The Los Angeles Rams traded for Matthew Stafford earlier this offseason, shipping away Jared Goff along with a trio of draft picks. Although some have viewed it as a hefty price to pay, the Rams front office clearly believes Stafford is the key to unlocking the Super Bowl potential of this current roster.
The defense, led by Aaron Donald and Jalen Ramsey, is still considered a top-5 unit. The offense still boasts an exciting, talented young RB in Cam Akers and one of the top receiver trios in the league with Robert Woods, Cooper Kupp, and Tyler Higbee. Even in a highly competitive NFC West, the Rams are primed for a deep playoff run in 2021.
Down But Not Out
Although 2020 was a down year for Matthew Stafford, he still posted over 4,000 passing yards and 26 touchdowns. This was on a Detroit Lions team that went 5-11 and sorely lacked weapons. Stafford’s 255 yards per game was one of his lowest to date but his 7.9 air yards per attempt was his third-highest mark in his career.
To put things into perspective, Kenny Golladay played in only five games after being shut down for a hip flexor muscle strain. That left TJ Hockenson, Marvin Jones, and Danny Amendola as Stafford’s main targets. Even without his alpha receiver, Stafford posted his best full season quarterback rating (68.4) in his career.
If we look back to Stafford’s injury-shortened 2019 season, the new Rams QB was on pace for 5,000 yards and 38 touchdowns before being sidelined with a back tailbone fracture. Yes, Stafford’s 2020 was one to forget but when looking at the numbers over his last few seasons in Detroit, Stafford still has what it takes to be a top option at QB.
Matthew Stafford now finds himself with one of the best set of weapons he’s ever had in his 12-year career. Cam Akers should be productive this season which will open up play-action for Stafford, which is one of the areas he excels. The Rams will likely be a top-10 rushing offense this season based on their success over the past four years. Contrarily, the Lions were consistently one of the worst.
With Akers keeping defenses honest, the field will be opened up for Stafford’s pass catchers. Historically, Stafford has posted a higher passer rating on play-action calls. He excels at firing an accurate ball through the middle after opposing linebackers get faked on a play-action.
In terms of pass-catchers, it’s clear that Stafford has never had such a strong group from top to bottom. Robert Woods and Cooper Kupp are consistently top producers at the wide receiver position. Last season was a down year for the duo as Goff struggled to make plays downfield and battled injury.
However, in 2019, both Woods and Kupp each posted more than 1,100 receiving yards while also combining for over 47 total touchdowns in a four-year span. Early reports out of OTAs have informed us that Woods has already started to develop a strong rapport with his new signal-caller. Woods has even gone as far as sending his own game tape to Stafford so that his new teammate.
The Rams also added a speedy deep threat to take the top off defenses with the signing of L.A. native DeSean Jackson. It’s clear that D-Jax is well past his prime after several injury-marred seasons. However, he still has enough gas left in the tank to make splash plays for the big-armed Stafford.
Rookie Tutu Atwell may be undersized but he brings 4.3 speed and another deep threat. Atwell is capable of burning the defense on any given play. Josh Reynolds departed via free agency this offseason but that opens up an opportunity for sophomore Van Jefferson. Jefferson was only targeted 31 times in his rookie year. He is a good route runner with the ability to change speed and direction.
As a whole, the Rams wide receiver corps is a definite upgrade from what Stafford was accustomed to in Detroit. This is especially the case after the retirement of Calvin Johnson. It’s safe to say that Stafford has never had this deep of a wide receiver room in his career.
The Rams also have a young, promising core of tight ends headlined by Tyler Higbee. The post hype sleeper, Higbee, has caught more than 70% of his targets in each of the past three seasons. This is a testament to his efficiency. In addition, the Rams drafted a big target in Jacob Harris and Stafford has been known to feed his big men. Look no further than Calvin Johnson and Kenny Golladay. Although Harris is a “special project” per McVay, the rookie tight end stands at 6-5 and is an ultra-athletic playmaker.
Fantasy Football Impact
With a loaded offense from the running game to pass catchers, Matthew Stafford is set up nicely in the McVay offense. McVay’s offenses have generally been at the top of the league. The Rams ranked first in play-action rate and their wide receivers ranked second in drop rate. These were two areas where the Lions struggled in Stafford’s time in Detroit.
Woods and Kupp were among the league’s top receivers playing alongside Goff. The upgrade to Stafford undoubtedly raises the wide receivers’ floors and ceilings. The Rams offensive line is their biggest weakness on paper and Stafford handles pressure much better than Goff.
This means the offense should be more efficient even if the blocking unit doesn’t take a step forward in 2021. Woods will hopefully see more deep balls with Stafford. The new Rams quarterback has completed a league-high 11 passes thrown at least 50 yards in the air since 2009 (per PFF). This is a stark difference from Goff whose average depth of target ranked at the bottom of the league last year. All of the Rams offensive skill players are targets in fantasy football this season. With Stafford at the helm, they are all in an improved situation across the board.
In season-long leagues, Matthew Stafford is being drafted as a high-end QB2. Players like Joe Burrow are being drafted ahead of him. I prefer the consistent, proven play of a veteran like Stafford over hyped youth in redraft. This provides immense value for those drafting with the late-round QB strategy in mind.
In best ball, the Rams stack is easily attainable at a reasonable cost. Stafford (QB12), Woods (WR17), Kupp (WR22), and Higbee (TE8) should outperform their current ADPs. DeSean Jackson (WR90) is a sleeper at the end of drafts that would post a handful of boom weeks.
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