The 2017 NFL regular season has concluded, so it’s time to briefly examine the state of each team’s skill positions for fantasy purposes with an eye towards next season. Having covered all of 2017’s non-playoff NFL teams, it’s time to review the rest, with the next squad being:
Los Angeles Rams (11-5)
Jared Goff’s disastrous rookie season initially led me to believe he may never achieve fantasy relevance at all, let alone in his sophomore season. Goff’s remarkable turnaround saw him finish 10th in NFL passing yards and fifth in passing touchdowns (tied with perennial leader-board regulars Ben Roethlisberger and Philip Rivers) while accounting for multiple scores in 10-of-15 games played; Goff was held out of the Rams’ meaningless regular season finale for rest purposes. With most of the Rams’ key offensive threats returning for 2018 (Sammy Watkins has been swapped out for fellow 2014 first-round pick Brandin Cooks) and playing in an offense that has been tailored to Goff’s strengths, the former 2016 No. 1 overall draft pick should be able to maintain value as a low-end QB1 heading into 2018.
It’s hard to fault anyone who approached Todd Gurley with trepidation last summer after his 2016 season left quite the sour taste in the mouths of fantasy owners who burned a first-round draft pick on him that year. In turn, Gurley’s draft stock fell down a few pegs to the late second/early third round range in 2017 fantasy drafts, as he handsomely rewarded anyone willing to take the plunge by leading the NFL in scrimmage yards and all-purpose touchdowns. A rare three-down back who almost never comes off the field, Gurley is in-play as the top overall choice in fantasy land this summer. Though listed as a receiver, Tavon Austin operated more as a running back in 2017, handling more carries than receptions. Having taken a significant pay cut to even remain with the team, Austin is not guaranteed an offensive role this coming season. Former undrafted free agent Malcolm Brown should return as Gurley’s primary backup, and doesn’t figure to see the field often given the starter’s usage.
Touted as a fantasy sleeper all of last off-season, Cooper Kupp delivered the goods by leading all rookie wideouts in catches. Kupp was particularly productive as the Rams’ No. 1 wideout during Weeks 12-14, notching both of his 100-yard games over that span while fellow receiver Robert Woods sat out with a shoulder injury. Kupp should be able to return WR3 value at minimum in 2018 as the Rams’ primary slot receiver and safety valve for Jared Goff. Finally freed from the shackles of the Buffalo Bills offense, Robert Woods’ 16-game pace would have given him his first career 1,000-yard season. I had initially considered the five-year, $39-million free agent contract Woods signed last off-season as a bit of a “head scratcher”, though he’ll be worth every penny if he can continue his strong play into 2018 which his age-26 season. For now, consider Woods to be the Rams’ true No. 1 wideout, though his upside is a bit capped given how much the team spreads the ball around. Last August, the Rams acquired another Bills receiver via trade in Sammy Watkins, who went on to post disappointing yardage and catch totals despite a team-leading eight touchdown receptions. Watkins’ stay with the Rams was a short one, as his rookie contract expired at the conclusion of the season, and he was promptly signed by Kansas City. Josh Reynolds was initially expected to step into No. 3 wideout duties following Watkins’ departure, though those plans have been squashed after the Rams engineered a trade with New England for another 2014 first-round wide receiver in Brandin Cooks. Since Cooks wasn’t with the Rams last year, I won’t dive too much into his future outlook, though having a full off-season to adjust should at the very least lead to better numbers than Watkins in terms of catches and yards.
Tyler Higbee (2016 fourth-round pick) and Gerald Everett (2017 second-round pick) essentially formed a committee at tight end, with neither becoming a reliable fantasy option. While Higbee was on the field for more plays last season, his lower draft status and the fact he was chosen by a prior regime make it likely his role is reduced at the expense of Everett (who led the Rams in yards per reception) going forward. Unfortunately for Everett, the addition of Brandin Cooks into the Rams offense leaves the second-year tight end as the at-best fifth option in the passing game behind the wideout corps and Todd Gurley. Unless one of Higbee or Everett can separate themselves from the other and command the lions share of the Rams’ tight end targets, they won’t be usable in fantasy this coming season.