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Los Angeles Rams: Fantasy Football 2016 Preview

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The NFL’s most recently relocated franchise moved back to Los Angeles this offseason and drafted a new face of the franchise in Jared Goff. The Los Angeles Rams traded a haul of picks to get him; the opposite of the RG3 trade that is now four years old. California’s newest team is in the middle of a perpetual rebuild, stuck near .500 seemingly forever. Today we take a look at their fantasy prospects going into 2016.

If you combine the fantasy production of Nick Foles, Sean Mannion and Case Keenum, you would get QB19 (17.02 points per game), just between Jameis Winston and Marcus Mariota. Just about a point per game off QB12 pace. Respectable enough, right? It sure would be if I didn’t stack their fantasy points per game (Foles 8.55, Keenum 7.27 and Mannion 1.2). The Rams’ 2015 quarterback was an unmitigated disaster.

Enter Jared Goff, a rookie quarterback making his way into the league playing two of the hardest secondaries in the NFL (Arizona and Seattle) for a quarter of his schedule. Forget Goff’s talent, just being a rookie play-caller has a ton stacked against him. While Goff is considered to be “NFL-ready,” there is a steep learning curve to being a valuable fantasy quarterback.

Last year, QB12, the last weekly usable quarterback, scored just about eighteen fantasy points per game. In the history of the sport, only seven quarterbacks scored more than sixteen fantasy points per game (which put it in the range of last year’s QB24, Joe Flacco (15.99) and QB 23, Josh McCown (16.03). It’s entirely possible he puts together a productive second half, like Mariota and Winston last year, but I would stay away until we see what he has.

Wide Receivers

Tavon Austin & Kenny Britt don’t exactly inspire confidence, but there is something to glean from them going into 2016. Last season, Jeff Fisher finally figured out how to use the former top-ten pick in Austin, giving him 52 carries. This greatly boosted his fantasy production, as just about 48% of his scrimmage yards came from rushing attempts. His 907 scrimmage yards were top-thirty at wide receiver, and his nine touchdowns combined tied him for twelfth at the position, as well.

With Jared Goff in tow, Fisher should likely dial up more opportunities for his #1 receiver in the short passing game, but he will likely utilize a lot of screens and other short passes to get Austin the ball in space. He’ll be a WR3 in 2016, but his value will take a hit in PPR and 0.5 PPR leagues because so much of his value is tied up in carries. Currently his ADP is WR48, in the twelfth round. He’s worth a pick if you need depth, but with Jared Goff at the helm, don’t expect a ton of upside.

The other receiver worth a look in Los Angeles is Kenny Britt. Britt is a perennial underachiever, and many blame bad quarterback play. Don’t expect a rookie wide receiver to be the panacea that suddenly makes Britt a worthwhile fantasy option. However, Britt did average the fifth most yards per catch last season, so if he and Goff can get a reliable deep ball going, he is worth a shot as a mid-season pickup.

I already wrote about Brian Quick and Pharoh Cooper in our wide receiver target opportunity series. Quick had a ton of potential but can seemingly only get significant snaps a handful of times. Cooper has some serious flaws and is not worth a draft pick outside of the deepest of leagues (or maybe NFC West only leagues).

Running Backs
The Rams have a pretty decent back in Todd Gurley, heard of him? The Sophomore back is coming off a campaign with big promise; many have him in their top three running backs for this season, and a first round pick at worst. Gurley is the #4 player off the board by ADP and there is little indication that he won’t live up to that stock. The Rams got a whole new line last year that will have had an offseason to gel and improve, and the Rams are ready and willing to give him the rock—he amassed the ninth-most carries last season in just thirteen games. The only knock on Gurley, is that he rarely catches passes (21 in 13 games), meaning that a pass catcher like David Johnson would be ahead of him on my personal ranks in PPR.

The main cause for concern for Gurley was that his yards per carry slipped for a handful of games last season. If you toss out his first game (six carries for nine yards), Gurley had three distinct seasons last year. This chart below outlines that, and the reason why I’m not worried about Gurley in 2016:

Games Att./Gm Yd/Att. Yd/Gm Total TDs
2 – 5 22 6.43 142 3
6 – 9 18 3.13 55 3
10 – 13 16 4.80 78 4

Even when his yards per carry slipped well below league average, he was still getting eighteen carries a game, and he was still on pace to score twelve touchdowns. The league had adjusted to Gurley, but the Rams’ willingness to continue to feed him the rock and get him touchdown opportunities showed that they had no problems giving Gurley the ball like a true bell cow. In the third part of his season, he adjusted back to the league and was once again great with the ball. He had fewer opportunities, but he averaged a touchdown a game in that stretch.

If Gurley goes down, the offensive line situation (improved, but still bad) makes none of the unpleasant options behind him at all palatable. Only Gurley’s otherworldly talent makes him worthwhile in fantasy leagues.

Tight Ends
Please do not draft a Rams Tight End. Please. Jeff Fisher hasn’t figured out how to use one properly (Jared Cook was TE36 last year and Lance Kendricks TE39). Draftniks have high hopes for Tyler Higbee, but no rookie tight end should be drafted as they are legendarily bad at providing useful fantasy football production.

The man known as Legatron (Greg Zuerlein) missed two PATs and one-third of his field goals last season while playing half his games in a dome. While Los Angeles isn’t exactly carrying whipping winds, this does not bode well for his fantasy production in 2016. He’s not really worth a roster slot in 2016 unless you are a sadistic human being who plays in a two-kicker league.

The 2015 Rams were the poster-child for why you shouldn’t expend significant draft capital on a D/ST. They were a top-three to top-five preseason D/ST, and while they ended up first in sacks, they were seventeenth in interceptions and thirteenth in yielded points per game. Only their thirteen fumbles (T-4th) kept them from being duds. They were useful week-in and week-out, but as a D/ST that you had to reach to have on your roster, they were not worth the effort.

With a brand new quarterback in tow and a passing game bereft of options, it would be ill-advised to look towards the City of Angels for fantasy production. The exceptions to this are Todd Gurley, who can be penned in as an RB1 and Tavon Austin, who managed a WR3 season last year on the back of creative play-calling from Jeff Fisher.

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Robert D. Cobb
Founder, Publisher and CEO of INSCMagazine. Works have appeared and featured in places such as Forbes, Huffington Post, ESPN and NBC Sports to name a few. Follow me on Twitter at @RobCobb_INSC, email me at robert.cobb@theinscribermag.com