Oh, context. You fickle bitch.
Just moments after I posted Pro Football Focus’ rankings of all NFL rosters that had the Los Angeles Rams at #2, I saw new fantasy football rankings from PFF’s Jeff Ratcliffe that are perhaps, well, less complimentary of the Rams.
His top 200 kicks off with some familiar names, and it would be hard to argue any of them from a fantasy perspective. But it’s worth pointing out that he slots RB Todd Gurley in at 16 overall as the ninth running back in his rankings. For all the drama surrounding his knee since the end of the regular season, that kind of ranking probably doesn’t inspire a ton of confidence. Gurley was the top fantasy back in 2018 despite only playing 14 regular season games. To drop back to RB9 would point to a significant drop in production. As we’ve discussed regularly on Turf Show Radio, it doesn’t matter if that kind of drop is due to the condition of his knee preventing him from taking on more work or if the coaching staff limits him from more. The result is, ultimately, the same, and one Ratcliffe is clearly anticipating. For my part, I’m looking at a sharp decline in carries, but a strong fantasy output thanks to touchdowns.
As for QB Jared Goff, Ratcliffe has him as the 10th QB all the way down at 95th overall. I suppose that’s less of a slight (with much less drama behind it), but it’s one I might contest more. I’ve generally been higher on Goff than most since being drafted, and I’m getting a sense of that again this offseason. Goff made a huge jump from 2016 to 2017 with Head Coach Sean McVay at the helm, but you could argue his improvement from 2017 to 2018 was more valuable/significant/impactful/whatever. His trajectory from 2016 through the end of last season is steep, and I’m not sure why we shouldn’t buy into it continuing into 2019. I certainly recognize the effect of recency bias and his performance in Super Bowl LIII is going to color things until we get back to football. I just think we’re talking about a quarterback who threw for 4,688 yards and 32 touchdowns. If he makes any kind of improvement in his general performance level let alone enjoys an expanded offensive role to employ in 2019, we’re talking about better outputs. And better outputs from his 2018 numbers would certainly put him higher than where Ratcliffe slots him.
His wideout rankings for the Rams might be a little generous. He’s got WR Brandin Cooks at 34 (WR15), WR Robert Woods at 37 (WR16) and WR Cooper Kupp at 47 (WR22). It’s less the effect of spreading the ball around in general. Both Cooks and Woods topped 1,000 receiving yards, and Kupp might have as well had he stayed healthy. The issue is touchdowns which is just an unavoidable factor in fantasy. Not only do the wideouts have to split redzone targets among each other, they also have the tight ends factoring in (neither of whom in TE Tyler Higbee and TE Gerald Everett were ranked). Moreover, you’ve got the running backs which, if the Rams’ 2019 offensive line is anywhere close to as good as the 2018 OL was, are going to be the recipient of the benefits of the red zone.
Which brings us us to rookie RB Darrell Henderson.
I’ll be honest. I didn’t expect to see him on the list even with Gurley dropping down as much as Ratcliffe had him falling. Clearly, though, Ratcliffe is preparing for Henderson to carve out a big fantasy play thanks to Gurley’s deficit. He’s got Hendo at #85 as the RB33 above a bunch of other options that I would have thought he would have ranked higher. He’s obviously angling for a pretty big rookie year for Hendo that would change the balance for the position beyond 2019 in a pretty major way.
The final ranked Ram? K Greg Zuerlein. Ratcliffe has him as K1 at 177. No argument from me.
I said GZ was the final ranked Ram to cover, but Ratcliffe also has the Rams’ defense and special team ranked at 174 as DST4. Given how good Special Teams Coordinator John Fassel has been at engineering yards in the return game and proficiency in punt blocking, I think this is fair. I might have the defense rated a bit lower for fantasy thanks to subpar edge rushing which often creates the kind of splash plays that rate in fantasy, but the special teams quality should make up for that.
Overall, it’s a bit of a limp fantasy prediction for such a good offense. But part of that is the Rams having so many weapons and so little opportunity to overfeed them all.
That might not mean great fantasy options, but in terms of actual football it’s a good problem to have.