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Fantasy Impacts of the Stafford Goff Trade
The 2020-2021 NFL season is officially over but a very special type of season is just beginning: the offseason. While there won't be any football in the offseason, the most impactful changes for the next NFL season, our upcoming fantasy football season, are occurring over the next three months. The Lions and Rams kicked off the downtime between seasons with a blockbuster trade that saw the two teams exchange quarterbacks with a slew of draft picks heading to Detroit. We'll take a brief look at the trade itself and then get into the fantasy impacts on both teams.
* Jared Goff
* LA's 2022 and 2023 first-round picks
* LA's 2021 third-round pick
* Matthew Stafford
On top of the assets exchanged, the Rams will be continuing a recent tradition of paying players to not play football for them. Goff will cost them $22.2 million next year and they will pay Stafford $20 million. That money can be shifted around once the next NFL season officially starts and the deal did get the Rams out of $12.8 million in money owed to Goff. The Lions will also be paying some dead cap money to Stafford but not nearly as much as the Rams are paying Goff.
It's tough to say exactly how each team viewed the pieces of this trade but one thing is abundantly clear: the Rams saw Goff as a massive hindrance to their immediate success. Between his play and his contract, the Rams were willing to move some amount of draft capital to get him out of LA. The Panthers reportedly offered the No. 8 pick, a pick late in the draft, and Teddy Bridgewater for Stafford. That puts the upper bound on how much LA was willing to part ways with to move Goff at a top-10 selection in the 2021 NFL Draft. However, the Lions were reported to actually have a positive value on Goff, meaning that they may not have seen themselves as the recipient of a payment for a bad contract. Regardless of the exact details, this looks like a clear indigent of Goff's abilities as a starting quarterback. It also makes it clear that the Lions are in a full rebuild mode while the Rams view themselves as Super Bowl contenders in the coming year now that they supposedly have improved quarterback play.
Lions Winners and Losers
It will be tough to decipher exactly what elements of LA's production Goff will bring with him and what will be left with head coach Sean McVay but we can do our best to try. We'll refer to Goff as a Lion and Stafford as a Ram for now on. Starting with the losers in Detroit, all eyes are on Goff. The former Ram has a dead cap hit of $15.5 million after 2021 so it's conceivable that a poor season from him could result in a release as early as next offseason. After that, the Lions have no money tied to him. If the Rams were willing to pay enormous sums to get him off the books, it's possible that the Lions, who could still be a year or more away from success after 2021, would want him gone in a year as well. Goff's career seems to be circling the drain unless he can recapture some of his former magic. His adjusted yards per attempt, TD rate, and interception rate all peaked that year. After 2018, they have all fallen or stagnated for the past three seasons. Expect the Lions to replace Goff with a quarterback via the draft within the next two years.
It's hard to point out winners and losers for the receivers in Detroit because there aren't many for 2021 yet. All three of Kenny Golladay, Danny Amendola, and Marvin Jones are without contracts for next year. Golladay may be set for the franchise tag but it's unlikely that all three return. It's even possible that none of them return. Regardless, we can expect some major volume to be available for whoever is around in 2021. Right now, that looks to be T.J. Hockenson. This bodes especially well for the third-year tight end as his underneath skill set should mesh well with what Goff has turned into.
* 2018 - 8.8 aDOT - No. 8/39 qualified passers
* 2019 - 7.8 - No. 27/39
8 2020 - 6.5 No. 38/41
NextGen Stats charted Hockenson with an aDOT of 7.2 in 2020. Hockenson came into the league as an impressive with the pass-catching chops of a receiver and the blocking prowess of a guard. He finished the 2020 season as a top-five fantasy tight end although that likely tells you more about the state of the position than it does about Hockenson's season. Still, Hockenson went for 723 yards and six scores on 67 receptions. He could make an incredible leap in his third year if the Lions stay barren at receiver and Goff is at least competent.
Rams Winners and Losers
It's going to be hard to find losers on this team because the consensus which I won't be breaking from is that Stafford is a considerable upgrade. The only real loser of note could be the coming years of Rams fans. Everything is fun and exciting now as this playoff team from last year just got an upgrade at the one position they were sorely lacking at. However, LA has now mortgaged much of their future in an attempt to dethrone Tom Brady and Aaron Rodgers in the NFC, only to face off against one of the stars of the next generation should they make it to a Super Bowl. The Rams got multiple starts out of two members of their 2020 rookie class. Just three of their 2019 rookies made multiple starts this past year and one of them, Darrell Henderson, looks to have been replaced by one of the 2020 rookies, Cam Akers. That gives them essentially four starters from the past two draft classes which did not include any first-round selections. Because of this, their immediate hauls from those classes look to be low while the upside is capped by having no blue-chip prospects waiting to breakout. They won't make a first-round selection from 2017 to 2023 as it currently stands. They are also working with the sixth-lowest cap space this offseason. If the Stafford trade nets them even one Super Bowl, a five or more year recovery would likely be viewed as a necessary evil by most fans. However, if he simply gets them back into the playoffs next year and doesn't take them over the top, this could be a team that is over a decade away from being an elite squad once again.
Enough with the doom and gloom, this trade at least propels much of the offensive weapons back into their former echelons of production. Both Cooper Kupp and Robert Woods fell short of their 2019 receiving yards lines in 2020, largely on the back of LA reverting to a run-heavy offense that was only mediocre when they chose to pass. That shouldn't be the case next year as Stafford averages over the past five years easily surpass Goff's 2020 numbers (in parentheses):
* 4.7% touchdown rate (3.6%)
* 1.8% interception rate (2.4%)
* 7.7 AY/A (6.8)
The less-obvious players that could benefit from Stafford's arm are Van Jefferson and Josh Reynolds. This duo was top-two in aDOT among the Rams pass-catchers as both were used primarily as field-stretchers. However, Goff's limited abilities as a thrower made that type of role largely valueless. While Woods and Kupp get pumped up because they are the names we know, look out for the value on Reynolds in drafts. Reynolds started 13 of 16 regular season games for the Rams and ended the year with 618 yards on 52 catches, both of which were career-highs. Jefferson, one of the many unproductive rookies for the Rams in recent years, did not record a start until the postseason and peaked at 50 yards. He's an interesting buy in deep dynasty leagues if the price is minimal but his rookie season only affirmed our preconceptions of him based on his limited profile coming out of Florida.