Well this one plays to our wheelhouse.
Unlike last time where we had to expand the conception of "veterans" to meet our quota, now we're talking a young team's bread and butter: second-year players.
Which second year player is going to make the biggest leap?
To get us all on the same page, let's first look at all the Rams' sophomores:
So let's run a bit of process of elimination. I'm removing:
Any rookies who played well last year
This is about most improved, so the most room for improvement rests on the shoulders of those who didn't stand out as studs in year one. So no Brockers, Givens, Hekker, Jenkins or Zuerlein.
Any of those who are so deep down the depth chart they definitely won't find the playing time to earn this moniker
Goodbye Brown, Harkey, Pointer, Radway and Young.
Any of the above who are just behind established, 100% starters
Because barring injuries, we're not going to see a ton of Conrath or Davis this season. And Tru played plenty last year, but he'll remain limited position-wise because of Janoris Jenkins and Cortland Finnegan at corner.
So that leaves us with Tim Barnes, Matt Daniels, Rodney McLeod, Isaiah Pead, Brian Quick or Daryl Richardson. I'll take out Barnes, Daniels and McLeod (though I was tempted on McLeod) because we're going largely off of offseason tape and recency bias on those guys. So it's all offense between Pead, Quick and Richardson. When it comes down to biggest leap...we might as well make it literal.
First, the arguments against the other options. Daryl Richardson certainly is a prime contender here as the Rams' recently anointed starting RB. And given that he was approaching 500 yards on nearly 100 carries, he's got an opportunity to make a big leap on production alone. The problem is, he's not a dynamic athlete relying largely on his acceleration and discipline as a ballcarrier. That means the door will always be open for opportunities among the rest of the RB committee: Benny Cunningham, Zac Stacy and yes, Isaiah Pead. Throw in his liability in pass protection, and there's reason to assume his snap count won't explode solely because he's the first starting R in the post-Steven Jackson era.
Pead has, no doubt, been a disappointment to this point in his professional career. To have been supplanted by Richardson both in their rookie campaigns and through this offseason eliminates excuse. Depending on how you look at it, he's either been outplayed or outvalued to the coaching staff by DRich. Nevertheless, I still see plenty of gametime opportunities for Pead. The problem then is that he's dealing with the same committee and the reality that he's yet to get to the top of the committee itself at this point. He's probably a better second-half bloomer or third year jump candidate than this category. So while Pead was the equivalent of a redshirt freshman in his rookie season...so was Brian Quick.
Quick's singular. He's the biggest wide receiver on the Rams' roster. Behind just Tavon Austin, he's the next highest draft wide receiver. He's really in a battle not against the rest of the WR corps but just Austin Pettis and Pettis was a draftee from the last front office and coaching staff; in fact, he's the only WR on the Rams that wasn't brought in by GM Les Snead and HC Jeff Fisher in one way or another. There's less in front of him to overcome, both in terms of personnel and the quality thereof. I'll take Quick as the breakout candidate in year two.