Last April ahead of the 2023 NFL Draft, I outlined three ways for Sean McVay to guide the Los Angeles Rams back to their “golden era” of football. Here were the three items on my wish list for the Rams:
Nailing the NFL Draft
Relying on youth like Cam Akers and Tutu Atwell to lead the way
Taking care of the NFC’s cupcakes while being in the playoff hunt past Thanksgiving
After clinching a playoff spot in Week 17 compliments of the Steelers, I can say officially say McVay has led LA back to their winning ways. A postseason berth is not all that shocking considering the Rams have been in contention all year, only finally putting it all together during their current 6-1 stretch.
In this post, I’m going to return to those three items by including quotes I had written back in April. I will compare those quotes to how everything panned out with the regular season coming to a close. Not to brag but I kind of nailed it!
Les Snead did indeed crush the NFL Draft
“Very few contributors if any should be expected from this class immediately. LA will likely be leaning more towards picking for depth in 2024, not this upcoming campaign.
As long as half the draft class flashes some potential in limited playing time, Los Angeles should feel much better about the predicament of their own creation.”
Did I seriously say kind of nailed it? Boy was I wrong in the first part of that quote. In my defense, how was I to know how many of those first-year players were going to contribute right away?
Flashes from the youth on the roster has enabled the Rams to return to the playoffs after a one-year absence.
The 2023 Rams tied an NFL record with 14 draft picks making the initial 53 man roster. The other team was the 2016 Browns that went 1-15.— Tom in Cali (@RamsBeat) January 1, 2024
Puka Nacua has strung together a historic rookie campaign from the moment he stepped onto the field in the season opener. The BYU product should win OROY if voters could cast aside their quarterback bias towards Texans star C.J. Stroud for one second.
Then, Kobie Turner is making a DROY push but will probably lose out because Jalen Carter is the more popular name. The fact that the fanbase is (rightfully) upset about a potential Carter win again proves how stacked this class was for Snead.
Kobie Turner— LTR (@LetsTalkRams) January 1, 2024
Byron Young 0️⃣
This is how you build a young core. Boy have they all been more than what we hoped for.
Youth led the way, only Cam and Tutu failed to play a huge role in LA’s success
“Remember when Cam Akers was on his way out and Tutu Atwell was a bust? Those were sure some fun times. The jury is still out on both those guys but at least they made the most of their time on the field.
This is a bold wish but I’d like to see Atwell approach 500 yards receiving and at least five total touchdowns.”
Akers proved his red-hot three-game finish to the 2022 season was fool’s gold. In Seattle Week 1, Cam rushed 22 times for 29 yards and was traded to the Vikings after being inactive against the 49ers following the opener. It marked an ugly end in LA for the much-maligned draft pick.
Fortunately not all hope was lost as second-year back Kyren Williams took the reins, becoming the first Rams running back to rush for 1,000 yards since Todd Gurley. Williams is what the fanbase expected Akers was going to morph into. His emergence has built a strong and consistent running game around Matthew Stafford for the first time in his Rams career.
Atwell started out the season well, yet has seemingly been overtaken by Demarcus Robinson as WR3. The fans chanting “Les should’ve taken Creed Humphrey” have to be feeling overjoyed at this development.
Crazy part is, Tutu is incredibly close to the production I outlined from him. Through 15 games, he has 37 catches for 476 yards and three receiving touchdowns. With McVay resting several starters in the regular season finale, Atwell will have a chance to pad his statline ahead of the postseason.
Rams scarfed down the cupcakes and made playoffs on New Year’s Eve
“If the Rams load up on the sugary weaklings on their schedule, they could possibly fool around and find themselves back in the playoffs.
The fanbase acts as though LA has no chance to make a run. With the present state of the roster, this team is clearly thin in notable areas, particularly on the O-line and in the secondary. Maybe not a recipe for success against the top dogs but it’ll do just fine against the runts of the litter.”
I had hoped the Rams would remain in playoff contention around Thanksgiving and they greatly exceeded those expectations. Talk about a belated Christmas gift from the football gods.
Sometimes Los Angeles developed a tendency to make games much harder than they should’ve been. The blown 23-0 lead to the Colts in Week 4 is a perfect example. Regardless, the Rams took care of business when they needed to and have been rewarded with a playoff trip.
McVay’s squad struggled in closing out the “top dog” NFL heavyweights like the 49ers in Week 2, Eagles and Ravens. Each of those games were winnable if better managed down the stretch. The fact the Rams were in all of those games despite being outmanned in the talent department was a testament to McVay and his stellar coaching staff.