 2017 where he was knocked out for the year after his first catch of the season). Stuck in a pathetic Bears offense where he just looked plain disinterested, Robinson "compiled" 62 targets (66th "most" among WRs), 36 catches (70th), 388 yards (85th) and 1 TD. He was routinely misused and a complete afterthought in Chicago despite being their best offensive weapon.
Unfortunately for us Packer fans but fortunately for us Allen Robinson lovers, ARob signed a three-year, $46.5 million contract—including $30 million guaranteed—with the juggernaut Rams, and offseason reports so far have been glowing with The Athletic's Robert Mays recently reporting that Rams coaches are "in love" with Allen Robinson.
Me too, tbh. Have been since 2014.
Prior to last season's tragedy, Robinson was a strong fantasy asset, registering 15 or more PPR points in 16 of his previous 32 fantasy football contests. For comparison, that 50% rate is on par with Keenan Allen (58.62%) and better than CeeDee Lamb (45.16%), AJ Brown (45.24%), Terry McLaurin (40%), DJ Moore (38.71%) and others. Heck, it's better than what Cooper Kupp was doing (46%) before last season's explosion (Kupp is now at 61.8% over the last 4 years).
Oh, and as much as I realize this was 7 seasons ago, can we please not forget that Allen Robinson once went for 151 targets, 80 catches, 1400 yards and 14 TDs with Blake Bortles as his QB in 2015?
It's easy to forget after last season's nightmare, but Allen Robinson is an absolute monster. The guy already has three 1100 yard seasons on his resume and now gets the best QB he's ever played with in his career and defenses that are likely to key on Cooper Kupp after last season's explosion.
Sky is the limit for ARob in 2022.
Fantasy Drafts 👍: Allen Robinson is currently drafted as the WR 27 around pick 68 (mid 6th round). He's flocked by Amari Cooper, Jalen Hurts, Joe Burrow, Amon-Ra St. Brown, Marquise Brown, Jerry Jeudy, AJ Dillon, TJ Hockenson, Clyde Edwards-Helaire, Darnell Mooney, Adam Thielen, Gabriel Davis, Dallas Goedert and Damien Harris.
Simply put, Jerry Jeudy is the only player in that batch I'd take over Allen Robinson in 2022 (with a cap tip to Gabriel Davis, AJ Dillon and a little bit of Adam Thielen).
Draft Kits: I have ARob in Tier 2A of my fantasy football Draft Kits with DJ Moore, Diontae Johnson, Terry McLaurin and more.
Dynasty Leagues: ARob is entering his age 29 season so the clock is ticking. He's just a hold right now with no clear buy or sell window.
Van Jefferson 📈
2021 PPR points: 163.1 (WR 35) - PPR points per game: 10.2 (WR 48)
Van Jefferson made some noise in his 2nd NFL season last year, producing 86 targets, 48 catches, 771 yards and 6 TDs as the team's WR 3 behind Cooper Kupp and Robert Woods/Odell Beckham (fun fact; Jefferson had the 2nd most targets on the team last year).
He was a hit-or-miss fantasy asset, registering at least 15 PPR points in 25% of his games and even touching 20 once in 16 tries, but he also came in under 10 in 50% of his contests (which, to be fair, should be expected of a guy who wasn't even the WR 2 on his own team).
The 2020 2nd round pick had a "minor" knee surgery at the start of training camp but is expected to be ready for or around week 1. He'll look to build on last year's success but he'll be stuck behind Cooper Kupp and WR 2 upgrade Allen Robinson (not to mention the fact that Odell Beckham is still in the picture as a possibility).
Still, even if ODB did return to LA, he won't be ready to roll until the middle of the season.
And with how late/cheap/free Jefferson is drafted, there's a lot to like about a high upside WR who will have his own standalone value and is an injury away from being the WR 2 in one of football's best offenses.
Fantasy Drafts 👍: Jefferson is currently drafted as the WR 72 around pick 184 (early 16th round), which is a screaming value in fantasy football drafts. Flanked by the likes of Marvin Jones, Joshua Palmer, Sammy Watkins, Baker Mayfield, Austin Hooper, Corey Davis, Rachaad White, Jalen Tolbert and a bunch of kickers and defenses, there's not a player in the batch with bigger upside (except for Watkins and maybe Palmer).
Draft Kits: I have Jefferson in Tier 4B of my fantasy football Draft Kits with Corey Davis, Joshua Palmer, Mecole Hardman and more.
Dynasty Leagues: Still just 26 and with Kupp and ARob aging, Jefferson is worth a super late dart throw as a buy-low candidate (as long as you understand his ceiling will never be elite).
Tutu Atwell and Ben Skowronek 📉
These guys should not be on your redraft radar, but Tutu Atwell in particular carries some deep, deeeeeeeeeeeeeeep league upside as the likely next man up should something happen to the guys in front of him. Sounds like the 2021 2nd rounder has impressed Matthew Stafford and media alike in training camp. He's someone to be aware of and perhaps even target in dynasty leagues.
Tyler Higbee 📈
2018 PPR points: 65.2 (TE 33) - PPR points per game: 4.1 (TE 45)
2019 PPR points: 160.4 (TE 8) - PPR points per game: 10.7 (TE 11)
2020 PPR points: 128.2 (TE 17) - PPR points per game: 8.5 (TE 22)
2021 (first season with Stafford) PPR points: 123.5 (TE 18) - PPR points per game: 8.8 (TE 17)
Forever "just a guy," 2021 was no different for Tyler Higbee despite playing with the best QB of his career. Lumped into a seemingly endless batch of uninspiring TE 2s, Higbee "produced" an underwhelming 77 targets (14th most among TEs), 55 catches (13th), 505 yards (17th) and 3 TDs (20th).
He scored under 10 PPR points in 64.3% of his fantasy football games last season, bringing his frequency of sub-10-point games to 73.3% of his last 60 contests. He flashed a sexy ceiling back in 2019 with three 20 point games in 15 tries, but he's hit 20 just once since then (29 games) and not at all last season.
Now in his age 29-30 season (will be 30 on January 1st), Higbee is coming off a late season MCL sprain and corresponding knee surgery, and figures to be no better than 3rd or 4th in the target pecking order behind Cooper Kupp, Allen Robinson and maybe Van Jefferson (and maybe even Odell Beckham come midseason).
In "regular" sized fantasy football leagues, Higbee should be off the draft radar entirely and only considered as a bye week streaming option. You can "star" him as a potential in season pickup if he starts to show signs of past explosiveness, but you shouldn't consider wasting a draft pick on him (assuming a "normal" sized league).
Fantasy Drafts 🤷: Tyler Higbee is the TE 20, drafted around pick 182 (early 16th round). He's flanked by Isaiah Spiller, Jahan Dotson, Jameis Winston, Robert Tonyan, Christian Watson, Mac Jones, Tyler Allgeier, Gerald Everett, Mark Ingram, Deshaun Watson, Jameson Williams, Khalil Herbert, Romeo Doubs, Evan Engram and a bunch of team defenses.
I'd take most of those guys—including the listed TEs—over Higbee in 2022.
Draft Kits: I have Higbee in Tier 2B of my fantasy football Draft Kits with Cole Kmet, Irv Smith and David Njoku.
Dynasty Leagues: he doesn't really have any dynasty value.
That's a wrap on the Los Angeles Rams! If you prefer your content via YouTube, be sure to subscribe to the BBFF channel so you don't miss anything! Likewise, if Podcast is more your jam, don't forget to subscribe to the BBFF podcast!
Next up: The Arizona Cardinals!