Receiver Roundup: Los Angeles Rams
By Cody Smith
First off I want to say hello and thank you to everyone that clicks on, and takes the time to read my first piece as a part of the We Know Fantasy team.
It's been a dream of mine to be able to share my thoughts on fantasy football with those who love the game as much as I do. Along the way I hope to be able to give you the advice you need to help you win from week-to-week, and eventually reach the ultimate goal - bringing home the fantasy hardware. I believe the team at We Know Fantasy is going to give everyone the ability to do just that.
And with that, let's get right into the thick of things.
For the majority of the preseason I’ll be breaking down all 32 NFL receiving corps. I’ve decided to start with one of the deepest corps of receivers in all of the NFL, the Los Angeles Rams.
With most of the early season fantasy talk focused around the running back situation in LA, I feel it's appropriate to give the receivers a little love early in the preseason.
If everyone remembers (or as I choose to forget), last season the Rams won the NFC crown and finished runner-up to the Patriots in perhaps one of the most forgettable Super Bowls ever played.
Third-year QB Jared Goff broke through as a top-10 quarterback option and helped facilitate breakout fantasy seasons from both Robert Woods and Brandin Cooks.
Both Woods (WR11)* and Cooks (WR13)* finished in the top-15 among wide receivers in PPR scoring and both return for another season under head coach and offensive mastermind Sean McVay.
Woods was perhaps the biggest surprise in 2018. ESPN had Woods ranked as WR25 in its preseason ranking and he was able to surpass that by a wide margin. The 26-year old posted his first 1,000 yard season and posted a career-high six touchdown receptions.
The big question for Woods going into his age-27 season will be, can he repeat? In my opinion, I’m not so sure he can. Remember that Cooper Kupp will return to the fold off of an ACL tear which may cut into Woods’ target share. Josh Reynolds may also find himself on the field more in 2019 after filling in admirably in Kupp’s absence.
I wouldn’t expect a huge drop off from Woods, but it would be a surprise to see 86 receptions and 1,219 yards from Woods once again this season. It's still early, but I believe Woods puts up solid WR2 numbers this season.
Woods seems to have late-fourth to early-fifth round value. If I’m going after my running backs early, I certainly wouldn’t mind grabbing Woods somewhere in that range as a WR2.
Brandin Cooks on the other hand actually saw his target share drop after Kupp’s ACL tear. Though very marginally, Cooks dropped from 7.37 targets per game with Kupp on the field, to 7.12 targets per game with Kupp off the field. To me, this makes it seem as though Cooks’ production from last season can remain relatively stable.
In his first season with the Rams, Cooks snagged 84 balls for a career-high 1,204 yards and five touchdowns. 2018 was his fourth 1,000 yard season in five full NFL seasons. Cooks also posted a career-high 10.3 yards per target in 2018 showing he is a downfield threat.
In mock drafts that I’ve completed, Cooks is going marginally higher than Woods, around the beginning of round four. Cooks has been going as the 15th wide receiver off the board. For a wide receiver that has finished in the top-15 in each of the last four seasons, this is a bit of a steal.
Cooks’ five touchdowns last season came in just below his career average of 6.4 touchdowns per season. If fantasy owners are lucky, they may see a rebound in these numbers in 2019.
In all, I feel Cooks may be a bit undervalued entering this season and could put up WR1 numbers for your team.
Cooper Kupp enters 2019 off of an ACL tear but was blowing up the fantasy scene last season before his injury.
Before Kupp’s Week 8 injury, the entire trio of Kupp, Woods and Cooks were ranked as top-15 receivers. Kupp hauled in 40 receptions for 566 yards and six touchdowns in just eight games of action.
Before Kupp’s injury, he was targeted 55 times compared to 65 for Woods and 59 for Cooks which shows McVay and the Rams know how to spread the ball around. But can Kupp rebound to previous form from last season’s injury?
It's important for fantasy owners to remember that not all ACL tears are the same and not everyone can have an Adrian Peterson-like return to the game. Luckily for Kupp, he is still a young talent which should make it easier for him to bounce back to form.
For me, I probably won’t be having many shares of Kupp this season. Currently being drafted in the same area as Woods, I’d rather take the chance on a healthy receiver coming off of a big season than the question mark that comes with an injury designation.
During Kupp’s absence, second-year receiver Josh Reynolds out of Texas A&M did a great job filling in. In eight starts with Kupp on the shelf, Reynolds grabbed 29 receptions for 402 yards and five touchdowns. An obvious red-zone target, Reynolds thrived near the end zone with a quarter of his receptions coming in the red zone and 17% of his receptions resulting in a touchdown.
Reynolds was targeted 53 times over the final eight games of the season, nearly mirroring Kupp’s 55 targets over the first eight games.
Reynolds is not being drafted in many ESPN standard leagues which is fitting, because there just aren't enough targets to go around for four wide receivers. Just remember that if any of the Rams receivers go down with an injury, Reynolds is an immediate must-add off the waiver wire.
Filling out the Rams current roster at wide receiver are the likes of Jo-Jo Natson and KhaDarel Hodge. The Rams did not draft a receiver in the 2019 draft and none of these guys will hold any value in the foreseeable future.
The next receiver roundup will feature the San Francisco 49ers. Follow me on Twitter @mastersmithers. I’ve also started an Instagram page. There is no content there yet, but feel free to give me a follow @mastersmithers.
*Rankings from PPR scoring on NFL.com.