As the turf at Lucas Oil Stadium was churning out points, and the Colts faithful were screaming for a comeback that not even Peyton Manning could have matched, something became clear: The Rams have a pair of young players who could emerge as fantasy league winners.
Rams' young duo goes off in Week 4
Rookie wide receiver Puka Nacua was scintillating, catching nine of 10 targets for 163 yards and the walk-off 22-yard touchdown right down the middle of the field. That TD quieted the crowd and lit up a Rams celebration that would last all the way on the flight back to Los Angeles. Heading into Sunday Night Football, Nacua was the WR4 with 26.80 points.
His teammate and fellow waiver-wire dandy, Kyren Williams, was the engine who drove the Rams to a shocking 23-0 lead. He scored a pair of three-yard touchdowns in the first quarter that made this look like a Rams runaway, yet Williams kept pounding away at the Indianapolis defense to the tune of 25 carries for 103 yards and that pair of scores. He added three receptions for 24 yards for 26.20 points which leaves him third overall among running backs after the dust settled ahead of SNF.
Before jumping into how the Rams’ young bucks came out of Hollywood to lift up fantasy teams, homage needs to be paid to Anthony Richardson’s dramatic return after missing Week 3 with a concussion.
Anthony Richardson makes a monster return
Richardson almost single-handedly willed the Colts to a win with three second-half touchdowns — two passing and one on the ground — 200 passing yards and 56 rushing yards. Those 29.60 points trailed only Josh Allen’s monster 36.50-point afternoon in Western New York. Richardson will get his due further down.
After Week 1, Puka Nacua became the player upon whom so many fantasy managers emptied their FAB or used up their waiver-wire priority, looking at the 10 catches for 119 yards in his NFL debut as the start of something big. The rookie more than filled the shoes of the injured Cooper Kupp, and aggressive fantasy managers were rewarded with 15 receptions for 147 yards and 22.60 fantasy points in Week 2. That was good for WR5. Even battling through an oblique injury, the BYU product had “only” 72 receiving yards last week on Monday Night Football before his Week 4 heroics.
Nacua has more than arrived. He’s setting NFL records. Through four weeks, he has more receptions (39) than any other rookie in NFL history through four games. He was leading the NFL in targets after three weeks (42) and will surely remain among the leaders after this game.
Even when Kupp returns from his hamstring injury, Nacua will remain a big part of this offense. He’s lining up all over the formations, so he'll be able to complement Kupp and, along with Tutu Atwell, give Matthew Stafford multiple options in the passing game.
With a young Rams defense giving up some points, there should be plenty of passes to go around this season.
Nacua had some hype coming into training camp, yet his teammate Williams was hardly a talking point in fantasy circles until reports started leaking late in the preseason that the second-year player out of Notre Dame was showing out and earning more of a role in the Rams’ offense. After he outperformed Cam Akers in Week 1 with 52 rushing yards and a pair of touchdowns, the incumbent Akers was a healthy scratch the next weekend and eventually traded to the Vikings.
Williams is almost an accidental bell-cow running back. Through the first three weeks, he has 85.6% of the Rams’ running back snaps. By comparison, Christian McCaffrey has a 78.8% snap share for the 49ers. He also was second among running backs with 19 targets. In Week 4, Williams’ 25 rushing attempts completely outdistanced the nine that Ronnie Rivers had for Los Angeles. No other running back carried the ball for the Rams. Even though he measures 5-foot-9 and 194 pounds., Williams is carrying the load of much larger running backs. And fantasy managers are happy about it.
Richardson had his own record-setting day, as he became the first quarterback in NFL history with rushing touchdowns in each of his first three games. His athletic gifts have garnered all the attention in the world, yet in his return to play, it was his passing that got the Colts back into the game. Instead of forcing targets to Michael Pittman Jr., Richardson threw to eight Colts pass catchers, none receiving more than five looks. After throwing a 35-yard touchdown pass to Mo Alie-Cox with 5:37 in the third to put the Colts on the board, Richardson walked in a one-yard touchdown early in the fourth to make it a game.
The comeback became viable later at the two-minute warning when Richardson found Andrew Ogletree on third-and-goal from the five-yard line for the score. For good measure, Pittman caught the two-point conversion to tie the game.
This is the type of game that puts Richardson into the every-week-starter conversation. Really, are there 12 quarterbacks worth starting in single-QB leagues?
Richardson is rewarding fantasy managers who waited on quarterback and took him as the QB16 in drafts. In his three games, he has multiple touchdowns in each, even though he left the first two with injuries.
His Week 4 spectacular performance may actually be just the sign of big things to come — for him and the Rams' pair of young fantasy stars on the same field Sunday.