The Los Angeles Rams underwent a sea change this offseason as they moved on from costly, underperforming veterans and embraced a youth movement. The hope is that the team will emerge on the other side of the 2023 season as still competitive but in a much healthier cap space situation—LA currently has nearly $60M to spend next offseason.
While free agency didn’t bring much in the way of veteran reinforcements, there are 40 rookies set to join the Rams for training camp. Some are recognizable names such as the two-time NCAA national champion QB Stetson Bennett and the Jim Thorpe award winning CB Tre Tomlinson. There are other individuals that are far from household names but are looking to carve out meaningful roles on this year’s Rams team.
Here are 12 newcomers to the team that you’ll want to remember as we gear up for training camp:
Mike LaFleur, Offensive Coordinator
The jury is still out whether LaFleur is a good coordinator in the NFL. He was the San Francisco 49ers QB’s coach before he took over as the lead offensive mind under Robert Saleh and the New York Jets, but he lasted only two years in that role before a mutual parting of ways. LaFleur was responsible for the grooming of former second overall draft pick Zach Wilson, though Wilson lost his starting job in the same time frame. Aaron Rodgers will be under center for the Jets this season.
The intention behind the Rams hiring of LaFleur is that he could help revamp a running game that’s been anemic the last couple of seasons. Can he rehabilitate his image in Los Angeles?
Stetson Bennett, QB
Bennett has spent the last few years on the biggest stages of college football with the Georgia Bulldogs, and LA will count on him to be the primary backup to Matthew Stafford this season. It’s not often that a team drafts a mid-round quarterback and almost immediately anoints them as second-string, so it’ll be important to keep an eye on Bennett during camp.
Bennett impressed during offseason workouts with his athleticism and playmaking abilities but he will need to improve his understanding of the offense and adjust to the speed of the professional game. With that said, it’s probably still likely he will receive playing time or have an opportunity to start with Stafford coming off a year with multiple injuries.
Does Bennett have the potential to be more than a backup in Los Angeles?
Byron Young, OLB
Young is a pass rush specialist and he was the first of three edge defenders LA drafted this spring—so it’s fair to assume that he’ll have the best chances of the bunch to start. You’d want Young to flash his pass rushing talents during the preseason, and if he does he could be a regular contributor on a young defense this year.
Kobie Turner, DT
Marquise Copeland, Bobby Brown, and Jonah Williams are the three veterans that will compete for the two starting jobs next to Aaron Donald on the defensive line—but Kobie Turner was drafted in the third round and could push for playing time sooner than later.
Puka Nacua, WR
After the dust settled on the NFL Draft, analysts were quick to connect dots between Nacua’s landing spot in Los Angeles and another familiar face at WR: Robert Woods. Nacua is a big-bodied receiver that fights for blocks in the run game and can also be leveraged as a gadget player on jet sweeps.
But receiver is often the most hyped position each offseason, so how much should we buy into the rookie’s prospects for 2023? The WR depth chart behind star Cooper Kupp seems fairly unsettled at the moment.
Ethan Evans, P
Evans is a 6-4, 225 punter with a booming leg. He also has the ability to handle kickoff duties, albeit are less important after fair catch rule changes for the upcoming year.
There will be growing pains with a specialist room full of rookies, but the sky is the limit for Evans. Can he balance punting power with nuance instead of outkicking his coverages?
Tanner Brown, K
LA might bring in camp competition for Brown, but he’s already beat out fellow rookie Christopher Dunn who was released after minicamp. Can Brown bring stability for the Rams as they hope to replace Pro Bowl kicker Matt Gay?
Alex Ward, LS
Ward seems to be a big personality and often gives off vibes similar to long-time Rams punter Johnny Hekker. Don’t be surprised if he becomes a recognizable face from social media posts and videos from the team—but he still plays one of the least impactful positions on the team in long snapper. Hopefully it is a quiet rookie season for Ward, which would mean things have gone well for him.
Steve Avila, OG
The highest draft pick by Los Angeles this spring seems primed to start at one of the guard spots along the interior of the offensive line. Steve Avila is a road grader in the running game and could help revitalize the LA rushing attack.
Can he create rushing lanes for RB Cam Akers?
Tre Tomlinson, CB
Tomlinson is a bit of a boom or bust prospect, with his small frame a potential limiting factor on his professional career. How likely is it that Tomlinson is asked to primarily play in the slot, and would he be able to carve out meaningful playing opportunities if Cobie Durant is also expected to play mostly in the slot? Can Tomlinson hold up on the outside?
There’s fair reasons to be concerned about Tomlinson at the pro level, though he’s still someone worth keeping an eye on.
Zach Evans, RB
A year ago Evans was thought of as a borderline first round pick, but he failed to solidify his draft position during his last season at Ole Miss. Akers could be a workhorse-type back for LA, but if he misses time with injury or is overall ineffective, Evans might be a better option for long-term playing time than change-of-pace-back Kyren Williams. Sony Michel is also back with the Rams, though if Evans shows promise the veteran could be pushed off the roster.
Hunter Long, TE
LA didn’t add many veterans this offseason, though they did acquire Long as part of the return in the trade that sent Jalen Ramsey to the Miami Dolphins.
Could the addition of Long signal a transition to more 12 personnel (1 RB, 2 TE, 2 WR’s)? This could help boost a rushing attack and allow Sean McVay to keep his offense more multiple.