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Brandon Cooks, 26, is entering his 6th season and a speed receiver w/ above average route running skills but has shown drop issues and is undersized. He spent his first 3 years with the Saints, then was traded to the Pats for a season, and subsequently traded to the Rams and signed to an extension before the 2018 season. He’s never caught less than 65 balls, 1082 yards, or 5 TD’s excluding his rookie season. In his first year as a Ram, he saw 117 TAR in 16 games, for an average of 7.3/g. He caught 80 of those targets for 1204 Y, and 5 TD’s, leading to 15 Y/R, 10 Y/TAR, 14 Y/TCH and 68% catch rate. His 4-year average is 119 TAR at 7.5/g, 77 REC, 1149 Y, and 7 TD’s w/ 64% catch rate. He hasn’t missed any games the past 4 years but has been banged up from time to time and fairly nonexistent from the gameplan in a few games, as evidenced by the 8 games in which he did not start the game in this time frame. He will likely produce around the same numbers in 2019 as he did a year ago, but he is a fairly boom or bust player in an offense that spreads the ball around based on defensive matchup, so he’s a tricky fantasy player to own and deploy correctly.
Cooper Kupp, 26, is a route runner and technician with sure hands and underrated athleticism. He broke onto the scene as a rookie for the Rams, catching 62 balls for 869 Y and 5 TD’s, all while only starting 6 games. He was improving on those numbers in his sophomore campaign, as he saw 55 targets through the first 8 games he was healthy, for 6.9/g, 40 REC, 566 Y, 6 TD w/ 14 Y/R, 10 Y/TAR, 13 Y/TCH, and 73% catch rate. His 16-game pace would’ve resulted in 110 TAR, 80 REC, 1132 Y, and 12 TD’S. He works best out of the slot but can play on the perimeter effectively as well. He’s reportedly rehabbing well from his ACL tear that prematurely ended his season and should produce similar numbers to his 16-game pace from last year.
Robert Woods, 27, is a solid receiver and route runner in his own right and had his best season of his career a year ago accruing 130 TAR for 8.1/g, 86 REC, 1219 Y, and 6 TD’s. His target volume was identical both before and after the Kupp injury, so I don’t see a real reason to expect different numbers next season. I would like to add that he carried the ball 19 times for 157 Y and 1 TD, which also added to his fantasy point totals. He averaged 14 Y/R, 9 Y/TARG, 13 Y/TCH and a 66% catch rate in his 6th season. While not anything special in the athletic department, he’s in a stable system and reminds me of Doug Baldwin at times with his playstyle and expect a slight dip in production due to the rushing yardage looking like a career anomaly but still a solid fantasy asset. Having never topped 800 yards before last season, it is possible that this was a 1-year wonder from Woods, but I think it’s more likely that he’s improved his technical skill to where he should produce similar to his 2018 numbers for at least a few seasons.
Josh Reynolds, 24, saw an increased role following the injury to Kupp, starting the final 8 games and seeing 77% of his season’s targets after that point. If you discount the two games immediately following the Kupp injury where he didn’t see a target, he averaged 6.8/g. With Kupp back, he looks to return to a backup role, but is a great target to buy in dynasty as an injury to any of the 3 receivers above him will vault him immediately into fantasy relevance in that offense. On the year, Reynolds received 53 TAR, 29 REC, 402 Y, 5 TD’S and averaged 14 Y/R, 8 Y/TAR, 13 Y/TCH and a 55% catch rate. He’s entering his 3rd season out of Texas A&M, and still has room to improve his technical skill as a receiver. It can be hard to justify owning him knowing that he’s 4th on the depth chart, but he’s proven that he can produce decent fantasy totals when called upon and that was only in his 2nd season. Obviously depends on roster size, and likely won’t see much time without an injury, but is a very sneaky WR to own.
Rest of the receivers are JAG’s, but they did add 4 UFA’s this offseason.
Gerald Everett, 25, is entering his 3rd season as the former 44th overall pick in 2017. While TE’s do take a while to adjust to the NFL, that selection is currently looking like a reach as he can’t separate from Tyler Higbee and has started only 2 games in his 32 games career, which occurred in his rookie season. In 2018 Everett received 50 TAR or 3.1/g for just 33 REC, 320 Y, and 3 TD’s. This led to an anemic 10 Y/R, 6 Y/TAR, 10 Y/TCH w/ 66% catch rate. Everett also benefitted greatly from the Kupp injury, seeing 70% of his targets after that date, but failed to reach 50 Y in any game. While it’s still a possibility that he develops, I would look elsewhere if you’re looking for a future fantasy-relevant TE for your dynasty roster.
Tyler Higbee, 26, is entering his 4th year in the NFL as a former 4th round pick in 2016. He figures to continue to have a limited offensive role, although he has technically started the last 39 games for the Rams. He received 34 TAR last season, catching 24 of them for 292 yards, 2 TD’s, and an improved 70% catch rate. He averaged 12 Y/R, 9 Y/TAR, and 12 Y/TCH, and also was a beneficiary of the Kupp injury seeing 68% of his season’s targets from Week 9 forward. As with Everett, I don’t see either TE being fantasy relevant in 2019 or anytime soon.
Todd Gurley, 25, is entering his 5th season amid rampant speculation that his knees won’t last due to arthritis. Gurley is the key cog in the Rams system, running the ball 256 times for 1251 Y, 17 TD’S and a 4.9 YPC average in 2018, while also seeing 81 TAR and catching 59 of those for 580 Y and 4 TD’s. Gurley was also a fantasy force in 2017, compiling almost 2100 total yards, 19 TD’s, and 64 catches. The big riddle with Gurley is how healthy are his knees. While I am not a doctor, I do know that arthritis only goes one way, and the logical step for the Rams to take would be to limit his workload. However, I don’t think this means Gurley’s career is over right now, I believe the recency bias of the playoff ineffectiveness and light usage has swung the pendulum too far against Gurley, but he does possess significant health and usage risk. The single greatest variable with Henderson’s value is the health and usage of Gurley, but it’s a much more ambiguous situation than, for example, Mecole Hardman finds himself in as a receiver. As long as Gurley is good to go, Henderson will at best see 2nd string level touches. If Gurley’s career does end soon due to those balky knees, I would not find it surprising if the Rams invested heavy draft capital into another RB in the following NFL Draft. With that being said, Gurley is still what makes this Rams offense so effective and losing him would decrease the fantasy potential of every single Ram.
Malcom Brown, 26, enters his 5th season as a Ram and is Darrell Henderson’s primary backfield competition. He’s a competent backup that averaged 4.9 YPC last season, albeit with much less usage than Gurley. The Rams did decide to turn to perennially underrated CJ Anderson instead of Brown after it was clear Gurley was having issues, which was a wise choice. Malcolm Brown also is capable in the receiving game, with an 82% career catch rate. While I doubt he ever fully leads that backfield if Gurley is knocked out of the upcoming season, I do think his polish will take away valuable snaps and touches from eager Henderson owners. Darrell Henderson is obviously the other member of this backfield but will be expounded upon after the situation breakdown.
Jared Goff and the Passing Offense
Goff is entering his 4th season, will be 25, and was the 1st overall selection of the 2016 draft. He reached a new level last season, throwing for 4668 Y and 32 TD’s w/ a 101 passer rating and 12 INT. Goff is a solid player, but his stats are largely due to the fantastic situation he is in, with a great offensive scheme and head coach, solid offensive line, great RB, and 3 above average to great WR’s on his team. When he looks good, he looks great. When he looks bad, he looks terrible. The definition of a system QB, Goff displays great accuracy and decision-making when within the confines of the offense and throwing to a trusted target. When you can get pressure on him or disrupt the play, he has a tendency to fall backwards instead of avoid pocket pressure, and his throws become much more inaccurate and turnover-worthy. He should continue to develop, as he still is very young, but I doubt he ever shows an elite ceiling, long-term, unless the Rams consistently replenish his playmaking weapons and offensive line, which is a tall order for any team to do. He won’t add many, if any rushing yards on the ground, but should break 4500 Y and 30 TD’s this season unless multiple catastrophic injuries impact the situation that surround him. I like the QB, don’t love him, but love the situation.
Last year, the Rams were 5th in Pass Y/g, 2nd in Pts/g, while being only 14th in the league in attempts/g. If Gurley is less effective this season than in prior ones, these numbers indicate that the passing offense could come back down to earth.
6th in pass pro, 1st in creating yards for RB’s, 13th in power success rate, top-2 in two of the other run metrics and 16th in the last run metric I examine. The line lost their Left Guard in the off-season (typically the worst O-lineman in a unit) and Center, and look to move their 3rd and 4th round picks from last year into those positions. The Rams also drafted a Tackle in the 3rd and 5th rounds this year, hoping that they can step up if one of their 2nd year projected starters falter, as well as 4 UFA’s. It is worth mentioning that Andrew Whitworth is getting up there in age, I noticed this most when Bradley Chubb, 2nd year OLB and 5th overall pick last season, dismantled him in their game a year ago. As with most offenses, as the line goes, the production goes, so this is a position group to keep a close eye on. The difference in offensive output if Gurley can’t go and the line takes a step back could be drastic.
3rd in Yd/drive, 3rd in Pts/drive, 17th in TOP/drive, and were the 12th most run-happy team w/ 44.7% of their plays being a run. McVay seems to prefer a more balanced approach, with a slight tendency towards the pass, and should not change too much as long as he’s the Head Coach.
19th in Y/g, 20th in Pts/g, 8th to last in RY/g, 14th in PY/g w/ 13-3 record. The Rams acquired aging LB Clay Matthews from Green Bay and FS Eric Weddle from Baltimore in free agency, losing NT Ndamukong Suh and ILB Mark Barron. They added 2nd Round Safety Taylor Rapp, 3rd Round CB David Long, 4th Round DT Greg Gaines, 2 7th round defenders along with 9 UFA’s. They should be getting Aquib Talib back from injury, and added some solid yet declining veterans, so I would project a slightly better defense in 2019 but it most likely won’t improve vastly.
Sean McVay, 33, is the former Offensive Coordinator of the Redskins from 2014-2016 and is entering his 3rd season as Rams Head Coach. He’s amassed an impressive 24-8 record during the regular season, and a 2-2 record in the playoffs. McVay is a highly creative offensive mind, and his teams have been top 10 in Overall Offense, Rushing Yards, and Passing Yards in his 1st two years. Unless catastrophic injuries strike, the Rams will have another great offensive year and likely playoff berth once again. Legendary Defensive Coordinator Wade Phillips handles that side of the ball, but he’ll need talent in order to prevent his games from becoming shootouts, which I don’t think was certainly addressed.
Darrell Henderson the Player
My Predraft RB11 and highest ranked Tier 2 RB is 5’8.375, 208 lbs, with 8.625 hands, and a 73.875 wingspan. Slightly above average for this class at 21.79 years old, w/ average wt/ht, above average span/ht, and below average hand/ht. The sub-9-inch hands do concern me, as many are drafting Henderson, in part, for his receiving ability, and the predictive analytics model’s that I’ve seen have 9 inch hands as a threshold indicator.
Ran a slightly above average 4.49 40 at combine, below average 33.5” vert, average 113” broad jump, average 22 bench reps, and did no agility testing. Decent combine, but nothing earth-shattering and no agility drills is always a red flag for me.
Good Traits on Film
Good burst, change-of-direction when up to speed, and long speed. Hands catcher that can adjust to the off-target football, has good power and contact balance, possibly near-elite top-end speed, good at outside zone plays, can throw out of the wildcat, team trusted him as the wildcat back.
Bad Traits on Film
Inconsistent vision and reads, has severe lateral agility issues, will stop during the play at times, looks slow to the hole, cannot jump cut, chooses the incorrect move to beat the defender at times, rounds most routes, gives up on routes early, poor effort on pass pro and blocks consistently, no awareness or effort in pass game on 3rd and long, balance concerns in general, needs a runway to get going, very lazy after a play fake, has deceleration issues, comes up hurt often on film while handling a small workload, confusing mixture of outside zone traits and liabilities combined with a mixture of power traits and liabilities.
Henderson is consistently being taken as the 4th RB in rookie drafts, with an ADP of 12. I believe a large part of this high ADP is due to concerns about Gurley’s knee, so that dive into that quickly. No one on planet earth except possibly Gurley, his Doctors, and the Head Coach know how bad his knees are. Everyone remembers him not playing at the end of last season, and looking bad in the playoffs, so people are anticipating his demise to come soon. While this is possible, I find it much more likely that Gurley maintains a large advantage in touches over the Rams RB2 for at least this season. Even ignoring what I think of Henderson as a prospect, for this reason alone I could not force myself to take him in the 1st round. Many will ask, what’s the difference when Hardman was your 10th predraft receiver and Henderson your RB11? And the answer is simple, I know Tyreek Hill is a shady motherfucker. I don’t know if he beat his kid this time, but I know he has at least once, and threatens the mother of his child with violence, on film, this year. I know the Chiefs do not want to become thought of as a dirty team, and that Tyreek Hill is almost certainly on a different team after this season. I cannot say with anywhere near the amount of certainty that Gurley will not be a Ram, or the starter, as I am not his personal physician. For that reason alone, reducing uncertainty, I cannot fathom taking Henderson where he’s going.
Another reason I have Hardman so high, and Henderson much lower is due to my experience of watching film. It is, to me, simply a fact that the WR’s in this class, the top 20 or so, have a much much much higher chance of becoming long-term dynasty assets than the top 20 or so RB’s. I’d go so far as to say it’s possible there are only 1 or 2 fantasy relevant RB’s in 2 years from this class. I’d rather have the 8 WR’s going below him by ADP than Henderson, for that reason alone, and that’s not factoring in TE’s or QB’s.
The 3rd reason is that I am in no way sold on Henderson as a good runningback. I think he’s a good athlete with 1 good trait, long-speed. His almost complete inability to move side to side in the backfield, combined with spotty vision and bad pass protection scream project far more than immediate contributor to me. There’s also a very real possibility that Malcolm Brown gets more play than Henderson this season, he’s a solid player that won’t hurt your team, where Henderson might get your franchise QB hurt for the season.
If Henderson were going as a late 2nd round pick or early 3rd, I would be more interested, but his price is simply astronomical to me based on what he put on film, concerns about his skill, athleticism, durability, and work ethic. I will not own Henderson on any of my teams, and even if I were a Gurley owner, I still wouldn’t be close to interested on spending a 1st round pick on him. I think this is a classic case of people looking at the high YPC number in college and chasing last year’s situation with the Rams than objectively sitting down and looking at these players. While he may develop his skills and Gurley may decline within the next few seasons, outside of Gurley playing a second fiddle role to Henderson this season I cannot fathom how he returns value as a 1st round rookie draft selection.
On Sunday, possibly Monday, a breakdown of the Arizona Cardinals and all their intriguing rookies will be released, first in podcast form and then as a standalone article.
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