As the dust settles on the 2020 NFL draft, which was particularly stacked with regards to skill players, the focus for most fans will be on the upcoming drafts in fantasy leagues. Now, I know full well that fantasy leagues come in many different formats so for this exercise I have decided to rate players both on their standard and PPR value going into next season only. Unfortunately for keen dynasty players, such as myself, I have decided against complicating matters more than they need to and I am only projecting their potential for next year’s fantasy leagues.
- Cooper Kupp – projection: WR5
The dynamic, yards-after-catch monster that is Cooper Kupp was ranked 4th in both PPR and standard format fantasy leagues last season and it shouldn’t have come as much of a surprise either.
In 2017, his rookie season, he averaged 11.97 points a game and he averaged 19.13 in games he played over 50% of the snaps in 2018. The injury he suffered mid-season in 2018 has most certainly stopped him from being viewed as one of the most elite wide receivers in fantasy football. As well as his elite production in previous years, it’s also worth noting that he is very much in the window of earning a new contract, whether that’s with the Rams or not remains to be seen, but it’s not uncommon to see players have their best season in a ‘contract year’. I have little doubt that Kupp’s agent will be looking to get his man a deal that reflects his status as one of the best receivers in football, so it’s highly unlikely he takes his foot off the gas going into 2020.
- Robert Woods – Projection: WR13
The workhorse wideout has been a revelation for the Rams since joining from the Bills in 2017. He went from a perennial WR2 in Buffalo that occasionally flashed throughout the first four seasons of his NFL career to a player that produces week-in, week-out in Los Angeles.
In his last season with Buffalo, he was ranked the 72nd wide receiver in a standard format and the 66th wide receiver in a PPR format. He has gone on to register back-to-back seasons as a top 15 wide receiver in the PPR format under Jared Goff and ended the 2019 with significant numbers in the absence of production from former wide receiver, Brandin Cooks, who is now of course with the Texans. Woods had 68 targets in his last six games with the Rams last season for 118.2 points. If you consider in Cooks permanent absence that could be a good basis to project his numbers for 2020 then you’re potentially looking at a wide out with 180+ targets and 300+ points. The downside for him, in comparison to Kupp, is that his touchdown production is low hence why I have him at two rather than one.
- Tyler Higbee – Projection: TE4
If you had told me 12 months ago, Tyler Higbee would make the leap to become one of the most effective players on the Rams offense then I would’ve had a hard time believing you. Nevertheless, it’s exactly what the Florida-native did in 2019 and had such a strong end to the season that it has begged the question could he become an elite fantasy football tight end alongside the likes of George Kittle and Travis Kelce.
The 27-year-old posted disappointing fantasy numbers in the first three and a half years of his NFL career. In PPR format, he was the 65th ranked tight end in 2016, 35th ranked tight end in 2017 and the 33rd ranked tight end in 2018. He also had a slow start to the 2019 season, with just 53.20 points from his first 11 games, but when McVay schemed him into the passing game more he became a difference maker with 107.2 points from 56 targets in his last five games. He has to prove it over a course of the season, but the McVay magic seemed to work and could provide a foundation for schemes we will see more in 2020.
- LA Rams DEF – Projection: DEF5
The Rams defense has lost a number of pieces including Dante Fowler Jr and Cory Littleton. Nevertheless, the defense has been top five in fantasy for the past three years and still has Aaron Donald to creative havoc in the front and Jalen Ramsey to make plays in the secondary.
Although I do suspect that a drop off in this department could be possible, due to a seemingly bigger emphasis on run D than pass rush which typically gets more points, a new defensive coordinator tasked with scheming rather than all-out aggression could lead to more turnovers in the Rams secondary where they’re stacked with talent. As with Kupp, Jalen Ramsey is also in a contract year and will undoubtedly looking to play hard in order to earn the contract that could see him become the highest paid defensive player in the NFL.
- Cam Akers – Projection: RB17
The first rookie on my power rankings is unsurprisingly the first Rams pick from the 2020 draft, Cam Akers. The absence of Todd Gurley leaves a requirement for a workhorse back going into next season and whilst a running back committee has been suggested by the coaching staff, it often leads to one doing enough to be a clear RB1. I’m going to punt that the Rams RB1 will be Cam Akers.
Akers, who was widely viewed as one of the most physically talented backs coming into the draft, was evidently extremely high on the Rams list as many didn’t expect them to take a running back with their first pick. The requirement for an edge rusher or an offensive lineman many thought would take precedent, but the Rams front office clearly believed that Gurley needed replacing through the draft, not just through the backups from last season in Darrell Henderson and Malcolm Brown. It says to me that there is a very real possibility Akers becomes the bell cow and subsequently supported by Henderson and Brown for the 2020 season.
- Jared Goff – Projection: QB13
I suspect many expected him to be higher in my list as he’s been a consistent top 15 QB under Sean McVay, however whilst I don’t expect a severe production drop off from him, I do believe the Rams will look to run the ball more going into 2020.
I still expect Goff to post a top 15 fantasy QB season, possibly even top 10, but the emphasis on dual threat quarterbacks in the draft make a pure passer like Goff less valuable in people’s eyes. It’s possible that Goff, considering the egregious opinions about him from casual fans, could become a late round pick up and certainly a more important player in a super flex format.
- Darrell Henderson JR – Projection: RB27
Although I suspect Cam Akers will take the majority of the snaps for the Rams, Darrell Henderson could well be an extremely valuable RB3 flex option for the 2020 season after limited use in his rookie season behind Todd Gurley and Malcolm Brown.
I highly suspect that it will be an open competition for the RB1 job to start the season, with Akers and Henderson taking the majority of the snaps and Malcolm Brown supporting. I certainly believe there is a potential to see the blueprint McVay set out in the 2018 season run-in and play-offs with Gurley and CJ Anderson sharing carries and the ‘hot hand’ getting the lion’s share. In that situation, at that time, it was CJ Anderson as Gurley looked on from the sidelines to the bewilderment of supporters. It’s not impossible to say that if Henderson does start the season stronger and becomes the ‘hot hand’ similarly to how CJ Anderson was in his time with the Rams then he becomes the RB1, despite the focus being on Cam Akers. It’s true that both are in the same boat and neither are established.
- Josh Reynolds – Projection: WR31
The draft pick of Van Jefferson would’ve surprised a few fans considering the Rams seemed happy to go into the season with Reynolds as a starter, as they should, but I suspect that was to keep their receiver pool at four capable starters following the loss of Cooks and having no one obvious beyond Reynolds in the depth chart.
Reynolds has proven now for a while, he has the ability to make a big mark in this division and despite working only in cameo roles, he has made some big plays. He certainly stepped up whilst Cooks was injured last season, despite not posted eye-watering numbers, he certainly proved productive when targeted. Both McVay and Goff have spoken in the offseason about the impact they expect Reynolds to make, hinting he will be the starter, so he is WR3 for me over Van Jefferson for this coming season.
- Gerald Everett – Projection: TE17
12 months ago, I would’ve expected Everett to be higher than Higbee for Fantasy purposes but after Higbee’s breakthrough in 2019, it’s left Everett with a lot of ground to make up. Nevertheless, McVay has come out recently and talked up Everett and had success going to 12 personnel at the end of last season, i.e. 2 tight ends to support 2 wide receivers, so could see a similar set up rolled out more regularly this coming season. It would certainly help in the run game, but also take very little away in the passing game as both Everett and Higbee have now proven capable to be more than just efficient with the ball in their hands.
- Van Jefferson – Projection: WR53
If I was projecting power rankings for a dynasty league, I would have Van Jefferson much higher up. He is clearly an extremely talented route-runner that will see the field in his rookie season. All that being said, he has two wide receivers in front of him that are at the very top of their game, plus a very capable WR3 in Josh Reynolds and two very capable pass catching tight ends in Tyler Higbee and Gerald Everett. It’s a lot of bodies in front of him that he will eventually work his way through, I’m sure, but for the 2020 season I expect very few snaps but with a tiny bit of playmaking opportunities thrown in for good measure.
Overall, the Rams are one of the most loaded teams in the skill positions in the NFL. Fourth round draft pick, Brycen Hopkins and established rusher, Malcolm Brown both miss out on the 10 purely based on the talent within the team. I also believe as some pockets of the media continue to predict a tough season for the Rams, you will be able to get yourself a genuine bargain. The defense being the obvious choice, but the likes of Tyler Higbee and Jared Goff will likely fall to a lot lower than they should be going into the 2020 season.