Fantasy Winners & Losers: Matthew Stafford & Jared Goff Trade (2021)
In a blockbuster trade that kicked off 2021 fantasy football discussions in earnest, Matthew Stafford was dealt to the Rams in exchange for two first-round picks, a third-round pick, and Jared Goff. Swapping two franchise quarterbacks isn’t a common occurrence in today’s NFL, so there will be plenty of implications for players on both sides of the deal. Let’s break down the fantasy winners and losers of last weekend’s mega deal, shall we?
Matthew Stafford (QB – LAR)
Not only will Stafford head to a better-run organization with a better head coach, but he’ll enjoy a much cleaner pocket than he did in Detroit. As mentioned above, Los Angeles’ offensive line was one of the best in the league in 2020, and that should be the case again in 2021. While Stafford has historically been great under pressure, he’s been that much better with time to get the ball out of his hands. He should enjoy an upgrade in pass-catchers as well. With Kenny Golladay and Marvin Jones both set to hit free agency in 2021, Stafford’s surrounding cast was beginning to look a little questionable with Detroit. Now, he’ll enjoy the services of Robert Woods and Cooper Kupp, along with talented second-year man Van Jefferson. This is a better all-around situation for the veteran, and his stock is clearly on the rise.
T.J. Hockenson (TE – DET)
Will the trade for Goff encourage or discourage Marvin Jones or Kenny Golladay (both slated for 2021 free agency) to stay? It’s too early to tell, but this move may be a huge boom for Hockenson. Jared Goff has averaged a healthy 141 targets to TEs over the last two seasons, and if both Golladay and Jones leave Detroit, Hock could be in for a high-volume, Darren Waller type season. Waller commanded a robust 26.3% target share for Las Vegas in 2020, and with potentially Quintez Cephus and D’Andre Swift his main competition for targets, it’s possible Hockenson’s target share creeps close to that, too. The best is yet to come for the 2020 Pro Bowler, as he stands to benefit in a big way from Goff’s arrival.
Van Jefferson (WR – LAR)
An underappreciated receiver in last year’s draft, Jefferson could be set to take off in 2021. He didn’t participate in the 2020 Draft Combine due to a broken foot, but he was thought to be one of the fastest receivers in the entire class. That speed could open him up for some more deep balls this year with Matthew Stafford under center. Across his last three seasons, Stafford has averaged 8.7 intended air yards per pass attempt, while Goff averaged just 7.7. Stafford is more of a gunslinger and willing to take chances downfield. Jefferson should be ready to take over the WR3 role from Josh Reynolds (if Reynolds returns) and take a strong step forward in 2021.
Cam Akers (RB – LAR)
Akers dealt with early-season injuries and underutilization to kick off his first NFL season, but he finished the campaign on a high note, racking up 86 attempts across his last four regular-season games, including a 29/171 rushing line in Week 14 in a huge win over New England. He was equally impressive in the postseason, going for 272 scrimmage yards and two touchdowns across the Rams’ two playoff games. What does the change at quarterback mean for Akers’ 2021 outlook, though? In 2020, Akers faced eight men in the box on 37.93% of carries – fourth-most in the NFL. Fellow rookie and Matthew Stafford teammate D’Andre Swift, on the other hand, faced stacked boxes on just 22.81% of carries. Does this suggest that opposing defenses respected Stafford more than Goff? That’s a fair assumption, and it’s likely Akers enjoys some bigger holes and additional running lanes in 2021.
Jared Goff (QB – DET)
Goff took a tumble in production in 2020, falling to QB18 after back-to-back top-12 finishes in 2018 and 2019. Now, his situation has worsened. He’ll be leaving the Hollywood Hills for the Motor City and leaving behind Sean McVay, Robert Woods, Cooper Kupp, and a powerful offensive line. According to PFF, Los Angeles’ offensive line ranked third in 2020, while Detroit’s sat back at 13th. That’s a significant downgrade and one that should be concerning for Goff’s outlook. As of now, it’s unknown who he’ll be throwing to in his first season with the Lions. As mentioned throughout this article, Marvin Jones and Kenny Golladay will both be UFA’s in 2021, and if the top options are Quintez Cephus and TJ Hockenson, that’s a notable downgrade from his weapons in LA. Goff will have Dan Campbell as his head coach and Anthony Lynn as offensive coordinator. Those hirings indicate Detroit will lean on a run-heavy attack in 2021, further limiting Goff’s appeal as a legitimate fantasy option.
Whoever they end up being, it’s not likely the Lions’ pass-catchers will be better off with Goff than with Stafford from a fantasy perspective. Stafford’s willingness to throw the ball up for grabs, take deep shots, and fit the ball into tight coverage has been a benefit to receivers he’s played with, but Goff is a more conservative thrower of the football. Whether it’s Kenny G, Marvin Jones, Danny Amendola, Mohamed Sanu, or otherwise, the fantasy outlook of these players takes a hit going from Stafford to Goff.
Robert Woods (WR – LAR) & Cooper Kupp (WR – LAR)
It goes without saying that Kupp and Woods have been quite the dynamic duo since pairing up in LA. Will Matt Stafford’s arrival give them a huge boost in value? I don’t think so. From a fantasy perspective, we’ve already identified that the move was positive for Stafford and negative for Goff, though from a real-life fantasy perspective, adding Stafford was much closer to a lateral move. Cupp and Woods both ranked in the top-10 in the NFL in yards after the catch in 2020, and the tandem should continue to make their bones this way in 2021. I think both receivers will be top-25 options in the upcoming season, but Stafford doesn’t push either into definitive-WR1 territory.
D’Andre Swift (RB – DET)
Swift was set to take a step forward in 2021 with a new coaching staff, but the arrival of Goff should push him into a workhorse roll even sooner. As a rookie in 2020, he managed 878 scrimmage yards, 10 total TDs, and 46 receptions despite a slow start to the season. The arrival of Goff means that Swift should have the ball in his hands even more, but he may faced an increased number of defenders as mentioned above with Cam Akers. Goff’s arrival is a bit of a mixed bag for Swift, whose outlook is still that of a RB2 with RB1 upside following this deal.
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