It was reasonable to project some regression for the Rams coming off a Super Bowl win, but their lack of depth was exposed en route to a 5-12 season. The Rams went all-in for that title, and the next few seasons may be pretty ugly as the bill comes due, though there are still some reasons to be optimistic from a Fantasy perspective.
Record: 5-12 (27)
PPG: 18.1 (27)
YPG: 280.5 (32)
Pass YPG: 182.8 (27)
Rush YPG: 97.7 (27)
PAPG: 31.2 (24)
RAPG: 24.2 (26)
2022 Fantasy finishes
Number to know: 82.1%
That's the percentage of the Rams running back touches Cam Akers got over the final six games of the season, during which point he was the No. 5 RB in points per game. It was an incredible run for Akers, who seemed to be on his way out in Los Angeles after a rough start to the season that saw him benched and reportedly put on the trade block. That he came back from that at all says something about how the coaching staff feels about him; that he came back and looked like a very good running back again says even more.
But it's still pretty hard to know how to value Akers at this point. He's had a few stretches like this in his career, most notably at the end of his rookie season in 2020. But he looked like a shell of himself for most of 2022, his first full year back from a ruptured Achilles, before ripping off three straight 100-yard games to close out last season. Akers' primary competition for touches right now comes in the form of Sony Michel, who did play a big role in the team's 2021 Super Bowl season, but who also lost playing time to Akers in that Super Bowl run, so I think it's fair to write Akers in as the RB1 in something more permanent than pencil.
But are they going to give him 80% of the touches again? Are they going to give Akers 20-plus carries consistently? He's never been a big part of the passing game, and his increased role came with the Rams having little to play for and down to Baker Mayfield at QB. Akers doesn't need to get 80% of the snaps or 20-plus carries to be a decent value as the 22nd RB off the board, as he currently is in NFC leagues. But if he's in a time share in a low-volume rushing attack without much passing game work, he's probably not going to be a particularly exciting starting option, even if he's a decent value at ADP.
2. (36) Steve Avila, C
3. (77) Byron Young, LB
3. (89) Kobie Turner, DT
4. (128) Stetson Bennett, QB
5. (161) Nick Hampton, OLB
5. (174) Warren McClendon Jr., OL
5. (175) Davis Allen, TE
5. (177) Puka Nacua, WR
6. (182) Tre'Vius Hodges-Tomlinson, CB
6. (189) Ochaun Mathis, DE
6. (215) Zach Evans, RB
7. (223) Ethan Evans, P
7. (234) Jason Taylor, SAF
7. (259) Desjuan Johnson, DT
97 carries, 48 RB targets, 84 WR targets, 24 TE targets
Rankings and projections
Chris Towers' projections
|QB||Matthew Stafford||PA: 598, YD: 4188, TD: 27, INT: 13; RUSH -- ATT: 46, YD: 160, TD: 2|
|RB||Cam Akers||CAR: 247, YD: 989, TD: 10; TAR: 30, REC: 24, YD: 180, TD: 1|
|RB||Kyren Williams||CAR: 61, YD: 244, TD: 2; TAR: 48, REC: 37, YD: 295, TD: 1|
|WR||Cooper Kupp||TAR: 174, REC: 128, YD: 1412, TD: 10|
|WR||Van Jefferson||TAR: 90, REC: 42, YD: 458, TD: 5|
|WR||Ben Skowronek||TAR: 78, REC: 51, YD: 499, TD: 4|
|TE||Tyler Higbee||TAR: 108, REC: 72, YD: 721, TD: 4|
Can Matthew Stafford bounce back?
This time last year, the Rams were being open about Stafford's limitations -- he didn't throw at all during OTAs and was on a pitch count during training camp due to an elbow injury. This year? He's playing without limitations, and the hope is that will lead to a bounce-back campaign. The problem is, outside of Cooper Kupp this team is pretty bereft of playmaking talent. Kupp should remain an elite Fantasy option with Stafford healthy, but it's not a stretch to say he might be the only sure-thing starter on this roster.
One sleeper, one breakout and one bust
As a general rule, you should bet against any given fifth-round pick making any kind of impact for Fantasy, and Nacua doesn't necessarily look like a hidden gem. His college production was good, but hardly elite, and he did not test particularly well -- a 4.56 40-yard dash is not particularly impressive, given the friendly hand you often get at a Pro Day workout. Still, he showed a well-rounded skill set in college, something McVay has shown a willingness to exploit with both Kupp and Robert Woods in the past, and he's playing in an offense that could give him the opportunity to play from day one. The Rams desperately need someone to emerge and take some pressure off Kupp, and Nacua's skills with the ball in his hands could make him that guy. In deeper leagues, I'm absolutely throwing a late round dart in his direction.
Alright, so I don't actually think Kupp is going to "break out" in the traditional sense. In all likelihood, we've seen the best of him. But I haven't written about Kupp yet, I want to, and I don't think there's actually a good choice for a breakout here anyway, so what the heck. Kupp is being undervalued, even as the No. 4 WR off the board. When everyone expected regression last season, Kupp averaged 25.01 points per game prior to his season-ending ankle injury, down just 0.6 from the prior season -- and well ahead of Justin Jefferson's 21.5 points per game. Kupp has been on a completely different level than any other player in Fantasy the past two seasons, and while there's reason to be worried about regression, both because Kupp is on the wrong side of 30 and because of injury concerns for Stafford, if they're both right, I see little reason to think we won't get a repeat. Kupp, not Jefferson or Chase or anyone else, has the highest upside at the WR position.
The irony here is, I think Akers is probably a relatively high-floor player, mostly because I just don't see where the competition for touches is supposed to come from in that backfield. Of course, people made similar arguments this time last year, and he opened up unexpectedly in a timeshare with Darrell Henderson and was ultimately inactive for multiple games. Henderson looks like stiffer competition than anyone left in this backfield, of course, but Sony Michel has played a big role for Sean McVay before, and could be a viable alternative if they aren't happy with Akers' play. But the bigger issue here is I just don't think Akers is a particularly good player -- his Next Gen Stats like Rush Yards Over Expected are pretty middling, he has just three carries (out of 260) over 20 yards since his Achilles injury, and he's never really been a factor in the passing game. Akers has been useful for Fantasy in two stretches across three seasons, when the Rams have given him basically all of the RB work, and he's been very touchdown-dependent even in those stretches. Any threat to his playing time could render him value-less, as we've seen. This is a small-hit, big-miss player, and I don't have much interest in that.