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 by Elvis
1 week ago
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 Joined:  Mar 28 2015
United States of America   Los Angeles
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ROBERT WOODS
Woods' career year was his 2018 season with the Rams when he earned 131 targets, 86 catches, 1,219 yards, and 6 receiving scores. The No.10 fantasy receiver that year, Woods was a half-yard off his career-best yards-per-reception average (14.7).

Since then, his targets and catches have hovered steadily between 130-140 looks and 90 catches. However, his average per catch has dropped two yards per year since his 2018 peak. The obvious reasons were the Rams' offensive line, Sean McVay's scheme predictability, and Jared Goff's difficulty with handling pressure.

McVay's scheme is intended to make every play look the same and use variations of plays from a similar conceptual theme to confuse defenses. After a while, opponents figure out how to disrupt the main concept and that disrupts the variations as well. McVay has shown since 2018 that he has been stubborn about adjusting his scheme and game plans despite defenses clearly figuring them out.

Perhaps McVay was concerned that his offensive lines—filled with an influx of new players—couldn't handle the changes. More likely, it was a combination of the line play and how it would create more pressure for Jared Goff, who has shown difficulty making quick mental sight adjustments against pressure.

Whatever the exact reasons, the defensive adjustments that the Rams couldn't throw the ball downfield with the same efficiency as they had when they first unveiled its offense upon the league.

Enter Matthew Stafford, a quarterback whose yards-per-attempt average for the past 24 games has been 8.09 yards per attempt. While his career average is 7.25 yards per attempt, he hasn't had strong offensive lines until recently.

Stafford is also willing to fit the ball into tight windows that many quarterbacks can't and he's proven at handling pressure. Stafford is more adept at making opposing defenses pay for aggressive behavior.

Woods is the most versatile receiver on the Rams. With DeSean Jackson and, possibly, Tutu Atwell stretching the field to its deepest quadrants, there will be more room in the intermediate range of the field for Woods and Cooper Kupp to roam. Expect Woods to return to a higher average per catch and approach career highs in attempts, receptions, and yardage.

Because he's also adept at working himself open in off-script situations, expect more big plays with Stafford at the helm, too. Add it up and Woods is the player I'm targeting for a top-10 receiver season for fantasy leagues.

TYLER HIGBEE
Higbee disappointed last year after the promise he showed down the stretch of 2019. Still, he earned a career-high five scores and averaged a respectable 11.8 yards per catch. Higbee dealt with hand and elbow injuries that certainly limited the best work he could do in the passing game.

With the exception of 2018 and 2014, when Stafford didn't have a quality receiving tight end in Detroit, Stafford has supported tight ends for 600-700 yards or a combination of 2-3 tight ends for that production every year of his career, including a pair of years with a depth chart that passed 1,000 yards receiving while Calvin Johnson was ruling the receiving landscape.

Higbee disappointed but he earned nearly 30 fewer targets in 15 games with his injuries than he did in 14 games the year before. I'm willing to see 2020 as an injury-delayed season that will lead to a 2021 breakout.

JARED COOK
While a potential acquisition of Zach Ertz could derail the possibility for Jared Cook to reach career heights, let's operate from the assumption that Ertz goes elsewhere. Cook is an aging player that's playing like a fine wine.

He has averaged 75 targets, 49 catches, 702 yards, and 7 touchdowns during the past three years as a clear-cut TE1 each of those seasons. This includes last year's debacle with an injured Drew Brees.

We must remember that elite athletes at the tight end position often play into their mid-to-late thirties and sustain production. Tony Gonzalez was a top tight end until he retired at 37. Antonio Gates delivered at this level until he was 36 and played a supporting role for another two seasons. Jason Witten was still a fantasy starter at 35 before he retired for a year to be a Monday Night Football analyst.

Cook is a healthy 34 who is coming off the best three-year period of his career and joining an offense that needs a seam stretcher at the position. Donald Parham is not the answer and Tre' McKitty is potentially a year away from a substantial contribution in the passing game.

Paired once again with a strong-armed quarterback, Cook is in an ideal situation to challenge his career-bests in yards-per-catch average, receiving yards, and touchdowns. After all, Justin Herbert supported an 18.3 yards-per-catch average for Jalen Guyton, a receiver whose film profile is more fitting of a possession threat. Tyron Johnson, at least known at Oklahoma State as a field stretcher, was just shy of 20 yards per catch with 26 targets.

Cook is a field stretcher, even at 34. I don't see his move to the Chargers as a crossroads for Cook's career. I see it as a smart move to join a TE-needy team. Adam Trautman showed he was more than ready to assume the mantle in New Orleans. McKitty is at least a year away.

Cook may be taking it a year at a time, but his game affords him to do so and a team to pay enough to count on him for short-term production. I expect Cooks' baseline projection to look more like it did in 2019 than 2020 and that's TE5-7 material in positional rankings.

If you expect Justin Herbert to provide even better support in the vertical game than Derek Carr did for Cook in 2018, Cook could approach 800-900 yards again and a career-high in scoring.

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1 post Jun 22 2021