Sammy Watkins is headed to the City of Angels! What does this mean for the Rams?

Within one hour, the fantasy football landscape changed dramatically when the Buffalo Bills traded away Sammy Watkins and acquired Jordan Matthews. The Rams, who mortgaged significant draft capital in a trade for Jared Goff last year, found a way to add talent around their quarterback of the future without giving up too much in return.

Let’s take a look at how this trade affects the Los Angeles Rams.

Jared Goff

Goff had a horrific rookie season. The Rams know this, and they’ve done absolutely everything you could ask a franchise to do to improve his outlook this offseason. Here’s a quick summary of positive changes for Goff:

  • Head Coach: Jeff Fisher – OUT, Sean McVay – IN
  • Left Tackle: Greg Robinson – OUT, Andrew Whitworth – IN
  • WR1: Kenny Britt – OUT, Sammy Watkins – IN
  • WR3: Brian Quick – OUT, Robert Woods – IN

No matter what way you spin it – Jared Goff is better as a result of this trade (and the bevy of moves the Rams have made this offseason).

Todd Gurley

The greatest factor in Todd Gurley’s success in 2015, and his disappointing 2016, was his ability to break the big play. Want proof? In 2015, 46% of Gurley’s rushing yards came as a result of runs of 15 yards or more; he broke 11 runs of 20+ yards, and 5 runs of 40+ yards. In 2016, he had only 2 runs of 20+ yards and none over 40 yards. If only there was a way for Gurley to face fewer stacked boxes, and become less of a focal point for opposing defenses?…Enter Sammy Watkins and Sean McVay – a player who averages  16.1 yards per reception for his career, and a coach with a track record of producing opportunity for vertical threats (Desean Jackson).

Sammy Watkins

Many in the fantasy community perceive this trade to have a negative impact on Watkins’ value. I’d recommend pumping the breaks on that opinion. Here’s why:

  • The Jeff Fisher-led 2016 Rams produced the WR21 in PPR (Kenny Britt) with Jared Goff and Case Keenum at the helm
  • The Rams just traded for a premier, young wide receiver in a contract year

The opportunity in Buffalo and Los Angeles is virtually identical:

  • The Bills 32nd rank in pass attempts is compared to the Rams 31st rank.
  • The Bills have 59% of targets available entering 2017; The Rams have 55% of targets available

At worst this trade results in no change to Watkins value, based on 2016 results – I’d say it’s an improvement. The Rams will be motivated to make good on this acquisition and solidify their “Big 3” (Goff-Gurley-Watkins).

Tavon Austin

On the surface it may seem like added competition is a bad thing for Austin’s 2017 outlook, but it’s not. Prior to the Watkins acquisition, Austin may have been forced into the vertical threat McVay uses in his offense. This trade allows the team to use him in a versatile/ hybrid role, where he has experienced success in the past. With Watkins assuming vertical responsibilities, and the injury to Lance Dunbar, I’d say we are more likely to see Austin take on a hybrid role with shades of Jamison Crowder/ Chris Thompson working the short to intermediate parts of the field.

Austin’s value beyond 2017 may come into question, however, due to the structure of his contract and the need to pay Watkins with a hefty extension in 2018. If Austin remains on the Rams’ roster for 2018 he will be due $8 million, if he is cut he will count $5 million against the cap. Regardless, that is a steep price to pay for a hybrid player. Assuming Austin succeeds in 2017, it may be worthwhile to explore “sell” opportunities during the season.

Robert Woods

Woods is the clear cut loser in this situation. I don’t see enough targets for Woods to be fantasy relevant outside of a streaming option. In addition, the structure of his newly signed contract makes him a virtual lock to be cut following the 2017 season ($8 million; $3 million dead cap).

Josh Reynolds

Although Watkins may prevent Reynolds from making much of an impact in 2017, he actually has a downstream positive impact for Reynolds. The anticipated contract Watkins will sign this offseason will require the Rams to cut ties with players ahead of Reynolds on the depth chart. This could realistically allow Reynolds to ascend to the WR2 opposite Watkins as early as 2018. I would advocate buying Reynolds now while some fantasy owners perceive his value to be down.

 

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