Rams WR depth chart: With Van Jefferson injured, who could step up?

Who are the options on the Los Angeles Rams WR depth chart as they head into Week 1 of the 2022 NFL season without Van Jefferson?

The Los Angeles Rams WR depth chart has become extremely intriguing heading into Week 1 of the 2022 NFL season. With Van Jefferson still recovering, there is the opportunity for another player to step up and make an impact as the third WR option. Let’s examine the other options on the Rams WR depth chart and see if any of them have the potential to step up as fantasy football options in his absence.

Rams WR depth chart for Week 1

The Rams were clearly somewhat prepared to be without Jefferson for Week 1. They carried seven receivers on their roster coming out of the preseason, meaning that even without Jefferson, they still have two options for each position. Cooper Kupp and Allen Robinson are the two clear starters, but who will be the third option?

In 2021, no team used 11 personnel (one back, one tight end, three receivers) more than the Rams did (86 percent). Therefore, unless this injury to Jefferson leads to a personnel shift, we should see a third receiver on the field the majority of the time the Rams are on offense. Let’s take a look at the options on their depth chart and whether any of them could have fantasy value this week.

Ben Skowronek

Of the other options on the Rams WR depth chart, Skowronek saw the most targets in 2021. Across the 14 games he suited up for, Skowronek played 178 offensive snaps. During that time, he was targeted 20 times with 11 receptions and 133 passing yards.

Of those targets, 12 came in the final six weeks and 17 in the final eight games. He had just three targets prior to Week 10 and had played on just 36 offensive snaps.

After Robert Woods was injured heading into Week 10, Skowronek became the fourth WR option in the Rams’ offense. When he did play, his time was split between the slot and out wide, the same as Jefferson’s role following the injury to Woods. Even when Skowronek was most heavily utilized, he only saw five targets.

Even if he is the player that draws the most snaps in Jefferson’s absence, it is hard to see him having significant value as the likely fourth pass catcher in the offense. If you play in 16-team leagues or deeper, five targets can carry value.

The problem is, we don’t know for sure that he will be the WR3, and Jefferson might not be absent for long. If you are desperate for an option in a deep league, adding an even starting Skowronek is a possibility. However, it carries a lot of risk.

Tutu Atwell

In his rookie season, Atwell played just 10 offensive snaps and did not draw a single target. After DeSean Jackson was traded away, the hope was that Atwell could take his role as the deep-threat burner in the offense. However, Jackson never played more than 32 percent of the Rams snaps last year, so he became a very big play-dependent fantasy option.

We did not see Atwell during the preseason, which is a good sign that the Rams trust the second-round selection from the 2021 NFL Draft. However, it does make it tough to know what role he will have this season.

If he assumes Jackson’s role, with an average depth of target more than 20 yards down the field, he will be extremely boom-or-bust. However, his speed and agility could also make him an intriguing player on screens and short passing plays.

Atwell is a tough player to trust for fantasy in Week 1. While the absence of Jefferson should give him more opportunities to play, it won’t necessarily be in the same role. Atwell’s only real fantasy value right now is in best ball formats.

Entering the season, it is tough to predict his role in the offense. If he is a big play option, then he will be tough to trust as a starter any week. However, if his role is on screens and short passes, then he could be an intriguing waiver wire pickup in Week 2.

In deeper fantasy leagues, you could consider Atwell as a flyer. In those deeper leagues, a boom-type option like Atwell can be a difference maker. He may only need one long reception to be a starter in leagues where 50-plus receivers are started on a weekly basis.

Do not get drawn into Atwell as a potential kick return option. He had 141 yards on 15 returns last season but is not even listed among the kick returners on the unofficial depth chart the Rams released for Week 1.

Brandon Powell

Powell played on 59 special team snaps for the Rams between Weeks 13 and 18, compared to just three on offense. While he is listed among the second WR options on the depth chart, his role for the team appears limited to special teams. That could change this year after a full offseason in the program, but that is tough to predict at this stage.

Until we see him get a target with the Rams, he remains off the radar outside of fantasy leagues that reward return yards. Last year, he finished with 133 punt return yards and a touchdown on six punt returns with Los Angeles.

He also had 208 kickoff return yards on eight returns. If you do play in such a league, he averaged more than 20 yards per kick return last year across his 14 opportunities and is listed atop the depth chart at both the punt and kickoff returner positions.

Lance McCutcheon

Lance McCutcheon was the star of the 2022 NFL preseason among the WR position. He turned 20 targets into 15 receptions for 259 yards and two touchdowns. In Week 3 of the preseason, he accounted for three of the Rams’ four biggest passing plays. While he did not have any kick returns, he also played on special teams during those three games.

His play impressed enough to get him a spot on the Rams’ WR depth chart to open the season. Whether that translates to playing time early in the season is another question completely. It is unlikely to be a major role, but he is a name to watch after reeling in 75 percent of his preseason targets and averaging more than 80 receiving yards per game.

Preseason production does not often translate to fantasy relevance in the regular season, so there is no need to rush to add him. However, his snap count and role on the roster are something to watch quite closely, assuming he is active on Thursday.

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