2022 Stats (rank)
Points per game: 18.1 (27th)
Total yards per game: 280.5 (32nd)
Plays per game: 58.9 (29th)
Pass Attempts + Sacks per game: 34.7 (20th)
Dropback EPA per play: -0.1 (30th)
Rush attempts per game: 24.2 (26th)
Rush EPA per play: -0.06 (15th)
A disastrous 2022 season filled with injuries and underperformance brought about speculation that Sean McVay could retire at the end of the season. However, having signed an extension less than a year ago, McVay chose to ride things out with this roster after mulling things over. Liam Coen returned to the college ranks after a one-year stint as offensive coordinator for LA. Offensive assistant Thomas Brown was hired to be the Panthers’ next offensive coordinator. The Rams also let go of a number of special teams and defensive coaches.
McVay is no stranger to coaching turnover and this time around most of the changes were his choice. The most notable addition LA made during the offseason was hiring Kyle Shanahan disciple Mike LaFleur as his next offensive coordinator. McVay’s coaching overhaul should help the ship run smoother in the upcoming season, but it won’t bring about any sweeping changes in his philosophy on offense.
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The Rams’ offensive numbers are horrific when looking at the entire season, but zooming in on just the games with Matthew Stafford and Cooper Kupp doesn’t help as much as you would think. Through nine games, LA’s offense ranked 28th in dropback EPA per play and 29th in rush EPA per play. Stafford ended the year with 10 touchdowns and eight interceptions. His EPA per dropback fell from .2 in 2022 to -.06 and his Pro Football Focus passing grade plummeted to 67.6, an eight-year low for the veteran gunslinger. Stafford was a mess in his second season with the Rams, casting some doubt on his long-term outlook in LA.
Elbow issues plagued Stafford before the season even started and that was just the beginning of a series of obstacles for him. The non-Kupp wideouts in LA combined for no 100-yard games and one outing over 66 yards, achieved by Ben Skowronek after Stafford went down with a season-ending neck injury. LA’s offensive line was also a disaster, primarily because of injuries. They started a new line combination in each of their first 12 games and got one more combo in during their final five contests. The revolving door of players in the trenches played a part in a five percent increase in Stafford’s pressure rate. Coupled with Stafford allowing his pressures to be converted into sacks at a clip nine percent higher compared to 2021, the line issue resulted in far too many drive-killing plays for the offense. For the unit to turn around, McVay needs to come up with a plan to keep Stafford upright more often. This could mean more play-action and a faster passing attack is in the cards.
The Rams’ offense revolved around Cooper Kupp in 2022 and nothing about that will change this year. Even though Stafford’s efficiency cratered, Kupp managed to keep his metrics up with 2.4 yards per route run and an 88.1 Pro Football Focus receiving grade. Both marks were top-10 among qualified receivers. Kupp also earned a target share over 30 percent for the second year in a row. Throwing out the game he left with a season-ending ankle injury, Kupp averaged nine catches for 102 yards per game. Had he stayed healthy, Kupp was on pace to repeat as the WR1 overall. Getting him outside of the first three picks in fantasy drafts is a steal.
Beyond Kupp, the Rams found next to no production at receiver last year, and they may run into a similar problem in 2023. Van Jefferson is set to start on the outside while Puka Nacua, Tutu Atwell, and Ben Skowronek will compete for a mix of slot and outside snaps. The Rams have run more three-receiver sets than any other team in each of the past two seasons, so there will be plenty of routes up for grabs. Jefferson’s 2022 season didn’t begin until Week 8 because of an offseason knee injury. It then took him a few weeks to reclaim a full-time role as deep-ball specialist. By then, the offense had already tanked. In 2021, he started all 17 games and went for 802 yards and two scores. Jefferson may not be the flashiest pick, but fantasy drafters are likely undervaluing his role in the offense.
Atwell is an undersized receiver with fewer than 300 yards to his name after two seasons. Skowronek is only slightly ahead of Atwell with 509 yards over two years. Nacua is the name to watch out for in training camp. Nacua didn’t see the field much as an underclassman at Washington. He then transferred to BYU and earned a 24 percent College Dominator in his two combined seasons as a Cougar. Nacua then posted a pedestrian 5.17 RAS at the combine. He averaged 3.53 yards per route run as a senior and rushed for 209 yards and five scores. Nacua also played a mix of slot and outside receiver in college. Though his late breakout is a red flag, Nacua is a versatile player on a roster in desperate need of another receiver to emerge.
Without much upside at WR2-4, the Rams could turn to Tyler Higbee as their de facto second receiver once again. He ended 2022 as LA’s top receiver, pacing the team in targets and catches over the second half of the season. Like Jefferson, Higbee isn’t winning you your league, but he can carry his weight on a fantasy roster while the rest of the stars shine.
Midway through the 2022 season, Akers’ career was spiraling. At just 23 years old, a torn Achilles’ had seemingly sapped his burst and he was at odds with the Rams. Then, after a two-week absence from the team, he returned with a vengeance. Akers’ snap share topped 70 percent for the first time in Week 13. He averaged 17 carries for 85 yards and a touchdown over the final six weeks of the season. Per PFF, he forced 24 missed tackles and had six carries of 15 or more yards over that span. Both marks ranked top-10 among all backs. The Rams’ investment at running back in the previous two drafts has been light. Out of his slump, Akers has the potential to be a workhorse this year.
Kyren Williams, a fifth-rounder in 2022, and Zach Evans, a sixth-rounder this year, will vie for backup duties in LA. The team was reportedly in love with Williams heading into the season last year. However, he suffered a high-ankle injury in Week 1 and missed the next seven games. Williams returned and managed to top a 50 percent snap share twice but saw his role quickly eliminated once Akers got up to speed. If Williams shows progress in the offseason, he could take on some pass-catching work, but his rookie season usage suggests his role will be limited at best.
Evans was a five star recruit at TCU. He was on pace for a breakout campaign as a sophomore, posting 648 yards and five touchdowns through six games, but a turf toe injury abruptly ended his season. Evans then transferred to Ole Miss where he was used as a backup. He posted a 144-939-9 line as a Rebel. Evans’ pedigree and partial breakout at TCU make him a high-risk, high-reward pick for the Rams, but his path to meaningful playing time is blocked by Akers. It could also be blocked by Sony Michel, who was added to the roster in June.
The biggest issue facing all of the Rams’ running backs will be the team’s offensive line. LA couldn’t get a healthy group of players to start consecutive games at nearly any point last year, but their lack of investment in the trenches was the underlying issue. Before this year, the Rams hadn’t spent a first or second-round pick on a lineman since 2015. They haven’t drafted a full-time starter for their offensive line since 2018. General manager Les Snead attempted to change that by taking center Steve Avila in the second round, but that was their only notable addition of the offseason. Expect Stafford to be under pressure consistently and the backs to be getting hit behind the line of scrimmage for too often once again.
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PointsBet Over/Under: 6.5
Whether they like it or not, the Rams went from Super Bowl winners to rebuilding the roster in one year. They seem to understand this as they cut Bobby Wagner and traded Jalen Ramsey after the season wrapped. They also bled talent in free agency, leaving them with an empty cupboard on defense save for Aaron Donald. On offense, they need a massive rebound from Stafford just to be competitive and will still have depth issues across the board. The Rams pushed all of their chips in on the 2021 season and it worked. Now they’re paying the price, part of which could be failing to reach 6.5 wins in 2023.