The LA Rams earned a great deal of respect around the NFL with a strong showing in the second half of the season. But long before the wins started to pile up, opponents were talking about the ferocity and competitiveness of the team, and how there was no quit in the players from the opening kickoff until the final whistle sounded. Wins did not just happen for this team, they were earned the hard way.
While many rookies on the Rams roster not only earned starting roles for the team, more than a handful managed to show up in ranked among the league's statistical leaders. In some cases, Rams rookies stood up very favorably in comparisons to veteran players when looking at yards gained or quarterback sacks made.
But not every player selected in the 2023 NFL Draft was fortunate enough to earn playing time. Some were only able to earn limited playing time. Still, all of the training and whatever experience those young players earned in 2023 is not lost. Rather, it becomes the starting point for the 2024 NFL season. As such, you can expect a huge step forward from those players. Like who? Well, here are 3 players who I believe will have breakout years in 2024
DB Tre Tomlinson
The LA Rams secondary was a bit of a mystery in 2023, as the team had to reform an entire group from scratch simply to be able to defend passes last season. With the primary goal of establishing cohesiveness and communication, there was simply not enough bandwidth left over for the coaches to coach up a young rookie defensive back named Tre Tomlinson in time to earn a starting role.
The LA Rams are projected to lose four defensive backs to expiring contracts this offseason, three of whom were starters in 2023. The time is now for Tre Tomlinson to earn a significant role in the secondary, and I believe that he will be up for the challenge.
TE Davis Allen
The team may have had plans for the tight end position for the 2023 NFL season, but those plans were quickly scrapped as the season arrived. The team boasted four tight ends on the active roster: Starter Tyler Higbee, TE2 Hunter Long, veteran TE Brycen Hopkins, and rookie TE Davis Allen. By season's end, it was Davis Allen who showed the best promise, catching 10 of 11 passes for 95 yards and one touchdown.
Brycen Hopkins' contract expires, and there is little expectation for an extension from the Rams. Hunter Long was never healthy enough in 2023 to be counted on for a significant role in 2024. And starting TE Tyler Higbee suffered a horrific ACL injury in the Wild Card Round of the 2024 NFL Playoffs, and his availability to start the 2024 NFL season is in question. For now, it appears that the starting role at tight end this year will fall on Davis Allen. And from what we saw, he is ready to take on the challenge.
RB Zach Evans
When it comes to the LA Rams running back room, it's clear that RB Kyren Williams has earned the featured running back role for 2024 and beyond. But who will carry the load when Williams needs to get a breather, or when the team must manage the number of carries in a game? Neither RB Ronnie Rivers nor RB Royce Freeman is under contract for 2024.
While this is not the first time we have proclaimed Zach Evans to be a breakout star, the stars are aligning this season for him. He is currently the only other running back under contract for 2024. He did manage to see action on 16 offensive snaps, carrying the football nine times for 19 yards. But he will only get better from here, much better.
He stands 5-foot-11 and weighs 202 pounds. That is a bit bigger than 5-foot-9 194-pound Kyren Williams, and should make his a strong option to get more playing time in 2024. He will need to up his ability to block, which is undoubtedly his off-season goal. But when he masters all the tools of the trade, he certainly has fresh legs that can gain yardage quickly.
The future of this team is not solely dependant on how well the front office drafts rookies in 2024. Much of the success of the team is based on how well and quickly the rookie class of 2023 can step up in Year 2.