From the day they traded for Matthew Stafford in January to the trade deadline that October, the Los Angeles Rams were considered to be “pushing all-in” for star acquisitions in 2021 and it resulted in the franchise’s first Super Bowl championship since 1999. That Rams team was supposed to be the most talented in the league, this Rams team was supposed to be rebuilding.
But the 2023 Rams have more Pro Bowl players. Actually, this Rams should have at least twice as many.
2021 Pro Bowl
Despite adding Stafford, Von Miller, Odell Beckham Jr and others to a roster that already had Jalen Ramsey, Aaron Donald, Leonard Floyd, Cooper Kupp, Andrew Whitworth, Robert Woods, etc., the Rams only had four Pro Bowl players during the season that they went 12-5 and won the Super Bowl.
Stafford was not one of the 11 quarterbacks who eventually earned a Pro Bowl nod that season. If he had not gone to the Super Bowl, he still probably would not have been named to the Pro Bowl as a replacement or accepted it. Stafford did throw 41 touchdown passes that season.
Kupp was the lone Pro Bowl player on offense, Ramsey and Donald were honorees on the defense, and kick Matt Gay was the NFC’s choice at kicker.
The Super Bowl champions didn’t have a Pro Bowl quarterback, running back, or offensive lineman.
The “we’re getting rid of Pro Bowl players to save money” Los Angeles Rams should have one of each of those and more.
2023 Pro Bowl
Pro Bowl nods get their announcements on Wednesday—yes before the end of the season—and it would be shocking if Kyren Williams is left off.
The second-year fifth round running back out of Notre Dame is second in the NFL in rushing yards behind Christian McCaffrey and that’s despite missing four games. He is first in the NFL in rushing yards per game, second in success rate, second in first downs, and he’s of course top-3 in any analytics category you come up with.
Stafford has only been named to one Pro Bowl in his career, but it would be a travesty on the level of the Academy ignoring Martin Scorsese to leave him out this time. Stafford is the most talented passer in the NFC, he was given a young roster that he couldn’t shake hands with because he doesn’t know Gen Z’s moves, but has managed to get the Rams to the playoffs and ranks top-5 in most categories for NFC quarterbacks.
If Brock Purdy is one lock, nobody else should be guaranteed entry over Stafford for one of the other two.
Give it to Kevin Dotson. It’s hard to break into the Pro Bowl as a guard when it usually goes to players who were already recognized, but Dotson is as good of a choice as any and Steve Avila has a case too.
28-yard TD run by Kyren Williams was fun to watch. Kyren postgame rightfully shouted out offensive line – watch Kevin Dotson's combo block working up to play side LB – but also credited Cooper Kupp's pickup of nickel DB & keeping that DB outside for allowing him to get into lane. pic.twitter.com/hBnfmcGmGS— Stu Jackson (@StuJRams) January 1, 2024
Is the wide receiver group stacked? Yes. Is Puka Nacua one of the top-3 receivers in the NFC? Also yes.
Nacua ranks fourth in the NFL in yards (1,445) and third in the NFC behind CeeDee Lamb and A.J. Brown. He is eighth in the NFL in catches (101) and fourth in the NFC. In a year when Justin Jefferson got hurt, let Puka get in and complete his historic rookie season.
Right there, the Rams could have as many Pro Bowl players on offense as they had on the entire 2021 roster.
Defensively, Aaron Donald has the same case as usual. It would be ridiculous if he didn’t make the Pro Bowl for the 10th time in his 10 year career.
Kobie Turner has nine sacks, which is the most in the NFC for a defensive tackle. Three defensive tackles in the AFC have more than nine, but two of them have 9.5, including Chris Jones. Turner has been as productive as anyone at his position in the NFC, but his case will be hurt by being a third round rookie.
Ernest Jones is the only player in the NFL with at least 140 tackles and four sacks. He’s the only player in the NFC with at least 125 tackles and four sacks. Jones has 145 tackles, 4.5 sacks, 14 TFL, 6 QB hits, and 6 batted passes.
Ahkello Witherspoon won’t go to the Pro Bowl, but we could send him some appreciation. If maybe six NFC cornerbacks opt out, he could go.
So two years after having four Pro Bowl players, but one of those was the kicker, the Rams could have anywhere from four to eight Pro Bowl players and those right on the cusp. Many of them not making much more than a minimum salary.
Kyren Williams, Aaron Donald, Matthew Stafford, Kobie Turner, Puka Nacua, and Ernest Jones are more than deserving. They deserve it. Kevin Dotson, Steve Avila, Ahkello Witherspoon all have their case and even Cooper Kupp would too if he had not missed so many games and had a midseason slump. He’s a Pro Bowl player who hasn’t been in Pro Bowl form.
We’ll find out soon how right this is, but we already know that the Rams shot way above their expectations.