2016 fantasy football depth charts: Los Angeles Rams
(Editor’s note: As we lead up to the season, Director of PFF Fantasy Jeff Ratcliffe is breaking down each team’s depth chart from a fantasy perspective. Catch up on the work so far here.)
It’s a new season in a new city for the team formerly known as the St. Louis Rams. Now in Los Angeles and the upcoming stars of Hard Knocks, the Rams are a team in transition on the offensive side of the ball. While there will likely be a new face under center, don’t expect Jeff Fisher’s offensive philosophy to change much.
Questions abound at the quarterback position. The Rams traded up to select Jared Goff with the first overall selection in April’s draft, but they enter camp with Case Keenum atop the depth chart. It’s hard to envision a scenario where Keenum is the Week 1 starter, but it’s certainly something to keep an eye on.
Goff comes into the league an accomplished player. He graded out second in our quarterback rankings in 2015, posting 4,714 yards and 43 touchdowns (13 picks) on the season. In three years at Cal, he racked up 12,195 passing yards and 96 touchdowns. One knock on him is his nine-inch hands, which likely contributed to his 23 career fumbles. Still, he was an extremely effective passer in college, especially on deep balls where he completed 50 percent of passes traveling over 20 yards in the air. Though Goff has some long-term potential, it’s tough to like a rookie quarterback in a run-heavy offense that averaged the fewest snaps per game last season at just 61.4.
Los Angeles Rams projected 2016 offense with 2015 grades:
Another negative for Goff (or Keenum) is the Rams’ lackluster group of receivers. Entering camp, Tavon Austin, Kenny Britt and Brian Quick are the top three options. For all of the fantasy love Austin has received, it’s important to note that he’s a player who didn’t even crack 500 receiving yards last season. He did finish sixth in yards after catch per reception (6.6), but Austin wasn’t a deep threat with just 13 targets over 20 yards down field. Sure, he’ll still be used on gadget plays, and his upside is massive. But for fantasy purposes, Austin is a rollercoaster ride that will likely be very unpredictable in 2016.
Flashback to a brisk Sunday afternoon in late October of 2010 when a young Britt went off for 225 yards and three scores on seven catches against the Kevin Kolb-led Philadelphia Eagles. And that was the last we heard from Britt. Not really, but it’s pretty close to the truth. At this point, Britt has become just a guy, and that’s been made worse playing in Fisher’s run-heavy, low-tempo offense. Britt is a DFS option at best this year.
Quick missed nine games in 2014 with a shoulder injury and did a whole lot of nothing last year, catching 10 balls for 102 yards in 13 games played. The Rams did re-sign him in the offseason, but his 2015 productivity doesn’t inspire much confidence.
The more intriguing receiving options in Los Angeles are actually rookies Mike Thomas and Pharoh Cooper. Thomas posted impressive numbers in 2015 with 71 catches for 1,391 yards and 14 scores. He also racked up 2.98 yards per route run – fifth in the nation – and made an Odell Beckham-like catch. Cooper played primarily out of the slot at South Carolina, and posted a combined 2,109 yards and 20 scores over the last two years. He was also very effective after the catch over that span, forcing 33 missed tackles on 135 catches. Both young receivers have intriguing profiles and have the chance to immediate contribute.
With Jared Cook now in Green Bay, the Rams are left with veteran Lance Kendricks and rookie Tyler Higbee at tight end. Kendricks is a “just a guy” type who isn’t likely to surface on the fantasy radar. Higbee actually started his college career as a wide receiver and plays like it. He scored eight touchdowns last season, displaying good ability to run after the catch with 10 forced missed tackles in. He has a lot of speed for the position, but the one major knock on Higbee is that he missed significant time over the last two seasons due to injury.
[Beyond the obvious at running back, are there any Rams worth a fantasy pick? Check out our PFF Draft Master tool and try a mock draft, complete with offensive line grades, full projections and all the PFF data.]
At running back, the Rams have a player in Todd Gurley who many have as their No. 1 running back following the news of Le’Veon Bell’s suspension. Coming off an injury that ended his college career, we weren’t entirely sure what we’d get out of Gurley in his rookie season. He assumed the starting job in Week 4, and went on to top 1,000 yards and led all backs in fantasy scoring between Weeks 4 and 16. Flashing dynamic upside, he led all running backs with a runs of 15-plus yards accounting for 45.9 percent of his yardage total. Of course, there are a few things working against Gurley. The Rams slow offensive pace means less volume for Gurley. He also isn’t a three-down back, as Benny Cunningham will handle receiving duties out of the backfield. Still, Gurley’s explosive ability makes him worthy of consideration as the top running back take in this year’s fantasy drafts.
While the Rams offense leaves plenty to be desired, the team is fairly stacked on the defensive side of the ball. Along the defensive line, Los Angeles boasts impressive DE Robert Quinn to go along with one of the best defensive players in the game, DT Aaron Donald. Both are strong DL1 options. At linebacker, Alec Ogletree returns from injury and offers potential elite IDP upside. Mark Barron benefited in Ogletree’s absence last year. His numbers will take a hit, but Barron is still in the LB2 conversation. At defensive back, be careful to not overvalue T.J. McDonald. The young safety is coming off a down year and is more of a fringe DB2.