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The Rams receivers were almost impossible to predict going into last season. The first four guys on the depth chart didn't play for the team in 2016, their quarterback hadn't won a game in the NFL, and their new coach ran an offensive system that got all kinds of people touches. Many expected the newly acquired Sammy Watkins to lead the way in the passing game, but Watkins found himself being a glorified decoy while Robert Woods took over as the Rams number one option.

Because of the unpredictability, the Rams produced two of fantasy's best sleeper receivers. Cooper Kupp shined as a rookie and outperformed his ADP as the 50th overall receiver. Robert Woods isn't even listed on Fantasy Football Calculator's top 63 receivers from 2017 entering the season, and he was able to finish in the top 20 receivers in terms of PPR points per game.

The Rams receivers enter this season with a lot more hype. The team traded for and extended Brandin Cooks in the offseason. Cooks is expected to take over as the number one receiver on the LA depth chart. Still, Cooks has a higher ADP than Kupp and Woods, so the question still remains: who is the receiver you should be targeting in the Rams offense?

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Setting The Table

Here's the current ADP for each of our three subjects, including the ranking amongst receivers and the average ADP in a 12 team PPR league.

Current ADP: Brandin Cooks (23, 5.6), Cooper Kupp (39, 90.7), Robert Woods (41, 100.4)

Let's start with the obvious: these are the only Rams receivers worth owning in any league that isn't insanely deep. That includes Josh Reynolds. Reynolds started to garner a lot of hype in dynasty leagues this offseason due to the loss of Sammy Watkins, with many expecting him to take over as one of the three receivers in Sean McVay's dangerous passing attack. Trading for Cooks should put the kibosh on any Reynolds hype. He won't have a relevant fantasy role assuming the main three stay healthy this season. Even if there is an injury, expect the targets to just go to the other two rather than Reynolds.

Take a look at the target totals from the top Rams receivers last season. Jared Goff threw 477 passes. That's a ton of passes for a team that features one of the league's best running backs and best defenses. I'm not saying he'll throw fewer passes this year, but I can't imagine he hits the 500 mark. We shouldn't expect there to be a lot more targets than last year.

So for the sake of this argument, we should set some ground rules and lay out some assumptions. Let's assume all of this happens...

  1. Goff throws 475 passes.
  2. The Rams tight ends combined for 88 targets last season. Let's say they get 70 this year.
  3. Brandin Cooks will at least absorb Sammy Watkins 70 targets, so we'll give him those.
  4. The rest of the Rams receivers besides Kupp, Woods, Watkins, Gurley, and the tight ends had 86 total targets between them. Since the Rams played a meaningless Week 17 and Woods missed a few games with an injury, let's give them 70 total as well.
  5. Todd Gurley isn't going anywhere. Let's give him 80 targets.

If we take out the projected targets for Gurley and the rest of the Rams sans the big three receivers, we're left with 255 targets to play with.

 

The Kupp Conundrum

Cooper Kupp led the way for the Rams in targets, receptions, and yards last season. I would bet a substantial amount of money that he isn't going to repeat in any of those categories.

Sammy Watkins was never able to build solid chemistry with Jared Goff. He found most of his yards on big plays where the defense may have thought they didn't need to key in on him. His presence helped Gurley, Woods, and Kupp immensely, but it didn't translate to meaningful numbers in the box score. You can't expect Cooks to have the same role. Cooks has had a full offseason of work to carve out a role in the offense and a connection with Goff. The Rams inked him to an $80 million extension, so they have big plans for him. Meanwhile, Robert Woods was the Rams best receiver last season, and Kupp's biggest games came when he was on the sideline.

Woods and Cooks will be the go-to options in the Rams passing game this year. While Kupp will make plays and be a productive player, I can't imagine him topping his numbers from last year. I'd anticipate both Cooks and Woods approaching the 90 target mark, with Cooks a likely candidate to lead the team and surpass 100. If both Cooks and Woods finish with 90 targets, that leaves Kupp left with 75 based on our projections. I'd be more inclined to expect around a 100/90/65 target split between the trio.

That doesn't mean Kupp will be useless. At his current ADP, I think it is a fair value for him. He should be much more efficient on his targets than Watkins was with his, and he should bring in a nice amount of receptions. He has appeal as a low-end FLEX/first receiver off the bench to me this season. Don't forget about him, just know he may be the odd man out here.

 

The Champ or the Challenger?

Had Robert Woods played a full 16-game season last year, he was on pace for 113 targets, 75 receptions, 1,041 yards and seven touchdowns. It isn't completely unrealistic to say that he could come close to those numbers this year.

But I do think that Cooks is going to be the number one option in the passing game. Sean McVay has been raving about him since he came into the NFL and the Rams didn't sink all that money into him for no reason. They have big plans for Cooks. We'll see him on the outside, in the slot, and maybe even out of the backfield for all we know. Expect him to lead the Rams in targets, receptions, and yards while becoming a nice WR2 in fantasy. He's a nice value at his current fifth-round ADP.

That being said, can we really expect him to finish 18 spots above Woods in the rankings? I wouldn't bet on it, and that's why I think Woods is by far the best value at their current ADP.

Goff and Woods had a proven connection last year. Woods is a great route-runner and when the going gets tough, that's who Goff is going to look for. It seems like a lot of people are expecting him to be the odd man out instead of Kupp, but I really can't see that happening. Woods was the best receiver on the team last year. I don't think he is better than Cooks, but the gap isn't as big as many people believe, and I think the Rams agree with me.

 

Conclusion

Robert Woods is the receiver you should be targeting at his ridiculous triple digit ADP, but all three of these guys have fantasy appeal. Kupp is a nice bargain should he slip a bit in the draft. Cooks has put up at least 1,000 yards and seven touchdowns in each of the last three seasons, and I don't think that will change. He's also a great value at his fifth-round ADP.

In closing, the Rams have a really good offense and you probably can't go wrong with any of their primary receivers. You shouldn't feel like you're overpaying for any of these players at the moment, but knowing when to take the right player at the right time is always critical on draft day.

 

More Draft Prep and Analysis


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