Los Angeles Rams Positional Breakdown: Wide Receivers

The Rams return their top 4 starting WR’s in 2020. But many questions loom on the players behind them.

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The Los Angeles Rams may have problems at multiple position groups across the board but the wide receiving core is not one of them. The Rams, even after the 2019 season, employ a league-leading core that can compete with the best of them.

Brandin Cooks

Contract Status: Rams through 2024 

Brandin Cooks could have retired midway through the 2019 season. Some argued that he should have, especially with more and more talented players walking away early to prevent long-term health issues. Regardless of that talk and speculation, Cooks finished out the year starting games for the Los Angeles Rams.

2019 wasn’t exactly the season Cooks, or the Rams, had hoped for coming in. He accounted for a $16.8 million cap hit this past year, one of the biggest cap hits for the Rams this past season regardless of position. His cap hit was always concerning, and the concerns certainly weren’t silenced after Cooks finished the 2019 year with only 42 receptions for 583 yards. The dip in numbers wasn’t all on his own shoulders though, due to the massive concussion scare that held Cooks out for two weeks and likely threatened his NFL career. The scare isn’t only a season-to-season injury; it was something that rattled both himself and the entire Rams fanbase. Many thought Cooks would hang it up, but he returned to the field and finished the season. 

For next year, Cooks will no longer be a top-two option on this LA rams team (or top-three if Higbee continues his ascension). Cooks will still be the highest-paid receiver on the roster, but Cooper Kupp and Robert Woods have shined too bright for Cooks to be a heavily featured option in the 2020 Rams’ offense. He may not even see the field on 2 WR sets from now on.

If Cooks plays for the Rams throughout the 2020 season, I expect him to be effective but not what he used to be. He’ll need to be a conservative runner after the catch and coaches will need to limit his opportunities for head to head contact by essentially using him primarily as a vertical route runner. For Cooks, continuing to play football could be simply too damaging to his brain and he’ll need to decide soon if the trauma is worth it. 

Cooper Kupp

Contract Status: Rams through 2020 

Cooper Kupp is the rising star the Rams needed on offense in 2019. With Todd Gurley dealing with constant speculation and rumors about his health and performance, and Jared Goff having a down year, Kupp carried the load most weeks.

After a season-ending ACL injury to end the 2018 season, he returned in 2019 and didn’t miss a beat, finishing with 94 receptions with 1,161 yards and 10 total touchdowns. He was a beast and only trailed Todd Gurley in non-QB touchdowns for the Rams this season. More importantly, he showed improved speed and run after catch ability.

As a 3rd round pick in the 2017 NFL Draft, Kupp is an uber-cheap but very productive option at the receiver position for now and even going into next season. With players like Todd Gurley, Brandin Cooks, and Jared Goff having huge cap hits (and dead cap) Kupp is a breath of fresh air for this team in 2020.

Next year I expect more of the same from Kupp, and as the Rams patch up their offensive line, Kupp could see the ball even more in 2020. 

Robert Woods

Contract Status: Rams through 2022

Robert Woods was the best number two receiver in the league last year. While racking up 90 receptions for 1,134 yards, Woods only scored two touchdowns; an anomaly for a usually spread-out offense. His two touchdowns didn’t matter in the long run for the Rams, because all year there wasn’t a more dependable receiver for Jared Goff in the biggest of moments.

Woods may not have had the biggest games in 2019, but he was far and away from the most consistent receiver on last year’s team. As fans, we consistently underappreciate his contributions to the team as a pass catcher, route runner, blocker and leader.

Next year, Woods should do the same. He hasn’t done anything but stay consistent throughout his Rams tenure and there is no reason to think he won’t continue. Not to mention he is on one of the best bargain deals in the league, and is under contract through 2022. 

Josh Reynolds

Contract Status: Rams through 2020

Josh Reynolds had 21 catches for 326 yards in 2019, seeing his workload increase as Cooks missed time. That was good enough for a “super sub” WR. Reynolds has never been asked to do a lot in Sean McVay’s offense, but in 2018 when Cooper Kupp went down, Reynolds was a dependable option and this year he was a somewhat targeted fourth-option. 

Like any other receiver in the Rams offense, Reynolds has become a great blocker and is the biggest target on the current Rams receiving core. His best game of the year was an eight-reception, 73 yard game against the Cincinnati Bengals.

If the Rams decide to make changes in the wide receiver room, Reynolds will be a cheap option for at least two more years. 

Mike Thomas

Contract Status: UFA

Mike Thomas is one of the Los Angeles Rams’ least known receivers. Thomas had a total of two catches in 2019 on five targets. He finished with 14 receiving yards. Mike Thomas is a free agent who could be a blessing in disguise for a team that seemingly wouldn’t let him go for another talent.

In his 4 year career he has 10 total receptions for 144 yards, so if he does walk the Rams won’t be missing out on too much production. Thomas was also a special teams contributor and with John Fassel leaving the Rams for Dallas, this could mark the end of Thomas’ tenure in LA. 

Nsimba Webster

Contract Status: Rams through 2021

Nsimba Webster was a fan favorite coming out of the 2019 preseason. As a receiver, he put up little-to-no numbers but was a solid punt returner in place of Jojo Natson at the end of the year.

Webster could be picking up the WR5/ST role that Mike Thomas will leave in his wake this upcoming season. If the Rams draft a receiver or sign a cheap veteran, he will likely get more snaps over Webster.  But as somewhat of a multitool on special teams, and already having knowledge of McVay’s system, Webster will be valuable for LA for years to come. 

Jojo Natson

Current Contract Status: RFA

Jojo Natson successfully filled Pharoah Cooper’s role as a punt returner in 2018. In 2019, until his season-ending injury, Natson unfortunately filled every Rams fan’s heart with fear when a punt was in the air as we had no idea what would happen when it landed.

Next season might be another year when the Rams rotate their punt returner spot. In 2019 Natson returned 19 punts for 149 yards which comes out to 7.8 yards per return. That number was down three yards from last year. 

POTENTIAL FREE AGENT TARGETS:

Keelan Cole, Jacksonville Jaguars

Keelan Cole is a player who won’t be getting much money this offseason. Cole finished the year with 24 catches and 361 yards but last year isn’t what the Rams should focus on. In 2017, Cole finished the year with 748 yards and 42 receptions; he also scored three touchdowns that year.

After his down year, Cole should be seeking a “prove it” role, and if the Rams want to add more depth he will have a chance to win and he will have somewhat of a role. 

Nelson Agholor, Philadelphia Eagles

Nelson Agholor is an infamous name in Philadelphia for his less than ideal hands. Agholor’s season mirrored Keelan Cole’s season. He finished with 39 catches and 363 yards and four total drops. The Eagles had a tumultuous year at the wide receiver spot and even with that, Agholor couldn’t carve out his role. He played in 11 games and started 10, but there wasn’t much room for optimism with his performance in 2019.

If the Rams want depth and a young body in the receivers room who is hungry to prove his worth, Agholor could be an option for the team.

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