At 7-0, the Los Angeles Rams have seen positive contributions from all 53 players on the roster. And as the offense continues to feast amid the defense’s stellar performances, wide receiver Robert Woods has particularly made his presence felt as a threat over the middle of the field.
Quarterback Jared Goff has a slew of weapons — Todd Gurley, Cooper Kupp, Brandin Cooks — but his most-prized target may very well be Woods. In four years with the Buffalo Bills, Woods never graded higher than his 2016 grade of 71.4. But last year with the Rams, he finally managed a grade over 80.0, and with Goff seemingly an evolved quarterback from his rookie year, Woods is performing at an even higher level in his 2018 campaign.
That’s particularly evident in the amount of trust Goff has in the former second-round pick. Woods has only dropped one pass on the year and currently sits tied for fifth in yards per route run at 2.63. That reliability has allowed the duo to develop quite a rapport.
He doesn’t have the deep speed of Cooks nor the slot prowess of Kupp, but Woods knows how to work the middle of the field as well as any receiver in the league. On 40 targets over the middle this year — the third-most among receivers — Woods has hauled in 31 catches for 475 yards, which trails only DeAndre Hopkins.
He’s not only a sure-handed target for Goff but also a breakaway threat after the catch. He’s sixth in yards after the catch on receptions down the middle with 204 — behind three running backs, an explosive Albert Wilson and an elusive George Kittle.
All three of Woods’ touchdowns this year have come when Goff has thrown in 2.5 seconds or less, indicating Woods’ ability to get open quickly and act as a safety option should his quarterback be under pressure. Kupp is the only other Rams wide receiver to have a touchdown when Goff throws in 2.5 seconds or less.
Woods may not be flashy — his longest catch on the year is 36 yards, 19 of which came after the catch — but he offers a different dynamic to the Rams offense. He’s what Julian Edelman is to Tom Brady, and what Larry Fitzgerald has been to the Arizona Cardinals. That is, someone a quarterback can count on to convert a third down in crunch time.
Speaking of which, Woods leads his team in third-down conversions with nine and is tied for the most yards after the catch among wide receivers on third down. Every single quarterback in the league wants a receiver like that — but the difference with Woods is that he doesn’t get the same appreciation around the league as others who perform similarly.
An 87.6 grade for Woods in 2018 places him fifth among wide receivers, ahead of big-time names such as Julio Jones, Michael Thomas, and Odell Beckham Jr. But even as a substantial contributor to an undefeated team like Woods is, his efforts have yet to see much recognition. He’s performing at the level of the NFL’s best and is serving a critical role on his team as Goff’s go-to target. So for now, Woods is simply a secret weapon, but if the Rams continue to dominate, he’ll likely emerge as one of 2018’s best receivers.