With the LA Rams hosting the cross-town rival LA Chargers today, Saturday, August 14th at SoFi Stadium, another NFL season is officially upon us. Not only do we get to watch professional football again, albeit with no starters for the Rams, but it means the regular season is right around the corner. The NFL regular season kickoff game is Thursday, September 9th between the defending champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the Dallas Cowboys. And on September 12th, the Rams welcome the Chicago Bears for the first Sunday Night Football game of the year.
If we needed another reason to be excited, fantasy football season is here as well. Proactive league managers have already set up their fantasy drafts and sent out invitations to their league. For league participants, it’s time to ramp up fantasy research in preparation for the upcoming season.
Although hard data and expert projections can aid tremendously when figuring out a player’s fantasy value, it doesn’t have to be the final word. If it was, there would be a major advantage for owners who are lazy or forgetful and just auto-draft. There is a multitude of factors that go into building a good fantasy team, and the data may overlook certain things.
Los Angeles Rams
It’s up to the fantasy team owner to occasionally predict inefficiencies in the data, and draft accordingly. For example, if you think LA Rams veteran quarterback Matthew Stafford’s new team has slight improvements in several categories, the overall payoff might not be slight, as the data suggests, but rather tremendous to his fantasy production.
Even with the recent injury to second-year running back Cam Akers, the Rams offense has plenty of weapons to be a serious headache for opposing defenses. If RB Darrell Henderson is able to keep a similar average-yards-per-carry (4.5) as last year, while increasing his workload, the Rams should be able to have a respectable running game. This ‘respect’ commands defensive attention, which creates the opportunity for head coach Sean McVay to work his magic. Since becoming head coach, the Rams rank first in the league in using play-action (32 percent of plays) and have been a major reason for the offense’s success in the past.
Last year, the Rams were already loaded with talent at the wide receiver position, with both Cooper Kupp and Robert Woods. But the Rams took this offseason to double down by acquiring speedsters veteran Desean Jackson and rookie Tutu Atwell. In 2020, Stafford’s intended air yards per pass attempt came in at 8.7 yards, good enough for fifth-most in the NFL. By comparison, Jared Goff averaged just 6.2 yards, which ranked 30th. Considering how adept Stafford is at throwing the ball deep, this WR group could be an incredible boost to Stafford’s fantasy potential.
On top of a renowned head coach scheming for him, and a plethora of weapons at his disposal, Stafford should also benefit from a better offensive line. Pro Football Focus (PFF) had the Rams offensive line ranked 3rd last season, whereas Stafford’s team, the Lions ranked 13th. This year’s preseason rankings have been released and the Rams offensive line was projected to be 8th, so if the Rams unit meets expectations, this would be another improvement for Stafford.
According to Fantasy Pros, Stafford’s average draft position (ADP) in fantasy leagues has bumped up from the 11th ranked quarterback this year, opposed to last year being taken as the 13th quarterback in fantasy leagues. If you think the Rams are a good fit for Stafford, and that McVay can once again produce a top-ranked offense, then drafting him higher than his average could be a smart play.