Last year’s rookie class was one of the most productive group of Ram newcomers in recent memory. The team got big contributions from first year players last season, which helped build a solid core of young talented players on one of the NFL’s youngest rosters. The Ram offense combined for 4,877 yards and 38 touchdowns in 2013. Last year’s rookie class combined for 2,262 offensive yards (46% of team total) and 18 TD’s (47% of team total). If the Rams hope to keep up in the brutal NFL West, General manager Les Snead and Head coach Jeff Fisher would be wise to use ’13′s draft as a template for the future.
Here is Ramblin’ Fan’s breakdown of the 2013 class and their impact on the team.
Zac Stacy, RB
Stacy was a workhorse in 2013. He piled up 1,114 total yards and 8 touchdowns in just 12 starts. The Rams have found another bell-cow for the offense after Steven Jackson’s departure to Atlanta last season.
Alec Ogletree, LB
Ogletree was in the defensive rookie of the year conversation after his opening season wearing the Blue and Gold. “Tree” led the team in tackles with 117 total, while also adding 6 forced fumbles, 1.5 sacks, 1 interception, 1 touchdown and 10 pass breakups. The former safety/linebacker from Georgia made an enormous impact last year alongside James Laurinaitis.
Tavon Austin, WR/PR
Austin took heavy criticism last season for not blowing the National Football League away with his play. Despite that, he was second on the team in catches (40) and third in receiving yards (418). He also contributed 6 total touchdowns, good for second best among the skill position players. Austin also had two touchdowns called back via penalties; one was a long distance bomb over the top of the defense in Carolina, and the other was a punt return against the Cowboys. Austin also had Kellen Clemons throwing to him for most of the year and he played in only 13 games.
TJ McDonald, S
McDonald had 53 total tackles, one sack and one interception through 10 games for the Rams. He broke his leg early in the season but he returned for the final 6 regular season games. The former Trojan established himself as an enforcer for the defense and he should be a productive safety for years to come.
Stedman Bailey, WR
Bailey came on late last season when Austin, his teammate at West Virginia, was sidelined with an ankle injury. Bailey contributed 259 total yards and a touchdown – and he was also a playmaker on special teams. He forced two fumbles and recovered an onside kick against the Saints.
Benny Cunnigham, RB
Cunningham had his ups and downs last season, but he tallied 320 total yards and a touchdown in a backup role during his rookie campaign. An undrafted free agent from Middle Tennessee State, Bam-Bam’s season was highlighted by his 109 rushing yards on 13 carries with a touchdown against the Bears. Cunningham gashed the Bears defense and gained most of his yards in the second half. He will most likely battle a healthy Daryl Richardson for the team’s backup running back behind Stacy.
Of the six players listed above, four of them project to be starters next season. It will be interesting to see how the Rams add to their roster next month. If they can build on what they have started during the Jeff Fisher era, they will be challenging the top teams in the division sooner rather than later.