Fantasy Football Booms/Busts 2018: The Los Angeles Rams

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Does Todd Gurley deserve to be the first running back off the board in fantasy drafts? Yahoo Fanalysts Liz Loza and <a class="link rapid-noclick-resp" href="/soccer/players/373743/" data-ylk="slk:Brad Evans">Brad Evans</a> debate. (Denis Poroy/AP Images for Head &amp; Shoulders)
Does Todd Gurley deserve to be the first running back off the board in fantasy drafts? Yahoo Fanalysts Liz Loza and Brad Evans debate. (Denis Poroy/AP Images for Head & Shoulders)

As the mercury rises and we inch closer to the open of training camps, our resident fantasy football sickos, Brad Evans and Liz Loza, will profile their favorite booms/busts of every NFL team. Today’s topic: The Rebuilt Rams of Los Angeles.

Choose your own adventure. You luckily scored the No. 1 overall pick in your draft… do you POUNCE or PUNT on Todd Gurley? 

Brad – POUNCE. To reference Ferris Bueller, those lucky enough to score the top overall pick who purposely circumvent Gurley are true Camerons. Don’t be that person. Shake off your alleged sickness, turn the key on your dad’s prized Ferrari and shift into drive. The ride will be quite enjoyable.

Though Zeke Elliott, Le’Veon Bell and David Johnson present strong cases, Gurley will again have his investors singing “Twist and Shout.” The Rams, who added cheetah Brandin Cooks and several maulers on defense, are loaded across the board and understandable favorites to win the Super Bowl. Similar to last season’s stunning turnaround, the rusher is sure to benefit from positive game scripts and light fronts. In 2017, he saw eight or more men in the box only 16.85 percent of the time, the third-lowest in the league. Operating behind the NFL’s No. 1 ranked run-blocking line per Player Profiler, he finished No. 6 or higher in yards per touch (6.1), total evaded tackles (84), total yards after contact (783) and total runs of 15-plus yards (13). Mix in his consistent production as a receiver and the guy was a real-life Minotaur, a mythical beast no defense could slay.

Given his three-down skill set, young age (24) and fixed high-volume role, Gurley is my RB1. Unless Theseus takes him down, expect another 1800-2000 combined yards with 15-20 TDs this season.

Liz – PUNT. He’s my No. 2, right behind Le’Veon Bell. I understand that Bell’s reluctance to report for camp has some fantasy managers nervous, but it didn’t hold him back last year. Ultimately, Bell’s consistency keeps him king in my book. Admittedly, the Steelers’ bell cow was outscored by Gurley last year, but it’s hard not to imagine a slight regression for the Rams’ RB at the goal line, especially if TE Gerald Everett continues to develop.

Additionally, I think Gurley’s targets will decrease. Let’s not forget that heading into 2017, many had tapped Lance Dunbar to fill the Chris Thompson role in Sean McVay’s offense. Dunbar, however, (re-)injured his knee in late July and was never given the opportunity to carve out a role on third downs.

Interestingly, after letting Dunbar walk in free agency, the team drafted RB John Kelly. The undersized, but plucky rookie out of Tennessee should be seen as more than just depth behind Gurley, particularly when noting his dependable hands and passing-game potential. If the Rams offense continues to evolve then some of the pressure can be taken off Gurley, which could result in a minor reduction of production.

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Using ADP values as a guide, which Rams wide receiver would you consider most attractive: Brandin Cooks (43.3 ADP, WR19), Robert Woods (68.9, WR30) or Cooper Kupp (78.6, WR33)? 

Liz – ROBERT WOODS. Nearly a quarter (22.5%) of Jared Goff’s passes were aimed at Woods. Earning his QB’s trust, Woods answered with a solid catch rate of 65.9 percent (#24), committing just one drop on the season. Improving the Cal product’s efficiency, the former Bill gifted Goff with a QB rating of 114.9 (#6) when relied upon. It’s no wonder, then, that the duo established an undeniable rapport.

In what should have been a 75 catch and 1,000+ yard campaign for Woods (had it not been for a three-game absence due to a shoulder injury) the veteran wideout averaged WR2 numbers for much of the season. Even with the addition of Brandin Cooks – whose previous production has been far from steady – Woods remains the team’s ultra-reliable possession receiver. Only 26-years-old, he’s a high-floor value with low-end WR2 appeal for fantasy purposes.

Brad – ROBERT WOODS. When pursuing the over-the-counter drug aisle at Walgreen’s, brightly colored brand names lure the eye; the Brandin Cooks of the pharmaceutical world. Next to them, however, are generic “Wal-” alternatives. They’re usually half the price, list the same ingredients and are equally effective. When the allergies kick in, Wal-Phed always does the trick.

When it comes to Rams receivers, Woods is the ultimate inexpensive option. In a breakthrough 2017, he established a strong rapport with Jared Goff. When the QB lined up No. 17 in the cross-hairs, he posted a 114.9 passer rating, the sixth-highest mark of any connection in the NFL. Overall, Woods routinely stretch the field (9.2 YPT, WR12), flashed dependable hands (65.9 catch%) and delivered WR2 numbers in 12-team formats (WR16 in fppg). If not for a shoulder injury stealing four games, he would’ve finished in range of 75-1000-7. With Cooks in tow his 22.5 percent target share my dip somewhat, but it’s plausible he leaves his investors in the black.

Due to Sean McVay’s creativity and the built-in chemistry with Goff, Woods is an underappreciated WR2 available at a WR3 price.

Jared Goff underwent a remarkable metamorphosis thanks to savant Sean McVay. OVER or UNDER final fantasy rank among QBs 12.5 in 2018?

Brad – SLIGHTLY OVER. Goff was chastised repeatedly by this blathering idiot around this time last summer. His horrific profile under “genius” Jeff Fisher (You see him as an analyst?! Really FOX?!) and lack of simple astronomical knowledge lead me astray. Under McVay, the former overall top pick flourished. He aggressively attacked secondaries downfield (7.7 YPA), reduced turnovers and made major strides in just about every other statistical category.

According to Sharp Football Stats, Goff struggled on passes to his strong-handed side (44% success rate), but with Cooks now lining up most often left and Woods right in standard two or three-WR formations, he could advance further. Still, his numbers from last year (4,038 yards, 29:7 TD:INT) are probably close to his ceiling. Listed as my QB13, he ranks just behind Philip Rivers, Patrick Mahomes and Matthew Stafford.

Liz – OVER. Averaging over 251 yards per game, scoring 28 passing TDs, and completing 17 “money throws” (#7), Goff closed out 2017 as the position’s twelfth most productive player. Heading into 2018, he’s the twelfth QB off the board. That’s peak-value.

Yes, what Goff accomplished should be applauded (8.0 YPA), but I don’t want to pay top-dollar for a stat line that’s unlikely to improve. From the defensive upgrades that L.A. has made to Goff’s struggles under duress (29.2% completion rate when pressured, #26) to his lack of rushing production it’s hard to imagine Goff retaining QB1 status. I have him locked in at QB13, which is also the Yahoo Fantasy consensus ranking

Bring the blitz on Twitter. Follow Brad (@YahooNoise) and Liz (@LizLoza_FF).

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