Despite not having made a first-round selection since 2016, the Rams always have rookies emerge to become starting-caliber players, sadly they eventually do so on other teams because the cap is cruel.
This year, the Rams will likely find other diamonds in the rough in the draft because it’s what they do. In the meantime, there are three players that are poised to break out big time in 2021.
Van Jefferson, WR
Jefferson was taken with the 57th pick (thanks again Bill O’Brien) and while fans were confused because Denzel Mims was still on the board, Jefferson was a solid choice. Initially seen as Cooper Kupp insurance as they have the same skill set, he will now be tasked with replacing the departed Josh Reynolds.
Jefferson got limited snaps in 2020 because of Reynolds but in his limited snaps, he made an impact. He isn’t the burner Brandin Cooks was or that Mims could’ve been but he has the makings of a reliable target, who like Kupp, could be dangerous catching passes in the middle of the field. His 31 catches for 220 yards and a single TD aren’t numbers to write home about but when seeing him on the field the potential is there.
The Rams knew he had a slower 40 time than Mims but they tracked the GPS on where he was most productive on the field and determined that was more valuable than a straight burner. That’s okay because they signed DeSean Jackson to handle those plays this season.
Of the three players due for a breakout season, he will be the most visible as Stafford will appreciate his great hands and his ability to run crisp routes.
Terrell Burgess, DB
Like Jordan Fuller, Terrell Burgess was drafted initially as the eventual replacement for John Johnson. Fuller emerged quickly to become a starter alongside Johnson while Taylor Rapp dealt with injuries and Burgess’s rookie season fell under the radar. He had seven tackles and one pass deflection before breaking his ankle against the Bears on Monday night.
With John Johnson gone, Fuller and Rapp will be the two starting safeties but Burgess will get plenty of plays in the backfield as they are thin at corner. Burgess is the type of utility player Les Snead loves to draft as he can play in the box against the run as well the deep secondary. He’s a solid tackler and in his limited snaps proved he’s got great instincts.
Brycen Hopkins, TE
Everett is now in Seattle (yuck) so the 136th pick in the 2020 draft will get a chance. His college film indicates a guy that can REALLY stretch the field which is good news because Stafford likes to bomb it deep. Hopkins could end up being the tight end Everett never quite got to be. If so then the Rams don’t need to worry about drafting a younger burn guy at receiver.
Again, it’s all theoretical and college film is about as misleading as a ComicCon sizzle reel (never forget “Jonah Hex”) but still, it’s fun to think about the Rams having a tall, speedy, physical tight end the likes of which Stafford briefly had with Hockensen. If Hopkins can deliver, the Rams offense will be INSANE.
These three players are the most likely to breakout, and given the success the Rams have had in past drafts, there’s going to be an unlikely player or two to emerge in their rookie season. If the three players above deliver on their promise in year two, the Rams will definitely have a team that can be championship level GREAT.