Matthew Stafford Trade to Rams: 2021 Fantasy Outlook on Robert Woods, Cooper Kupp, Cam Akers, More - Roto Street Journal
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Matthew Stafford Trade to Rams: 2021 Fantasy Outlook on Robert Woods, Cooper Kupp, Cam Akers, More

We were told by every insider that the 2021 NFL offseason would be a wild one, and it didn’t take long for it to kick off. Adam Schefter dropped a bomb when he announced Matthew Stafford was headed to the Los Angeles Rams in exchange for Jared Goff, two first-round picks, and a third-round pick. While this trade will likely cause a ripple effect across the league and the 2021 Super Bowl odds, it also provides massive 2021 fantasy football implications for Stafford, Robert Woods, Cooper KuppCam Akers, and the rest of the Rams’ offensive weapons.

MATTHEW STAFFORD

Although Matthew Stafford spent his career with one of the worst organizations in the league, he always had talent around him at the skill positions. Whether it was Calvin Johnson, Kenny Golladay, Marvin Jones, or TJ Hockenson, the Lions kept their gunslinger happy. It barely ever translated to wins on the actual scoreboard, but it typically resulted in fantasy victories.

With the Rams, he finally gets a genius offensive mind to call the shots. Sean McVay will now have an elite arm at quarterback who can make every throw on the field.

Not to mention Stafford will finally benefit from having a legitimate running game to keep defenses off-balance. According to NFL.com, McVay dialed up play-action on 33 percent (fifth most) of the Rams’ plays last year, compared to the Lions’ 24 percent. On those play-action passes, Stafford completed 60.5 percent of his passes, averaged 8.6 yards per attempt, and averaged 11.1 air yards per throw. By comparison, Goff only averaged 6.7 air yards per throw on play-action.

This increase in play-action calls alone should bode well for Stafford’s 2021 fantasy outlook.

Expect McVay to aggressively open up the playbook with Stafford under center, which should only push Stafford into top 10 fantasy QB contention.

CAM AKERS

Soon to be second-year running back, Cam Akers, will be a hot commodity after lighting it up at the end of his rookie campaign. After proving to be the guy for McVay’s backfield, his 2021 fantasy outlook should get a serious boost, thanks to the addition of Stafford.

Although Stafford will air it out, in 2020 he threw 53 percent of his passes to wideouts, 22 percent to running backs, and 22 percent to tight ends. On the other hand, Goff threw 62 percent of his passes to receivers, 21 percent to tight ends, and only 12 percent to running backs.

2020 wasn’t an anomaly. Throughout his career, Stafford averaged 22 percent of his throws to running backs, while Goff lingered around 14 percent.

Not only will Akers control the majority of the carries out of the backfield, but his receiving numbers should also follow.

WOODS, KUPP & PASS-CATCHERS

As noted above, this trade has a tremendous fantasy impact on the Rams’ wideouts.

Robert Woods should be the greatest beneficiary of Stafford’s rocket arm. Bobby Trees led the Rams in targets, receptions, yards, and touchdowns on play-action passes last season, and that was with Goff, who was more than hesitant to take deep shots. Add Stafford’s 11.1 air yards per throw on play-action pass attempts, and we’ll see Woods take off to another level.

Even without play-action, Stafford is one of, if not the best, deep ball throwers in the league. According to PFF, Stafford has completed a league-high 11 passes thrown at least 50 yards in the air since he was drafted in 2009. By comparison, no other quarterback has more than eight during this time period. Under Stafford, Woods should be utilized downfield more often, which will give his outlook a serious boost.

For more nuggets on why Woods has fantasy WR1 potential written all over him, check out this excellent Twitter thread on the connection, below.

Cooper Kupp is coming off a down-season in 2020. Once again, Goff was reluctant to throw the ball downfield, which resulted in a career-low 6.7 air yards per target to Kupp in 2020. With little-to-no creativity in the offense with Goff under center, Kupp had his worst fantasy output since his rookie season. Expect more throws around the sticks to show off Kupp’s elite route running, rather than forcing him to break tackles around the line of scrimmage in 2021.

One player who could be a late-round sleeper is Van Jefferson. The rookie didn’t pop off last season, snatching only 19 balls for 220 yards and a score, but the talent is there and with Josh Reynolds set to hit free agency, the third receiver spot could be Jefferson’s in 2021.

As noted above, Stafford targeted the tight end on 22 percent of his throws in 2020. While that was only a percentage point higher than Goff, TJ Hockenson had a breakout year, securing 67 receptions for 723 yards and six scores. Tyler Higbee showed he has the talent to make fantasy noise, but was a major fantasy bust in 2020. With McVay dialing up play-action at the rate he does, Stafford could look Higbee’s way in the seams and have a touchdown resurgence next season.

SUMMARY

This was an A+ trade from a Rams’ fantasy perspective and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.

Stafford gets a play-calling boost and the Rams’ talented fantasy weapons get a much-needed boost to reach their full fantasy potentials. It’s not to say Goff was inadequate, but it’s been on the decline since their Super Bowl runner-up season just a few years ago.

Akers will be more involved as a pass-catcher, while Woods and Kupp will be utilized more downfield. Higbee could also get a slight boost off play-action and should rebound after busting hard in 2020.

Check back on The Wolf’s 2021 Fantasy Football Rankings & Big Board to see where the Rams (and Lions) fantasy pieces land as a result of this blockbuster.

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