Top fantasy football offenses to stack in 2021 best ball: Stafford trade to Rams changes the game

·7-min read

It’s best-ball season. If you aren’t drafting best-ball teams right here on Yahoo, honestly I question whether you even like fantasy football.

I’m being 100 percent serious.

Best-ball allows you to compete for real money, sharpen your craft against serious competition and enjoy the best part about fantasy football (drafting) over and over again all summer long.

[Join a Yahoo Fantasy Best Ball league this football season]

Despite all the work done on cracking the best-ball code, there are still so many ways to create a roster. Many present truly viable paths to winning. One of my favorite strategies I try to employ in every single best-ball draft comes with a daily fantasy football influence.

I’m all about stacking offenses I expect to be good units, especially at a value.

If you need a refresher on what stacking is and why you should do it, refer to the intro piece for this series.

I divide best ball stacks into three tiers:

-HIGH-VALUE STACK: You'll have to pay a draft premium to get these players.

-DISCOUNT STACK: A few high picks, but won't break the bank.

-CLEARANCE-AISLE STACK: Mid-to-late-round fliers who could pay off in a big way.

For this week, we’re going to look at the Los Angeles Rams; a fascinating operation set to embark on a new journey with a fresh face at quarterback.

The Case For Stacking the Rams

The case begins and ends with Sean McVay.

No matter how you feel about the “boy genius” label thrown at him early and often in his career, there’s no denying McVay’s offenses have been good ecosystems.

McVay’s Rams have ranked top-12 in yards all four years of his tenure and top-12 in points three of the four. The outlier in the points stat came last year, which brings us to where the Rams are today.

It was ultra-clear to anyone paying attention in 2020 that McVay had grown weary of Jared Goff’s play under center. It was predictable and McVay should have had better foresight to see this coming but it is what it is.

Given the way the Rams have talked about wanting to “attack every blade of grass” on the field following their playoff loss, Goff’s inability or lack of desire to push the ball deep may have been the root of the schism. Goff threw 20-plus yards down the field on just 7.8 percent of his passes in 2020 and came away with a paltry 71.5 passer rating. Those numbers are a far cry from his peak seasons and represent the overall withering of his play.

Enter Matthew Stafford.

Los Angeles Rams head coach Sean McVay speaks with quarterback Matthew Stafford (9) during organized team activities.
Sean McVay hopes Matthew Stafford will deliver a much more potent offensive engine than Jared Goff did. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

The long-time Lions starter has always possessed one of the most lethal arms in the game — and still does. Stafford led the NFL in air yards when he was healthy in 2019 and was a willing and efficient deep passer last year. The Rams hope that Stafford will open up the entire field for this offense and make use of the holes downfield created by McVay’s play-action concepts.

I buy it.

This can even benefit guys we don’t classify as downfield players. When you go back and watch the 2020 Rams, opponents started to crowd the middle of the field knowing that Goff wasn’t comfortable working outside of the confined box inside the numbers. That’s problematic when your best receivers in Cooper Kupp and Robert Woods are at their best when working the middle. If Stafford opens up the downfield passing game, teams will have to relax their tight coverage over the middle and free up space for Kupp and Woods.

Both of these receivers can be had between the 40th and 60th overall picks in drafts. Woods usually goes before Kupp so I usually find myself stacking the latter with Stafford. Their projections are close enough so I’m comfortable taking the latter-round player and one who likely has a higher touchdown upside as it is.

Tyler Higbee also slots in as a player who would benefit from a vacating of middle-of-field coverage and he was already set to get a boost with Gerald Everett leaving town. Higbee was always destined to disappoint at his 2020 ADP and Everett’s 62 targets and seven starts proved too much to overcome. Not only is he set to get a volume boost as the clear-cut TE1 in LA, but you’re also getting him at a discount with his draft slot coming in near 100th overall.

He could push 90 targets once again this year, making his outlook not dissimilar to T.J. Hockenson’s, even if more than 30 picks separate their ADPs. He’s my favorite Rams player to draft right now.

One of the greatest benefits of stacking Stafford with Kupp/Woods and Higbee is that it’s so easy to complete the stack with one more Rams receiver. Now, you just have to pick which one of the three players — DeSean Jackson, Tutu Atwell, or Van Jefferson — is going to lock down this WR3 gig but with all three going in the final rounds of the draft, if at all, it won’t cost a valuable pick.

Jackson is a total wildcard because we just don’t know if he can stay healthy. However, he has demonstrated in ultra-limited looks that he still has the juice. Jefferson is probably the safest bet to lead this trio in snaps. He’s been my favorite to draft. Atwell is just such a longshot since he’s the lightest in experience and ... well, in general.

The Case Against Stacking the Rams

The case against stacking the Rams would depend on how you view this Stafford acquisition. To me, any arguments that he’s going to outright bust out with this team, given his proven track record of starting-caliber play, seem unlikely.

There’s every bit of risk, however, that Stafford doesn’t really elevate this team much more than 2018 Jared Goff did, in which case his season-long ceiling won’t be that high. In a best-ball format, I don’t mind that. The fact that Stafford isn’t going to be taken with a high draft pick (QB11 to 12) makes it all the easier to stomach picking him and hoping for weekly upside.

Perhaps the only reason I’d consider not stacking up Rams’ pass-catchers is you just want to get Cam Akers and log out. That, I would understand.

I’m close to moving Akers up to my RB5 overall ranking.

As much as the Rams passing offense has been a proven ecosystem for growing productive players, their ground game might be even more fertile soil. Akers looked like the man to plow people through that field, averaging 23.5 touches per game from Weeks 13 to 17 once he got up to speed. He continues to be the man in the playoffs with 28 carries in a win over Seattle and 18 in a loss to Green Bay.

Verdict: HIGH-VALUE STACK

The Rams have the perfect combination of season-long floor and weekly ceiling for a best ball-themed offense. Outside of Akers, no one is too big of a draft investment on this team.

We know that McVay can get the best out of his players and sports a proven offensive system. Even better, we know where the ball is going in this offense. With a concentrated passing-usage tree, it’s easy to stack Stafford with one of his top receivers and sprinkle in a proven tight end and one late-round flier. Having a workhorse back going at the top of the draft can only help. If you draw Akers near the Round 1 to 2 turn, perhaps that only narrows your focus on Los Angeles players going forward to complete my “touchdown-hoarding” approach.

I don’t know if the Stafford trade is going to look “worth it” in a few years given everything the Rams gave up. I’m not 100 percent sure he’s going to bring them a Super Bowl trophy.

I am quite sure I don’t care when it comes to building a best ball roster.

Stafford’s skill set is just what the Rams needed to kick their offense up another level. He changes the scope of the field for proven players who were already there. It’s going to be a fun product.

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