The Los Angeles Rams head into an interesting 2021 season. For starters the regular season will be extended to 17 games and quarterback Matthew Stafford will be under center. The Rams also have a handful of new weapons in DeSean Jackson, TuTu Atwell, and others.
This is a team that will have a lot of numbers up for the taking. With that said, here are my 2021 Los Angeles Rams stat projections.
QB Matthew Stafford
4,930 yards, 34 TDs, 13 INTs
One of the biggest questions this offseason is what kind of stats Matthew Stafford will put up in the Rams offense. While this isn’t Matthew Stafford hitting 5,000 yards, these would still be very good stats for the Rams quarterback. This would be an average of 290 yards per game and certainly have him in the MVP conversation. I have the Rams going 14-3 and these types of number could very well get them there.
4900 yards would be Stafford’s most since 2012. One could definitely argue that 4900 yards is high, however, these numbers would be very similar to Jared Goff’s numbers in 2018 when the Rams were the second seed in the NFC and made a run to the Super Bowl.
Additionally, Stafford will have his best weapons on offense throughout his career. He’ll also have the best play caller that he’s ever played for. If the offensive line remains healthy, this seems realistic.
Running Backs: Cam Akers, Darrell Henderson, Xavier Jones
Cam Akers: 234 carries, 1,069 yards, 6 TDs
19 receptions, 246 yards, 2 TDs
Darrell Henderson: 129 carries, 606 yards, 8 TDs
27 receptions, 345 yards, 2 TDs
Xavier Jones: 27 carries, 97 yards, 0 TDs
7 receptions, 99 yards, 0 TDs
Under Sean McVay, the Rams have been one of the best rushing teams in the NFL. This excludes 2019 when the Rams trailed the most that they have in McVay’s four years and were forced to throw more. In 2017, 2018, and 2020, the Rams exceeded 360 carries distributed between three running backs.
Akers might be the workhorse in this backfield, but I doubt they run him into the ground like they did Todd Gurley. This is still going to be a split backfield with Akers maybe getting around 60% of the carries. Akers only averaged 4.3 yards per carry last season. With a full offseason and a clean bill of health, I think he improves that to around what he averaged at the end of last year which was 4.57 yards per carry.
The biggest question is how much will Akers and the running backs be utilized in the passing game. When the Rams had Gurley, he was one of the biggest receiving threats at running back in the NFL. Last season, running backs totaled 50 receptions combined.
This is certainly an area that fans would like to see running backs more utilized this season. Despite only 11 receptions, Akers led the Rams running backs with 11.2 yards per reception. From 2009-2018, Matthew Stafford targeted running backs the fourth most in the NFL according to stats from Pro Football Focus. Some of that could be because of receiving threats like Theo Riddick and JD McKissic.
I’ll say that Rams running backs get a 14% target share. That would be a significant uptick from last year’s 9% and 5% in 2019. It would even be higher than what the Rams did in 2018 when Gurley had 59 receptions. Akers could get more looks in the passing game, but Henderson should still be the featured back in that area.
Darrell Henderson will still have a large role in the offense. With Matthew Stafford under center, he could be even more efficient with the kind of stats in the passing game. Akers is obviously RB1, but Henderson should be able to carve out a large role in this offense, especially in the red zone.
The utilized three running backs last season with Malcolm Brown, Akers, and Henderson. However, with Xavier Jones as the third running back, it’s unlikely that the Rams have three running backs with over 100 carries again. Jones could see some snaps, but Akers and Henderson are the 1-2 punch.
Wide Receivers: Cooper Kupp, Robert Woods, Van Jefferson, DeSean Jackson, TuTu Atwell
Cooper Kupp: 95 receptions, 1,223 yards, 8 TDs
Robert Woods: 90 receptions, 1,148 yards, 8 TDs
12 carries, 74 yards, 1 TD
DeSean Jackson: 27 receptions, 340 yards, 2 TDs
6 carries, 39 yards
Van Jefferson: 23 receptions, 296 yards, 2 TDs
TuTu Atwell: 19 receptions, 247 yards, 2 TDs
25 carries, 132 yards, 1 TD
The receivers are always difficult to project, especially outside of Woods and Kupp. Those two are going to get their numbers and take up about 50% of the team’s targets. That’s how it’s been under Sean McVay and that likely won’t change under Matthew Stafford. In fact, someone like Kupp could even be more involved.
It’s difficult to project guys like Jackson, Jefferson, and Atwell because we simply don’t know how they are going to be used. Being the veteran in the room, I gave Jackson the largest target share out of the three with 6.9%. The Rams third wide receiver has gotten between 10%-15% target share with McVay and so that could be divided up between the three.
We then look at rushing. In 2017, Tavon Austin had 59 carries. That seems like a lot of someone like TuTu Atwell, although it wouldn’t be surprising. However, that same year, Woods and other wide receivers were used in that aspect far less than they have been since 2018.
Rams wide receivers had just 29 carries last year. I’ve increased that number to 43 divided up between Atwell, Woods, and Jackson. We’ll see how the wide receivers are used in the run game.
Tight Ends – Tyler Higbee, Brycen Hopkins, Jacob Harris, and Johnny Mundt
Tyler Higbee: 52 receptions, 622 yards, 5 TDs
Brycen Hopkins: 13 receptions, 187 yards, 1 TD
Jacob Harris: 11 receptions, 134 yards, 2 TDs
Johnny Mundt: 4 receptions, 43 yards, 0 TDs
Without Gerald Everett, 41 receptions have opened up at the tight end position. Now, will those all go to someone like Higbee or are those distributed among the lower-tier wide receivers? Matthew Stafford is right in the middle of the league in terms of targeting the tight end. That has increased slightly over the last year as the Lions have had TJ Hockenson.
Last season Higbee only had an 11% target share, but did spend some of the season hurt. The season before he was up at 17%, but a lot of that came in the final four games of the season. Somewhere in between seems like the sweet spot for Higbee.
A lot of people seem to be writing off Brycen Hopkins. This will be someone now going into his second year and a spot just opened up with Everett leaving. He could jump in there and find a role. 11 receptions seems high for Jacob Harris, but if he continues what he’s doing in OTA’s, it would not be surprising to see him carve out a role. However, Hopkins didn’t see a lot of time last year, which doesn’t bode well for a third tight end like Harris.
Mundt is the veteran of this group and a key blocker. He’s not going to be phased out of the offense. The Rams will likely suit up three tight ends on game day. The questions will be, is that Hopkins or Harris?