It wasn’t long ago that we were talking about Jared Goff as the next Ryan Leaf. I felt similarly about him until I did some research before the start of last season that led me to believe maybe he wasn’t as bad as we all thought. After all, Eli Manning and Matthew Stafford had similar starts to their careers and turned out to be fantasy relevant.
Flash forward to this season, and many are now ranking Goff between 8 and 12 of in their dynasty quarterback rankings. What if I told you that’s still too low? I know rankings are subjective, but I have Goff ranked as my QB5, so please journey with me into the mystery that is my brain to find out why.
Just in case you didn’t click what I linked above, I thought it was important to examine Goff’s history. I mentioned Eli Manning earlier and in my opinion, he’s one of the best comparisons. In fact, here is a table of the two players two seasons into their career:
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Notice that Goff has fewer attempts than Manning, and yet he has more yards and touchdowns? His rushing stats leave a bit to desire, but he has Eli beat in almost every category. Why is this important?
Well, Manning found himself on a team that until recently was considered primarily a rushing team as well. For the early part of his career, he had to contend with Tiki Barber being the featured part of the offense. Does that sound familiar at all?
Despite the presence of Barber, Manning managed to put up a top-five overall fantasy quarterback season in his sophomore season. He followed that up with a top 12 finish the following season. It was a different time, but it’s encouraging that if Goff were to follow Manning’s career path he would be a QB1 for fantasy purposes in seven of 14 seasons. Heck, Manning finished in the top 15 another three seasons and only failed to finish as a fantasy QB2 in his rookie season.
The NFL is obviously different than when Manning started his career. For context, Goff scored 255.5 points last season and finished as the 12th best quarterback for fantasy purposes. Eli finished his sophomore season with 228 points in his sophomore season and was the fifth best. Quarterbacks are just throwing and scoring more than they did in the early 2000’s but looking at Manning’s career still gives us an interesting idea of what Goff’s could look like.
I know some of you may be disgusted by the mere mention of Eli Manning. Here’s the thing, despite being a Giants fan, I don’t think Eli is the greatest thing since sliced bread. It’s just encouraging that if Goff can follow Eli’s career path he’d be at minimum a high-end QB2 in fantasy for most of his career. As a bonus, Goff is a better quarterback than Manning ever was and he is in a better situation.
Did you know that the Rams had the top-scoring offense in the NFL last season? No? Perhaps you have just been released from a mystical board game that trapped you for 26 years and you’re wondering what year it is. Well, it’s 2018 and Sean McVay is an offensive genius.
Last season saw Cooper Kupp emerge for the Rams as a reliable slot option. It saw Robert Woods put up ridiculous volume on limited targets, and cause my friend Zach Wilkens to believe so strongly in him he had to pen an article. It saw Todd Gurley re-emerge from the funk that can only be described as “Jeff Fisheritis” to once again dominate the league. Hell, despite all the hate he gets for what he did in that offense, it saw Sammy Watkins put up eight touchdowns.
Seems like it’d be difficult for this offense to get any better, right? That’s where you’re wrong. Kupp was a rookie, and it was everyone else’s first year in the offense. After having an entire season to learn the playbook things should only be better for everyone. Plus, I haven’t even gotten to the best part. Sammy Watkins has been replaced by Brandin Cooks.
On my podcast, the Afterburners pod, I recently said that Brandin Cooks was better than Sammy Watkins. Little did I know the hate that would cause to come my way on Twitter. I didn’t realize that saying someone who has posted a 227-3393-24 line over the last three seasons is better than someone who has posted a 127-2070-19 line over the same period would be such a hot take.
This is where the Sammy truthers say he was injured for much of that span, and that’s true. However, he was completely healthy last season and in one of the NFL’s best offense and failed to do all that much. Those same people are the ones who are going to be quick to point out that Brandin Cooks will fail with the Rams too because they need to keep believing that it was the situation and not the player they believe in.
As I’ve written about before the Patriots had to go and ruin my article from earlier this off-season, it’s possible that Cooks struggles in his first season in a new offense. Most players seem to after a trade. However, Anquan Boldin and Brandon Marshall performed at career norms after their second trade. There is something to be said for having experienced being traded before.
I could ramble forever about Cooks, but let’s bring it back to Goff. Clearly, I believe that replacing Watkins with Cooks is a positive for Goff’s fantasy outlook. I’m not going to claim to know that Cooks will be fed like a number one target, but his addition should mean more total yardage for Goff.
I also think it’s possible we see more pass attempts from Goff this year. Before you bite my head off trying to remind me that Gurley exists, let me show you Goff’s pass attempts. In the first half of games of the 2017 season, he attempted on average 30.5 passes per game. In the second half games of the 2017 season, he attempted 33.2 passes per game. That may not seem like a significant difference but over the course of a season it would add up to an additional 43 passes. Last season, Goff threw a touchdown every 17 pass attempts. If he continued that rate he would have had at least two more touchdowns, and likely more yards as well.
Before we wrap up, I do feel it’s important to note that for this coming season Goff lost Matt LaFleur. The Rams are opting to go without an offensive coordinator, rather promoting former tight ends coach Shane Waldron to the job of passing game coordinator. Make no mistake, this is Sean McVay’s show and I have a lot of confidence in him to call the shots that will make Goff a top quarterback for fantasy purposes.
I’m not going to sit here and fight with anyone about rankings. Rankings don’t really matter in the long run, because it’s much more about the range quarterbacks belong in. I don’t think Jared Goff quite belongs in the elite tier yet, but thanks to his situation, he’s knocking on the door. If someone will offer you Goff plus for Cam Newton, I’d take that deal and run. If his floor is Eli Manning’s longevity of high-end fantasy quarterback play, then those of you in 2QB and superflex leagues won’t regret it.