Every year we give our premium content members a team-by-team, player-by-player look at the NFL season that was. The coverage will be in-depth, but because the Dynasty Capsule series begins immediately after the season, we won’t use it to discuss free agency or the draft. Come see us in early May once Mr. Irrelevant is off the board for another 32-article series giving you the same detailed discussion you’ll see below.
Buckle up dynasty fans, because you’re about to be reminded why our motto is, “There is no off-season.”
Perhaps the biggest surprise of, frankly, an astonishing performance by the Los Angeles Rams in the 2017 season, was Jared Goff. Goff, the number one overall pick in 2016, appeared to settle into his role as the team’s starting quarterback and leader. He well outperformed every measurable statistic from his rookie season, completing an average of 19.7 passes per game (up from 16 per game), attempting 31.8 passes per game, (29.3), gaining 254 passing yards per game, (156 yards), and scoring 1.9 passing touchdowns per game (0.7). Perhaps the biggest jump for dynasty purposes is what owners now value him as in terms of a dynasty asset. His ADP now sits at 94.17, nearly a full 100 position jump from this time last year where he had an ADP of 190.50!
The biggest contributor to Goff’s success, other than bringing in new head coach Sean McVay, is likely attributable to the Rams actively surrounding him with offensive talent. If they can continue to find ways to give Goff more weapons, and to make the existing weapons more versatile, then he could take yet another step forward in his development and could have the Rams knocking on the door of the Super Bowl.
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If not for Goff’s huge performance jump, Todd Gurley would easily be the Rams’ most improved player. Not that he needed improving. Los Angeles simply needed to utilize him much better, something McVay found a way to do by making the offense multi-dimensional. Once Gurley wasn’t facing eight men in the box, he blossomed.
For comparison’s sake, Gurley rushed roughly the same amount of times in the 2017 and 2016 seasons – 279 and 278 times, respectively. However, the results couldn’t have possibly been more different. In 2017 Gurley gained 1,305 rushing yards, the most in his career, versus the 885 rushing yards he gained in 2016, the low point him his career. Additionally, Gurley scored 13 rushing touchdowns, also the most in his career. He only had six in 2016, again the least in his career.
Perhaps the most surprising jump in production came through the air as Gurley caught 64 passes in 2017, equaling the amount he caught over the past two seasons combined! He totaled 788 receiving yards and scored six receiving touchdowns. Prior to 2017, he had only 515 receiving yards and no receiving touchdowns. Gurley ultimately finished the season as the Rams’ second-leading receiver in addition to being its top rusher.
Look for Gurley to post similar rushing numbers next season, but it seems likely the Rams will take some of the passing duties away from him in order to spread the ball around more while keeping him healthy and fresh. Even reducing his receptions by a third still makes Gurley a devastatingly effective receiver by any standard. Gurley now sits atop the running back ADP rankings, not really a surprise given his performance and the fact he is still only 23 years old!
Malcolm Brown will be a name to keep an eye on in free agency. Brown served as a solid back up to Gurley, posting 246 rushing yards of his own on 63 carries. While the market for Brown will likely be a bit light, the Rams would be wise to re-sign him given the low price tag he is bound to command and his familiarity with the Rams offensive system. Brown is unlikely to see much action going forward but that’s a good thing for any Gurley owners.
Why would I focus on Cooper Kupp first when discussing the receiving corps of the Rams? Simple, he was their leading receiver in terms of targets, receptions and receiving yards. Will that trend continue? A big part of that answer will depend on if Los Angeles can find a way to re-sign Sammy Watkins. If the Rams are successful at doing so, then we may well be looking at a relatively young three-headed monster in the making at wide receiver.
The big news in the 2017 season for the Rams was the addition of Sammy Watkins shortly before the first game of the season. Watkins remained healthy throughout the season but only caught 39 passes for 593 yards and eight touchdowns, posting his second-worst season in terms of raw statistics, but the worst season in his career in terms of production per game. The bright point, though, was that his eight receiving touchdowns led all receivers. Watkins has expressed significant interest in re-signing with the Rams but with several players on the defense set to become free agents, the most likely scenario is that Watkins gets the franchise tag.
Robert Woods was, perhaps, the biggest free agent signing the Rams made last year. Woods gave Los Angeles an immediate deep threat and posted one of the best statistical seasons of his career. Prior to the Rams signing Watkins, it appeared as if Woods would be the team’s top receiver, positioning him for his first 1,000-plus yard receiving season. Alas, that failed to materialize but, as the offense becomes more familiar with each other, Woods’ role could grow, making last season his floor with his ceiling yet to be determined.
With his second season behind him and a former tight ends coach at the helm, Tyler Higbee is poised to see continued improvement going forward. Higbee nearly tripled his offensive output from his rookie season, in spite of the fact that Los Angeles drafted another tight end, Gerald Everett in the 2017 Draft. Higbee was the Rams’ fifth-leading receiver behind Gurley, Kupp, Woods, and Watkins. He the team’s tight ends in production, hauling in 25 receptions for 295 yards and a touchdown. Look for Higbee’s role to continue to grow as McVay becomes more familiar with his skill set.
Many dynasty owners – myself included – viewed the drafting of Gerald Everett as a huge head-scratcher. “Why would Los Angeles draft another tight end in the second round, one year after drafting one in the fourth round?”, asked many. Thankfully, we were shown why the Rams invested so heavily in the position in recent years with Everett being used frequently throughout his rookie season, posting 16 receptions for 244 yards and two touchdowns. Everett was used more effectively that Higbee, gaining 15.3 yards per reception to Higbee’s 11.8 yards, possibly hinting at an increased role as a deep threat moving forward.