It was clear during the 2021 NFL draft that the Los Angeles Rams didn’t select players based on need. They took the best prospects available to them at each spot, led by wide receiver Tutu Atwell.
There are no clear-cut Day 1 starters in this draft class for the Rams, but there are players who will push veterans for playing time and potentially even vault them on the depth chart. Competition is always a good thing in the NFL and Los Angeles will have plenty of it this offseason.
Here are five veterans who could get beat out by rookies this year.
ILB Micah Kiser
(AP Photo/Chris Szagola)
The Rams drafted Ernest Jones in the third round, bringing in a linebacker whose pro comparison for Lance Zierlein of NFL.com was Kiser. That’s not a good sign for the fourth-year linebacker out of Virginia who’s entering the final season of his rookie deal. Kiser had a tough 2020 season that included just nine games played due to injury. He was the primary inside linebacker before going down with a knee injury, and even after he was activated, he was a healthy scratch in Week 17 and didn’t play a defensive snap in two playoff games. He could be in danger of losing his job to Jones, but it will come down to the battle in camp.
CB David Long Jr.
(AP Photo/Jennifer Stewart)
With Troy Hill gone, Long is currently penciled in as the No. 3 cornerback behind Jalen Ramsey and Darious Williams. Long was a third-round pick in 2019 but he’s played just 225 snaps on defense in two years so far. The Rams drafted Robert Rochell in the fourth round this year, and while he’s a raw prospect who may not be ready to start right away, his ceiling is high and the team will likely want to get him on the field when possible. Long will have to stave off the rookie for the nickel role in what’s certainly a make-or-break year for him.
ILB Kenny Young
Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports
Of all the Rams’ inside linebackers, Young has the biggest cap hit at $2.18 million. The team can cut him at any time and not incur any dead money, making him a potential cap casualty at some point this offseason. Ernest Jones is going to make the team as a third-round rookie, but Young’s spot is far from solidified. For most of the 2020 season, Young was a non-factor and didn’t make many impactful plays. He had the pick-six against the Patriots, but he had just 52 tackles in 471 snaps played. Jones might have Young sitting squarely on the roster bubble.
NT Greg Gaines
(AP Photo/Rick Scuteri)
Gaines has been a solid player for the Rams the last two years, but he hasn’t had a clear path to playing time. He’s been behind Sebastian Joseph-Day at nose tackle, limiting him to only 384 snaps in two seasons. With Bobby Brown III arriving, Gaines could have an even tougher time getting on the field. Brown can play any position on the defensive line but his pass-rush ability as a nose tackle is certainly intriguing. Brown had 5.5 sacks last season at Texas A&M and really came into his own as a defensive lineman. Don’t be surprised if he vaults Gaines and plays more snaps than him as a rookie.
TE Brycen Hopkins
(AP Photo/Kyusung Gong)
Hopkins was seemingly drafted in the fourth round last year to take Gerald Everett’s place as the No. 2 tight end in 2021. After a rookie season that included just five games played and two total snaps on offense, Hopkins is still a relative unknown for Los Angeles. His future with the team was brought into question even more when the Rams drafted Jacob Harris in the fourth round this year, who’s a faster, more athletic tight end – albeit, a raw one who has only caught passes on the field for two seasons. If Harris has a strong camp and adapts quickly to the NFL, he could jump Hopkins on the depth chart, especially as a red zone threat thanks to his size and leaping ability.
Read more: https://sports.yahoo.com/5-rams-players-could-beat-130518446.html?src=rss