In our “32 in 32” series, we are highlighting three of the most notable fantasy football players for each team, covering all 32 teams in 32 days!
Matthew Stafford (QB – Los Angeles Rams):
2021 saw the resurgence of Stafford to levels that we had seen earlier in his career with Detroit, finishing with over 4,900 yards and 41 TDs in his first season with the Rams and ending as the QB6 in fantasy.
Unfortunately, the narrative in the offseason following 2021 was the question of Stafford’s health with reports of lingering elbow issues. Those issues were swept under the rug heading into the season, but Stafford was not his typical self. He struggled mightily in 2022, especially early with 4 TDs to 6 INTs through four weeks, seeing his season end in Week 11 to head/neck injuries with just one game of 18+ points – a mark he hit in over half his games in 2021.
Supposedly, Stafford is back to full health – whether that is accurate or simply offseason headlines is another question. What we do know is that Stafford is now 35 years old, heading into a season with likely the worst supporting cast in his career, especially given his only significant WR in Cooper Kupp is coming off a season-ending ankle injury.
I like Stafford as a player, I like the McVay offensive scheme, and I think both he and Kupp will be back to full (or close to full) strength, but I don’t see the value in targeting Stafford in fantasy. He’s going as a mid-to-low QB2 in the 13th round or later of drafts. At that point, even though I think Stafford finishes as a mid-QB2 at worst (barring injury), I’m looking at upside in my QB2 and preferring a player such as Wilson, Richardson, Pickett, or even the potential rushing in Trey Lance over Stafford in that spot.
Cam Akers (RB – Los Angeles Rams):
After missing nearly the entire 2021 season to an offseason Achilles injury, Cam Akers struggled to get back to form upon his return, especially early on in 2022, posting just 2.8 YPC and 25.4 fantasy points (RB69) through the first 10 weeks of the season.
It was around that point that Akers was seemingly returning to full strength, taking upon a larger workload with 13+ touches in seven of his final eight games, closing out the season with 4.8 YPC and ranking as the RB8 in PPR scoring during that final stretch.
There’s a lot of uncertainty with the Rams’ offense, especially compared to this time last year. Matthew Stafford and Cooper Kupp are both returning from season-ending injuries so, in theory, the offense should return to its typical focus around those two, but there’s no certainty that they will be the same after their injuries.
Between those two coming off injuries, a lack of weapons beyond Kupp, and no significant investments in the backfield (only drafting Zach Evans in the 6th round), it looks as if the offense may see a heavy dosage of Akers in 2023.
Currently going as a low-end RB2/FLEX somewhere between the 5th and early-7th rounds, I’d be very comfortable with Akers as my FLEX or RB3, especially if it means rounding out my lineup with a quality QB/TE given that his draft price gives some flexibility.
Cooper Kupp (WR – Los Angeles Rams):
It’s just a year since Kupp set the single-season fantasy record among WRs with 145 catches, over 1,950 total yards, 16 TDs, and 440 fantasy points. He also led all WRs in PPG production this past season, posting 22.4 PPG, and 16+ points in every game prior to his injury.
At that level of production and consistency, you would expect his draft price to reflect it, right? You’d be surprised to hear that you’re wrong. He’s going as the WR3 and WR4 on ECR and ADP respectively, falling into the back half of the 1st round and even on the border of the 2nd round.
Stafford’s a year excluded from his elbow injury and Kupp’s season-ending injury in Week 10 (ankle) doesn’t pose any long-term impacts. There’s no reason to expect anything different from what we’ve seen out of Kupp since Stafford arrived in L.A.
This offense revolves around Cooper Kupp – there is no questioning that. For a player that has drawn 11.4 targets per game (excluding the game he was injured) over the last two years, I am taking him around the 1.05 or 1.06 mark in drafts as the WR2 off the board, in which you can easily make the case for him as the top WR in drafts this season as well.