The change in coaching staff in Los Angeles was a big success in 2017. LA went from last in the NFL in scoring in 2016 (224) to first last year (478) with a net gain of 254 points. Sean McVay went 11-5 in his rookie season as head coach helping the Rams to the postseason for the first time since 2004. Over the previous three seasons, Sean was the offensive coordinator for the Redskins. McVay has eight seasons of experience in the NFL at age 32. Los Angeles should be excited about their franchise going forward.
The Rams moved to tenth in offensive yards after finished last in the NFL in 2015 and 2016. This season LA will use a duel combination to man the offensive coordinator job. Aaron Kromer moves for offensive line coach to run game coordinator while Shane Waldron gets promoted from TE coach to pass game coordinator. Based on the structure, Sean McVay should be the in-game play caller. Kromer has 18 seasons of experience in the NFL with a short stint as an interim coach for the Saints in 2012 where he went 2-4. In 2013 and 2014, Aaron held the offensive coordinator job for the Bears. Waldron came through the Patriots’ system with ties to McVay in Washington.
Los Angeles fell from 9th in yards allowed in 2016 to 19th last year, but they showed growth in points allowed (329 – 12th) compared to 23rd in 2016 (394). Wade Phillips led the Broncos to a successful season as the defensive coordinator in 2015 and 2016 leading to the move to the Rams. Wade has 27 years of experience at the same position plus an 82-64 record as a head coach.
LA made an aggressive move to improve their defensive line by adding DT Ndamukong Suh. He’ll upgrade the defense in both run support and rushing the QB.
The only other signing in the free agent market was LB Ramik Wilson. Over three seasons in the NFL, Wilson missed 18 of his possible 48 games. His best success came in 2016 when Ramik recorded 76 tackles. He projects as a backup until he proves he can stay healthy.
The Rams lost WR Sammy Watkins who signed with the Chiefs. He scored TDs last year with some big play ability, but Watkins failed to live up to expectations.
Backup TE Derek Carrier signed with the Raiders.
The most significant changes in the offseason came in the secondary with the losses of S Maurice Alexander, S Cody Davis, and CB Trumaine Johnson. Alexander fell out of favor last season after an early season shoulder injury. In 2016, Maurice picked up 50 tackles, one sack, four defended passes and two Ints. Davis was a low-value player with minimal playing time in his career with the Rams. Johnson has been an asset in coverage in three of his six seasons in the NFL while offering some fade in his game last year.
Los Angeles didn’t have a draft pick in the first or second round in 2018, but they did add 11 players in the draft.
Three of their first seven selections were dictated to the offensive line – T Joseph Noteboom, C Brian Allen, and G Jamil Demby.
Noteboom has the base skills to excel at the next level, but his play tends to be inconsistent with questions with his strength. Joseph brings athletic ability to the line with solid technique and plus hands. His growth will come with development in his base while showing more confidence in his game.
Allen is a power player with the most upside in the run game. He has limitations in his blocking area due to minimal quickness. His play will have some risk in pass protection when defenders beat him outside his blocking window.
Demby has the foundation to improve at the NFL level when he adds more strength. His speed (5.58) and quickness paint a low upside picture suggesting any success will come from his power. Jamil went to a small school, so the NFL will be a huge step up in competition. Demby has a feel for the game while his hands offer upside.
The Rams added three players to their defense in the fourth and fifth round – DE John Franklin-Myers, LB Micah Kiser, and DE Ogbonnia Okoron.
Franklin-Myers went to a small school (Stephen F. Austin), which makes the move to the NFL a step up in competition. He offers an exciting combination of power and quickness for his size (6’4″ and 283 lbs.), but he projects as a tweener. John isn’t big enough to play inside while lacking the pass rushing skills to offer an edge on the outside. His base skill set has room for growth where he should add value in run support and deliver some value in sacks.
Kiser will have the best value attacking the line of scrimmage where his vision plays well. He lacks the speed to cover the field from sideline to sideline with questions about his ability to play in coverage. His power style will develop upside in tackles, but he can make mistakes while having physical limitations in his game.
Okoron is a physical player with a high motor and pass rushing skills. He plays with power with some base skills to create space in the pass rush. Ogbonnia can lose value vs. top linemen in the run game. His success is built on moving forward with his fighter style creating his winning plays.
In the sixth round, Los Angeles took a shot on RB John Kelly. He has three-down ability, but his short area quickness won’t create a winning edge if running in tight quarters at the line of scrimmage. His game has more power than finesse, but he does have open field ability at the second level of the defense.
LA shifted back to the defense with their last four picks – DT Sebastian Joseph, DE Trevon Young, S Travin Howard, and DE Justin Lawler.
Joseph projects as an early-down run defender. He plays hard on every down while offering quickness and good hands. His next step is proving he can beat power players while developing his pass rush skill set.
Young has underperformed his ability over the last two years due to a slow recovery from a significant injury in 2015. For his game to be productive at the next level, Trevon needs to develop his power. He works hard with the desire to find his form. More of a flier due to his health concern.
Howard will offer cover skills at safety in the NFL with high upside against the run. He comes with speed and quickness while playing many downs in 2017 at linebacker.
Lawler works hard while offering strength, but his game doesn’t look high enough to be a factor at defensive in the NFL. His best success in college came against lower competition. His overall speed limits his value against the run putting him on a path to be pass rushing specialist.
The Rams finished 8th in rushing yards (1,953) with 17 TDs and 12 runs over 20 yards. Their rushers gained 4.3 yards per carry while averaging 28.4 attempts per game.
LA climbed to 10th in passing yards (3,831) with 28 TDs and seven Ints. They completed 57 passes over 20 yards and 13 catches of 40 yards or longer. Overall, the Rams gained 7.8 yards per pass attempts. Their offensive line allowed 28 sacks and 74 QB hits.
LT Andrew Whitworth has been a great left tackle over the last 11 years in the NFL. Last year his game slipped closer to the league average while being a better player in run blocking. He’ll start the year at age 36 with his best asset coming in pass blocking based on his career resume.
LG Rodger Saffold played at high level in run blocking in 2017 leading to his best overall success in his career. LA selected him in the second round in 2010. Over the last five years, Saffold has been a league average player or better in four seasons.
C John Sullivan was one of the best players at his position in 2011 followed up with two strong seasons. His game faded over the last couple of season where he’s now considered a neutral player.
RG Jamon Brown started six games in 2016 after LA selected him in the third round in 2015. He played in 36 games over three seasons with struggles in all areas. The Rams need him to make a considerable step up in success to be a viable long-term option. They moved him to right guard full time in 2017 to help his game reach a higher level.
RT Rob Havenstein delivered three straight seasons of league average value at right tackle after getting drafted in the second round in 2015. His best success last year came in run blocking.
Overall, this offensive line has four players who have a chance to be an asset while right guard remains an area of concern. The improved play at QB and RB should help all players reach higher heights going forward. I’d grade them as a top 12 line with more upside if Jamon Brown makes a step forward.
The above data shows the strength of schedule as far as rushing attempts (RATT), rushing yards (YDS), yards per attempt rushing (YA), rushing touchdowns (TDs), completions (COMP), passing attempts (PATT), passing yards (YDS), yards per attempt passing (YA), and passing touchdowns (TDS).
This information is based on 2017, which will work as our starting point for 2018. We’ll look at all the changes on offense on each team in the NFL plus the upgrades and downgrades on each team on the defensive side. We’ll update this table when we finish the research on all 32 teams.
2017 LG Average = the league average of all stats from all 32 teams in 2017.
2017 Results = this is the results for each team in the NFL.
2017 Adjustment is based on the 2017 league average and the 2017 results for each team, this number will show if each team is above or below the league average in each stat category and the basis for the strength of schedule.
Todd Gurley was the RB to own in the championship rounds of the playoffs in 2017, but he’ll have two stringent tests in Week 15 (PHI) and Week 16 (@ARI) this year plus three other bad matchups (ARI, MIN, and @DEN) over the first five games of the season. His only favorable game will come against the Chargers. Overall, the Rams have a weak schedule for their rushing offense.
Their 2018 season starts off with four poor games (LAC, MIN, SEA, and DEN) over the first six weeks for their passing offense while the Seahawks will be in transition on defense. LA has a second same later in the year against Seattle and a below-par game vs. the Bears. Their best opportunity to pass the ball may come against the Raiders, the Packers, the Chiefs, and the Lions.
Even with success scoring points in 2017, the Rams ranked 17th in the NFL in offensive plays (972). Their passing attempts (518) came in below the league average, which was offset by their big play ability.
The Rams have a top-notch running back leading to a high-level of attempts especially if they play from the league. This offense should show further growth in all areas in 2018.
QB Jared Goff – Over seven games as a starter in his rookie season, Goff never passed for over 235 yards in any game with his highlight game coming with his three passing TDs in Week 12 at New Orleans. He finished the year with a poor completion rate (54.6) while tossing five TDs and seven Ints. Last year his game made a huge step forward leading to an 11-5 record over 15 games with 3,804 yards passing and 28 TDs. His yards per completion (12.9) led the NFL, and it showcased his ability to get the ball downfield in the deep passing game. His best stat of the year was his low total in interceptions (7). Jared offers minimal value on the ground (28/51/1). Last year he threw for over 300 yards in five games plus four games with three TDs or more. Even with his high level of success, Goff averaged only 31.8 pass attempts per game. His overall weapons in the passing game should be improved with Brandin Cooks added to the roster while replacing Sammy Watkins. With the development in Cooper Kupp and some growth in the value of his TEs, Jared has a chance to push his way to 4,500+ yards with 30+ TDs. His upside in TDs will be limited with success of Todd Gurley scoring rushing TDs in the red zone. I’d prefer Goff as an upside QB2 just in case he takes off while understanding he’s going to have matchup value again in 2018. Last season Jared finished as the 12th highest scoring QB the World Championship scoring.
Other Options: Sean Mannion, Brandon Allen, Luis Perez
RB Todd Gurley – At age 22, Gurley made Fantasy owners a ton of money in 2017. His ADP was about mid-second round creating a great buying opportunity for sharp Fantasy owners. The Rams scored the most points (478) in the NFL last season, which came after ranking last in points scored (224) in 2016. LA scored 51 total TDs in 2017 with 19 touchdowns coming from Gurley. The previous season the Rams only scored 24 combined TDs. The change in coaching staff and the 2017 offseason moves were magical bringing the NFL spotlight back to Los Angeles. On the year, Todd finished with 2,093 combined yards and 64 catches while averaging 22.9 touches in his 15 games. His explosiveness was back in his game (4.7 yards per rush and 12.3 yards per catch). LA is on the rise with a young improving quarterback. Scoring TDs win Fantasy games, and Gurley should be one of the best in the game in this area again in 2018. Three-down back with the opportunity and scoring ability to win Fantasy championships. Next step: 375 combined touches for 2,200 yards with 15+ TDs and 75+ catches. Great foundation RB1 in PPR leagues, but he will have two tough games in the high stake’s championship rounds (PHI and ARI). In 2017, Todd beat the Eagles for 135 combined yards at home with two TDs and three catches while gaining 312 combined yards with one TD and ten catches in two games vs. the Cardinals. High floor player each week thanks to his pass-catching ability while having the talent to post a difference maker score multiple times over the long season.
RB John Kelly – Over three seasons at Tennessee. Kelly gained 1,923 combined yards with 15 TDs and 43 catches. His best success came in his junior year when John had 1,077 combined yards with nine TDs and 37 catches despite gaining only 4.1 yards per rush. This season he’ll compete for the backup role on the Rams, but he lacks the explosiveness to keep a high percentage of Gurley’s role if given an opportunity due to an injury. Kelly fits into the grinder mode with power being his best asset. I expect him to be the top handcuff for Gurley in 2018.
Other Options: Malcolm Brown, Jody Davis, Nick Holley
WR Brandin Cooks – Even with an excellent season in New England (65/1082/7 on 114 targets), Cooks still fell short of expectations. He crushed Fantasy owners during the most critical time of the year in 2017 (Week 13 – 2/17, Week 14 – 1/38, Week 15 – 4/60/1, and Week 16 – 2/19). Before his poor finish, Brandon was on pace to deliver a top ten Fantasy value at WR in PPR leagues. With the Patriots, Cooks only had two games with over 100 yards receiving (5/131/2 and 6/149/1). He has three straight seasons with over 1,000 yards while scoring a TD in half of his last 24 games. In 2017, the Rams completed 197 passes to their WRs for 2,580 yards and 19 TDs on 317 targets. I’m torn on his value and opportunity based on the play of Cooper Kupp in his rookie seasons and the surprising success of Robert Woods. Cooks will be the big play WR, but LA will be creative getting him the ball. More of the same (80/1100/7) in the developing Rams’ offense, but Brandin will be severely discounted in 2018 due to the change in teams.
WR Cooper Kupp – Based on his college resume (428/6464/73), Kupp looks like a star of stars. His game comes with exceptional route running with plus short area quickness, hands, and ball fakes. Cooper doesn’t have the flash and sleekness of the top WRs in the game, but he will get open while catching many balls thrown his way. In the open field, his speed isn’t enough to pull away from cornerbacks after the catch. Kupp plays with vision, which helps him after the catch. I’m seeing a Brandon Marshall type skill set with less size (6’2” and 204 lbs.), where controlling the first 15 yards off the line of scrimmage will be his calling card to success. Built to be a 100-catch receiver. His route running will be his ticket to an early starting job, but his release will dictate his upside. I have no doubt Cooper will know the playbook cold based on his career path and pedigree. In his rookie season, Kupp caught 62 of his 94 targets for 869 yards and five TDs over 15 games. Over his last eight games of the season including the playoffs, Cooper had 44 catches for 567 yards and three TDs on 60 targets. He finished with two games with over 100 yards receiving (8/116 and 5/118/1) and six games with five catches or more in the regular season. In 2017, there were multiple games when Kupp just missed securing a TD while being a top red-zone target. I expect him to a WR1A in this offense with a run at 90+ catches for 1,100+ yards and a chance at double-digit TDs. He will be the top scoring receiving on the Rams in 2018.
WR Robert Woods – Over four seasons in Buffalo, Woods caught 203 passes for 2,451 yards and 12 TDs on 345 targets. His best success came in his sophomore year in 2014 when Robert caught 65 of his 104 targets for 699 yards and five TDs. He missed seven games over the last two seasons leading to only 21 starts. Over 12 games in 2017, Wood was on pace for the best season of his career. He caught 56 of his 85 targets for 781 yards and five TDs, which projected over 16 games would have been 75 catches for 1,041 yards and seven TDs. It’s too bad Brandin Cooks will pass him on the depth chart leading to a step back in chances. The Rams don’t have a TE of Fantasy value, which points to the WR3 in the Rams’ offense having a chance at 50 catches for 600+ yards and minimal upside TDs.
WR Josh Reynolds – Reynolds is the player LA hopes will challenge the secondary in the deep passing game. Josh has more height (6’3”) than size (194 lbs.), but he does win many jump balls even just average WR speed. He’ll have risk working the short areas of the field while needing to improve his release. Over three seasons at Texas A&M, Josh caught 164 passes for 2,788 yards and 30 TDs while averaging 17 yards per catch. In his rookie season, Reynolds caught 11 of 24 targets for 104 yards and a TD. Possible insurance card while showing scoring ability on his college resume.
WR Pharoh Cooper – Over his sophomore and junior seasons at South Carolina, Cooper had 135 catches for 2,109 yards and 17 TDs highlighted by his 2014 season (69/1136/9). Pharoh also had 71 rushes in his college career for 513 yards and four TDs. Scouts don’t like his overall skill set as they believe Cooper doesn’t create enough separation when running his pass patterns, and his overall speed is below NFL standards for a WR with his size (5’11” and 207 Lbs.). Pharoh has plus quickness and acceleration. His hands have some risk. Sometimes you have to bet on heart, which Cooper has plenty. In his first two years in the NFL, he caught 25 passes for 190 yards on 39 targets.
Other Options: Mike Thomas, Fred Brown, Ricky Jeune, Steven Mitchell, LaQuvionte Gonzalez
TE Gerald Everett – The door is open for Everett to seize the starting TE job. Over his last two seasons at South Alabama, Gerald caught 90 passes for 1,292 yards and 12 TDs. His game has a WR feel with great hands and the balance RB when getting tackled. Everett will challenge the short areas of the field plus add value in the deep passing game. His next step is building his technique in his route running while being undersized (6’3” and 239 lbs.) to hold an edge in the blocking game. Last year LA completed 49 of 86 passes for 610 yards and three TDs. The new coaching staff will get the ball to the TE position leading to a fast rise by Gerald. In his rookie season, Everett caught 16 passes for 244 yards and two TDs on 32 targets with his best game coming in Week 2 (3/95). His playing time last year was minimal due to his lack of value in pass blocking. I expect improvement in 2018, but he has a lot to prove to become Fantasy relevant. Worth a late flier.
TE Tyler Higbee – The Rams gave Higbee the bulk of the TE snaps in 2017 due to more value as a run blocker. He finished with 25 catches for 295 yards and one TD on 45 targets. His best season in college at Western Kentucky came in 2015 when Tyler caught 38 passes for 563 yards and eight TDs. Low ceiling with a weak floor in the Fantasy market.
Other Options: Temarrick Hemingway, Henry Krieger-Coble, Johnny Mundt, Codey McElroy
K Greg Zuerlein – In his five seasons in the NFL, Greg has never made over 26 field goals in a season or over 34 extra points. His leg finally blossomed in 2017 leading 38 fields goals in 40 chances with big success from 50 yards or longer (6-for-7) while only playing in 14 games. Over the last three seasons, Zuerlein missed four of his 97 extra points. His career success rate (82.9) moved closer to starting NFL kicker average after his big 2017 season. Even with a strong leg, he’s 24-for-42 from 50 yards or longer in his career. The Rams’ offense is on the rise pointing to Greg being a top 5 kicker. Last season LA created 94 scoring chance. His one negative is a back injury in December that required surgery.
The Rams’ run defense has three bad matchups (DET and ARI X 2) plus six mid-tier games (OAK, LAC, SEA X 2, and SF X 2). Los Angeles has two games (NO and PHI) vs. teams that run the ball well. Overall, LA has a favorable schedule for their rushing offense.
Los Angeles will be challenged in the passing game in 2018. They have four poor matchups (LAC, NO, KC, and DET) plus two mid-tier games vs. the 49ers. The Rams’ pass defense only has one favorable game (CHI).
The Rams struggled to defend the run last year. They finished 28th in rushing yards allowed (1,957) with 15 TDs and 12 runs over 20 yards. Rushers gained 4.7 yards per carry with 26.1 attempts per game.
Los Angeles ranked 13th in pass defense (3,475 yards) with 21 TDs and 18 Ints. QBs gained 6.8 yards per pass attempt. The Rams defense picked up 48 sacks.
This season LA will have two of the top interior run defenders in the league with both players offering value in sacks. DT Aaron Donald posted 41 tackles and 11 sacks over 14 games. He has 39 career sacks in 62 games. DT Ndamukong Suh had regression in both tackles (48) and sacks (4.5) while still maintaining a high skill set.
DE Michael Brockers set a career high in tackles (55) with 4.5 sacks and four defended passes. He suffered a torn MCL in his right knee in January, which puts his start of 2018 at risk. He tends to play well vs. the run. DE Dominique Easley missed all of 2017 with two surgeries in his right knee. Easley is a former first-round pick (2014) with injuries hurting his upside early in his career.
LB Mark Barron has 320 combined tackles over the last three seasons with three sacks, 17 defended passes, and five Ints. He’s coming off a shoulder injury while showing failure vs. the run in 2017. LB Ramik Wilson needs to regain his 2016 form and health to become a player of value. All other options have risk or low-value resumes, which points to the Rams having risk at the second level of their defense.
S John Johnson played well in his rookie season. He has cornerback skills at safety while adding playmaking ability. John has quickness while still losing some ground in the deep passing game due to him thinking about the developing play. Johnson will add value in run support and special teams. In 2016, his best value came in pass coverage. S Lamarcus Joyner had the most success of his career in 2107 with an edge in pass coverage and strength against the run. He finished with 49 tackles, nine defended passes, three Ints, and one TD.
The Rams made a pair of trades to upgrade the cornerback position. CB Marcus Peters had 46 defended passes with 14 Ints and two TDs in his first two seasons in the NFL. Last year he only had nine defended passes with five Ints and one TD while securing 46 tackles. He should be a massive upgrade while being a former first-round pick in 2015. CB Aqib Talib tends to play well in coverage, but he did have decline in his tackles (31) and defended passes (7) in 2017 while turning his only Int into a TD.
Los Angeles will get after the QB when they play from the lead with some playmakers in their secondary, but teams will beat them on the outside on the run and with the short passing game. Their lack of talent at linebacker will get exposed vs. good passing teams. Viable top 12 defense, which comes from the strength in their pass rush and possible upside in turnovers.
2018 NFL Team Outlooks