ESPN’s Mike Clay is updating his statistical projections for every NFL team now that we’re past the 2018 NFL Draft. His numbers for the Los Angeles Rams are pretty interesting and worth considering as a potential baseline for the 2018 regular season:
Clay’s numbers on offense portend what I could find fascinating about the 2018 season and perhaps beyond and what it might mean for Head Coach Sean McVay’s system, for QB Jared Goff and the wideouts: a season in which the QB passes for 4,000 yards but none of the targets top 1,000 receiving yards.
Consider that this last offseason, Rams fans were near unanimous in their opposition to re-signing WR Sammy Watkins at top dollar due to a lack of production. What if that production ceiling is capped less by individual wideout performances or skill sets and moreso by the offensive structure as a whole? How might that affect the potential re-signing of WR Brandin Cooks who is scheduled to be a free agent next offseason? How might it affect contract negotiations with Goff?
I do wonder how much more is going to be asked of the tight ends this year in TE Gerald Everett and TE Tyler Higbee. As much as was made of McVay’s history both as a tight ends coach with the Washington Tight End Employers as well as the production he was able to coax out of them, it really wasn’t a point of emphasis in the offense last year. Might that change in 2018?
What’s interesting here is the projected snap counts, and this was before we learned that the Rams waived OLB Carlos Thompson. Clay completely discounts the impact of the Rams’ rookie class across the board, a possibility I pointed to prior to the 2018 NFL Draft. Part of that would of course be a signal of the strength of the roster in place, and part would be relative to the fact that the Rams didn’t pick until #89 and then selected an offensive lineman to groom for the future as opposed to a linebacker to plug in immediately. For fans hoping to see a ton of OLB Ogbonnia Okoronkwo or ILB Micah Kiser, these projections certainly don’t offer much to pin your hopes on.
This one jumped out at me.
Clay grades most of the Rams’ position units near or at the top in the NFL. Only four units rank below 7th: edge rushers (13th), tight end (19th), linebackers (26th) and quarterbacks (17th).
It’s the last one that I find more fascinating than anything for 2018.
The combo of Goff and Sean Mannion comes in at #17 for Clay. How much of that is Mannion bringing it down? No, he’s not one of the league’s stronger backups. But how much is Goff pulling this ranking in the opposite direction? It’s clear that most national analysts have Goff well outside their top 10. How much would a repeat of the 2017 season help him rise? Or is this ranking reflective of that already and an assessment of his performance while surrounded with tons of talent working under an offensively-minded head coach?
Clay has the Rams favored to win every game except for the Week 9 trip to Louisiana to take on the New Orleans Saints. It’s a hell of a referendum. With the TST staff unanimously pinning the Rams to a winning season, a 15-1 odds-on projection isn’t all that fantastical. Still, it’s a fair reminder of just how high the expectations are surrounding this team.