The 2020 Rams had a successful season. After just missing the playoffs in 2019 and making the Super Bowl in 2018, the Rams finished 10-6, second in the NFC West and returned to the playoffs. The Rams had the best defense in the league and dispatched with the Seahawks in the Wild Card round. Then they came up short in the Divisional Round against Aaron Rodgers and the Packers.
With a solid defense, an emerging running back and playmakers in the passing game, the Rams appeared to have all the pieces to contend. But it was clear Sean McVay lost faith in former first overall pick Jared Goff and was looking to upgrade at quarterback.
In the first salvo of the off-season, the Rams made a mega trade with the Detroit Lions, swapping Goff for Matthew Stafford. Now Stafford, another former first overall pick, arrives with the weight of Super Bowl expectations and greatness for fantasy players. Can he achieve it?
Stafford is currently sitting with an ADP of QB12. That indicates that drafters hope to see him as a QB1 but aren’t completely confident. Yet most analysts think he’ll thrive in Los Angeles, especially moving to a team that has Cooper Kupp and Robert Woods at receiver, big upgrades over what the Lions offered most of 2020. Despite a dearth of weapons, Stafford threw for 4,084 yards and 26 TDs. That was good enough to be QB15.
It was a down year against expectations, the second in a row for Stafford, who was limited to eight games in 2019. He finished as QB29. But he’d begun with a hot pace that likely would have landed him in the Top 10 were it not for injury. That is in keeping with his career pace.
From 2011 to 2018, eight seasons, Stafford finished as a QB1 six times, finishing inside the Top 10 five times. In 2011 he finished as QB9, in 2012 as QB10, in 2013 as QB7, in 2014 as QB15, in 2015 as QB9, in 2016 as QB7 again, in 2017 as QB7 and, finally, in 2018 as QB20. In all eight seasons he played the full 16 games as well, showing his durability. Despite some injuries that caused concern in 2020, he managed to start all 16 games.
It’s true that during some of those seasons, from 2011-2015, Stafford was blessed to play with Hall of Fame receiver Calvin Johnson. But two of his best finishing seasons—in 2016 and 2017—came after Johnson retired. Stafford has the skill and talent to fare well with the Rams, both on the field and in fantasy.
Looking at the Rams
Goff was a decent quarterback for McVay, going 42-20 as a starter in their four seasons together. During that time Goff was a decent, if not incredible, fantasy option as well. In 2017, Goff’s second season overall and first with McVay, he finished as QB12. In 2018, as he helped guide the Rams to the Super Bowl, Goff had his best finish, ending as QB7. In 2019, he was QB13 and slipped to QB18 in 2020.
Though he produced two QB1 seasons and another on the cusp of QB1, Goff’s stats in the Rams offense aren’t eye-popping. In 2018, his best finish, Goff threw for 4,688 yards and 32 touchdowns with 12 INTs. He also hasn’t been a big rushing threat. Though he added four rushing touchdowns to boost his numbers in 2020, Goff hasn’t rushed for more than 108 yards in any of his years as a starter for the Rams.
That aligns perfectly with Stafford. When he had Johnson, Stafford had some big number seasons. In 2011, he threw for 5,038 yards and 41 touchdowns, but both are career highs. Since that time, he’s eclipsed 4,600 passing yards just twice and 30 touchdowns once—tossing 32 touchdowns in 2015. In his back-to-back QB7 seasons in 2016 and 2017, Stafford threw 24 and 29 touchdowns, respectively, and never topped 4,500 yards.
He isn’t a big rushing threat, either. His career high in a single season is 207 yards, set in 2016. In his 12-year career, he’s only rushed for more than 100 yards in a single season five times. What he does do is protect the ball and lead the offense well, meaning he doesn’t have to greatly exceed Goff’s numbers to return QB1 value with the Rams.
The Bottom Line
It’s fair to wonder if there will be an adjustment for Stafford, or if perhaps his best seasons are behind him. But with the Rams Stafford has a much better set of weapons, a better coach and arguably the best team of his career. He steps into a squad that made the playoffs in 2020 and is poised to do it again, just needing a touch better decision-making at the quarterback position. Stafford gives them that.
I also think he gives fantasy players a great shot at QB1 production. He’s done it many times in his career, and his QB15 finish in 2020 is a testament to what he can do with limited resources. With Kupp, Woods, DeSean Jackson, Van Jefferson, Tyler Higbee, Tutu Atwell and Cam Akers, there’s no reason to think he can’t finish Top 12 again.
Matthew Fox is a die-hard NFL fan and Broncos’ homer. He’s a member of the FSWA. You can find more from him on Twitter @knighthawk7734 or as co-host of the Fantasy Football Roundtable Podcast, a part of the Campus2Canton Network.