LA Rams training camp finds tight ends rankings vault to NFL Top-5

The LA Rams training camp opens with the tight end rankings vaulting into the NFL’s Top-5

What can you say about the LA Rams tight end group that includes Tyler Higbee, Gerald Everett, Johnny Mundt, Brycen Hopkins, and Kendall Blanton?  Well for starters, you could start off by saying “NFL’s Top Five”, since that is where they are ranked per the latest 2020 projections from Pro Football Focus. PFF does a nice job of grading players, units, squads, and teams in both the historic review and the future projections.

The Rams lofty projections are a pleasant surprise,  After all, we’ve been shooting down many projections that project the Rams offense will plummet in 2020. And we’ve said enough-is-enough with the constant disrespect shown to LA Rams quarterback Jared Goff.  The project runs counter to much of the narrative propagating in national sports media so far this season. Perhaps that’s why it’s a surprise, after all.

No surprise at all

After all, Pro Football Focus author Steve Palazzolo noted that the Rams tight ends recorded the fifth-most receiving yards in the NFL by putting up 1,168 yards. So projecting the unit to return as the fifth-ranked unit in 2020 is by no means going out on a limb here. If anything, it may be a rather conservative projection. Much like the Rams 2019 defensive line ranked third-best in the NFL, but is far stronger this season, the Rams have several reasons to raise expectations in 2020.

For starters, the team returns all three starters in Tyler Higbee, Gerald Everett, and Johnny Mundt.  The team returns 6-foot-6  262-pound behemoth Kendall Blanton and drafted 6-foot-4, 245-pound tight end Brycen Hopkins with their 136th pick from the University of Purdue. Mundt will not impact the passing game much, but he was a key contributor to boosting the Rams running game to yield 100 yards or better in four of their final seven games. And the Rams brought Mundt back on a one-year deal.  They’ll want to know if he warrants re-signing at the end of the season.

12th man? Meet Rams 12 package

The LA Rams found success in the second half of the NFL season by running the 12-package 66 percent of the team. The 12-package is an acronym for an offensive formation that uses one running back and two tight ends. Since all offenses must have five offensive linemen and a quarterback under center (six players) the remaining players (two) are wide receivers.

While Higbee set the NFL on fire with his incredible performance in December 2019, I would look for his teammate Gerald Everett to make the impact early in the season. Higbee is a known entity. Everett is playing in his contract year. As such, not only will the Rams want to determine what they have in Everett, but if his value increases out of the team’s price range, he will trigger an awarding of a 2022 compensatory draft pick. I expect that Hopkins will also get some looks this year. He would be an incredible asset for the Rams to utilize a 13 package.  Since defenses only know the Rams as a wide-open receiver offense, a 13 package would cause a great deal of confusion.

The Rams’ tight ends are projected as a Top-5 unit for 2020. Don’t be surprised if they are among the Top-3, or even first. Not only is this a very talented group. They are very motivated as well.