While Aaron Rodgers dominated offseason headlines, the NFC North quarterback to actually switched teams was Matthew Stafford, who was traded to the Los Angeles Rams in exchange for Jared Goff and some picks. The move was meant to reinvigorate an LA passing attack that had stumbled under Goff’s regression, whilst freeing Stafford to make a run at playing January football.
Unfortunately, the new-look Rams suffered a setback before camp even began when running back Cam Akers (Achilles) suffered a torn Achilles that’s expected to cost him all of 2021. With several major changes in LA, it’s a good time to sort through what they mean to fantasy owners.
QB Matthew Stafford
Given his sub-.500 record and solitary Pro Bowl nod, Stafford may not appear to have elite credentials. Don’t be fooled. Stafford has averaged 4,231 yards, 26 TDs and 12 INTs per season over the last 10 years. During that stretch, he also shed the “Matty Ice Pack” moniker he was given early on by starting 16 games nine times.
Stafford played with some great wideouts in Motown, including Calvin Johnson and Kenny Golladay, but the depth of receiver talent in LA should be the best group he’s played with. The veteran is also well versed in a pass-heavy approach given Detroit’s long-standing struggles in the running game. As such, while the loss of Akers could affect LA’s balance, Stafford has dealt with those shortcomings before.
Like Goff, Stafford is no threat to run, but he’s far nimbler and has shown a penchant for making off-schedule plays in the mold of Rodgers or Patrick Mahomes. He should also be highly motivated by the hope of a deep playoff run following a decade-plus in Detroit. Stafford holds borderline top-10 value.
RB Darrell Henderson
After seeing steady touches early last year, Henderson played sparingly following the Week 9 bye as Akers became the starter. With Akers injured, Henderson will be counted on as LA’s top back; this was confirmed by head coach Sean McVay, who announced that the Memphis product won’t play in any preseason games in an effort to keep him healthy. That has proven difficult as the third-year back dealt with high-ankle sprains each of his first two seasons, despite modest usage and now reports of an unspecified injury during the offseason.
Henderson was productive in college and has flashed talent in limited chances with the Rams. Now he needs to show he can answer the bell on a weekly basis. With teams gearing up to stop the pass, Henderson is worth rolling the dice on as a low-end RB2 or strong RB3/flex play.
Remaining running backs
Unless the Rams add a veteran in August, their RB2 will be an unproven commodity as none of their other backs have logged an NFL carry. Xavier Jones and Raymond Calais are both holdovers; the latter appeared in four games on special teams.
Funk was drafted in the seventh round out of Maryland after averaging 8.6 YPC in 2020. He’s torn his ACL twice, though, and it’s hard to envision anyone in the current group as a viable lead back if Henderson goes down.
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WR Cooper Kupp
While Kupp (92-974-3) isn’t a true No. 1 receiver, he and Robert Woods form one of the NFL’s better duos. Which one functions as Stafford’s favorite may alternate from week to week, but we’ll classify Kupp as the steadier choice. Kupp works in the short and intermediate game, averaging 10.6 YPC last year, and his lack of TDs (13 in 186 catches over the past two seasons) serves to limit his ceiling. To his credit, Kupp caught 10 touchdowns on 94 receptions in 2019, following it up with only three over 92 grabs a year ago. More options in the passing game could cancel any gains made by Stafford’s arrival, leaving Kupp on the fringes of the top-20 fantasy wideouts.
WR Robert Woods
Despite being under contract through 2025, Woods could face an uncertain future following consecutive Day 2 receiver selections. The 29-year-old has been a picture of consistency over the last three years, averaging an 87-1,096-5 line while appearing in 47 of 48 games. At 6-foot, 195 pounds, Woods has never been a force around the goal line, though, and it makes him more of a strong No. 2 after finishing no worse than WR21 in non-PPR scoring over those three seasons.
WR Van Jefferson
With Josh Reynolds gone, the Rams need a new No. 3 receiver for 2021. Jefferson (19-220-1) has already established a reputation as a route runner and also earned praise from McVay, who called him a “major bright spot” this offseason. He’s no lock to secure the job, but he seems to have the inside track given his familiarity in the offense. Still, the Rams are looking for an influx of speed offensively, and that’s not his game. If that creates a timeshare for snaps, it’d rob Jefferson of any serious upside.
WR DeSean Jackson
Even at his apex, D-Jax was feast or famine from one week to the next … and that was seven years ago. Injuries ruined Jackson’s second tour of duty with Philly as he played in just eight games combined over the past two seasons. If he can stay healthy, he could give Stafford, an underrated deep-ball thrower, a downfield threat, but that’s a big ask entering Jackson’s age-35 season. Stay away.
WR Tutu Atwell
Normally a second-round receiver on an offense with LA’s potential would draw major fantasy interest, but Atwell appears buried on the depth chart. Although he offers the breakaway speed the Rams were searching for this offseason, Atwell is unlikely to see more than spot duty as a designated deep threat. He’s exclusively a dynasty target.
TE Tyler Higbee
Higbee put himself on fantasy radars in 2019 when he combined for 43 receptions, 522 yards and 2 TDs in five December games. Amazingly, that nearly matched his output for all of last season when he posted a 44-521-5 line. Doubtless fantasy owners will be wary after being burned, but with Gerald Everett (41-417-1) gone, this could be a big year for Higbee — both Eric Ebron and T.J. Hockenson had good years with Stafford under center. If you’re looking for a late-round lottery ticket, Higbee could pay off.