Recently, we saw two lists of the best players under 25-years old from PFF and from CBS Sports. With some HUGE decisions coming in free agency next season for the Los Angeles Rams, I thought it was worth putting something we can touch on as we move ahead toward training camp on the Rams’ youngest players.
Some key players who don’t make the under-25 cut: CB Marcus Peters (25), DL Aaron Donald (26) and WR Robert Woods (26).
Here are the Rams’ major contributors under 25:
RB Todd Gurley, turns 24 in August (#1 CBS, #12 PFF)
What is a running back worth in the modern age of the NFL? The Rams are going to have to try to answer that question when Gurley’s fifth-year option expires after the 2019 season. And it’s a very, very difficult question. The Pittsburgh Steelers are struggling to answer it themselves with RB Le’Veon Bell who just turned 26-years old in February. And look no further than the Rams’ contractual negotiations with Donald to see just how hard it is to work out major contracts with the game’s best at least for the Rams. Complicating things is Gurley’s marketability in the nation’s second biggest media market.
If he’s somehow able to put together a bigger season in 2018 than his MVP-caliber 2017, it may force the Rams’ hands when a deal gets put on the table.
WR Brandin Cooks, turns 25 in September (#11 CBS, N/A PFF)
Cooks is 24-years old and headed into his fifth NFL season...that’s rare.
Replacing WR Sammy Watkins in one of the league’s best offenses in 2017, expectations are pretty high given that he’s topped 1,000 receiving yards in each of the last three seasons across two teams in the New Orleans Saints and New England Patriots. But could Rams Head Coach Sean McVay’s system limit his output in 2018? And what would that mean for contract negotiations for Cooks who is scheduled to become an unrestricted free agent next offseason? It’s hard to think General Manager Les Snead would have traded the Rams’ first-round pick in the 2018 NFL Draft for Cooks without being close enough to keep him in LA beyond 2018...
QB Jared Goff, turns 24 in October (#20 CBS, N/A PFF)
The biggest looming decision of them all.
Goff’s rookie season was a disaster. His sophomore season tabbed him as a Pro Bowl alternate. His growth will have more long-term impact than anything involving the Rams.
WR Cooper Kupp, turns 25 in June (N/A CBS, N/A PFF)
Kupp had a very impressive rookie season last year. How much better can he get skill-wise, and how much more can he produce in an offense with so many other targets?
TE Gerald Everett, turns 24 in June (N/A CBS, N/A PFF)
Young Gerald is atop my list of candidates for a breakout season in 2018. If there’s an area that McVay could juice to get more out of his offense this year aside from Goff’s on-field maturation, it’s the tight end position. Everett and fellow TE Tyler Higbee combined for just 41 receptions from 77 targets for 539 yards and 3 touchdowns, less than Gurley’s, Wood’s and Kupp’s individual outputs.
WR/KR/PR Pharoh Cooper, turns 24 in March (N/A CBS, N/A PFF)
I’m not sure what Cooper’s role will be with the offense, but he was a Pro Bowler last year because of the season he had as a kick and punt returner taking over for WR Tavon Austin whom the Rams traded to the Dallas Cowboys during the draft. I don’t know if a return specialist offers enough to get him in the top 25 under 25 list next year. I know those fumbles in the playoff game sure didn’t help. If he has a banner year and gets back to the Pro Bowl on the back of a season where he doesn’t play a postseason scapegoat, could he land on one of these lists for his special teams performance be enough?
There’s a ton of talent on both lists and the Rams’ crew under 25 looks in good shape. The difficulty for a lot of these guys is that their value is really based on projection. PFF didn’t have Goff on their list, but they had Tampa Bay Buccaneers QB Jameis Winston at #20. I’m not suggesting anyone get mad, red and nude online, but it’s just very difficult to sort through the league’s youngest players beyond the obvious top candidates and put together a list like that. There’s too much talent, and there’s too much football left for them to play.
For the Rams’ young stars, that’s a good thing.