What a difference a year makes in perception of the Los Angeles Rams talent.
A year ago, Football Outsiders had the Rams under-25 talent at 27th in the league (Insider subscription required), and at the time who could blame them?
QB Jared Goff had a horrendous rookie season. RB Todd Gurley seemed to have taken a huge step back. Beyond those two, the talent didn’t look to be very deep or productive.
Flash forward a year, the same group thinks the Rams have the best young talent in the NFL:
1. Los Angeles Rams
2017 ranking: 27
The Rams climbed higher (26 spots) in the rankings than any team this year thanks to head coach Sean McVay showing us just how bad of a job Jeff Fisher was doing. We’ve usually had the Rams in the top five for these rankings, but we dropped them to 27th last year after Jared Goff’s horrific rookie season and the struggles of Todd Gurley II. Enter McVay, and the Rams had one of the greatest single-season turnarounds in NFL history.
Goff is still far from a top-tier quarterback, but he made huge strides from a 2016 season that had us seriously questioning if he could cut it in the NFL. As a rookie, Goff’s passing DVOA without pressure was minus-45.2 percent, the worst season since 2010 by far. With McVay implementing a yards-after-catch-based offense that was heavy on throws to the slot, Goff’s DVOA without pressure shot up to 83.4 percent, the second-highest season by a quarterback last year. Gurley was the MVP runner-up in a season that saw him average 12.47 YAC per reception, the second-highest season in ESPN’s database since 2006.
Cooper Kupp had an excellent rookie season as the team’s slot receiver. The Rams even traded for deep threat Brandin Cooks (still 24) from New England. Pharoh Cooper isn’t much of a wide receiver, but he was first-team All-Pro on special teams last season. Tight end Gerald Everett could get more involved in his second season as a former second-round pick.
The Rams occupy the top spot with a major lean on offensive firepower, but the defense should have two under-25 starters waiting to make their mark in linebacker Samson Ebukam and safety John Johnson. The latter finished 15th in adjusted yards per pass (6.0) among safeties in 2017.
Look for the Rams to build on their young offensive core of Goff/Gurley, Cooks, Everett, and Kupp while also having a couple young studs on defense in Ebukam and Johnson.