Prior to the draft, many pundits had second-year tight end Brycen Hopkins poised to take on a bigger role following the departure of Gerald Everett. The Rams drafted him in the fourth round signaling the end of Everett’s time in LA. He really didn’t see the field his rookie season with too many tight ends on the depth chart so it was understood he was a stash project while the Rams figured the future of their offense out.
Fast forward a year later, and while Tyler Higbee is still the incumbent starter, and special teams hero Johnny Mundt is back, instead of Brycen Hopkins being ready for his moment, he’s on the outside looking in. So what happened?
The film on Brycen Hopkins showed a player with a ton of promise and one that seemed especially equipped to thrive in a Sean McVay offense with Matthew Stafford at quarterback. He had the speed, athleticism, the catch radius, and everything else McVay and Stafford would want in a quarterback, and yet during minicamp, Stafford praised Cooper Kupp and Robert Woods for being smart and technically sound, he praised the line, and seemingly everyone on the offense. Not mentioned was Brycen Hopkins. Instead, the player that POPPED during minicamp and OTA’s was the man Hopkins was supposed to be in fourth-round rookie Jacob Harris.
That’s right, while recovering from injury, the Rams proceeded to draft another EXPLOSIVE tight end in the fourth round. Tough beat for Brycen Hopkins and an even tougher beat is that Harris received universal praise from everyone, and while OTA tape needs to be taken to with an ocean of salt he did look like someone that could catch balls DEEP.
Brycen Hopkins hasn’t been spoken of at all by Sean McVay who is close to hopping on Oprah’s couch when talking about how much he loves what he has on offense, so again, what gives? Harris is likely the reason because he’s the shiny new toy and Hopkins can’t go or just hasn’t gotten the reps so people forget what potential he has. If there were character issues it’d be reported or at least the whispers would be there, but nothing. In fact, only the real fans remember he’s on the team.
Does that mean he won’t be a factor coming this fall? Not necessarily. Tyler Higbee experienced injuries last year and Harris hasn’t experienced contact yet so who knows (knock on wood) if he can stay healthy either. The Ballad of Johnny Mundt is more of a blocker than anything else so he’s not a threat there.
Real training camp opens at the end of July so Hopkins has more than a Lloyd Christmas percent chance to turn heads. By the end of August, the team and fans will likely know which path he takes. Does he remind McVay and the rest of the team why the Rams seemingly reached for him in the fourth round or does he fall into irrelevance like the Be-Sharps post “Baby on Board”? Like Hopkins’s sudden journey into the witness protection program, it remains a mystery.