With the 2020 season coming up within a few months, I went through and picked the 5 players that I am most confident will exceed expectations. There are some familiar names (Ogbo!) and some new ones. Let’s dig in…
1. S, Taylor Rapp
The 22-year-old out of the University of Washington had to step into a full-time starter role in early 2019 due to an injury to John Johnson III. Although the injury to Johnson was unfortunate it forced Rapp to progress quickly, and as a result he likely earned respect from his teammates with his stellar play. Per PFF, Rapp was ranked tied for 5th in defensive stops and 8th in total pass breakups at season’s end, a very promising start to his career.
It wasn’t the perfect rookie season as there were a few plays I am sure Rapp would love to have back (e.g. the San Francisco mixup with CB Jalen Ramsey), but overall you saw him flying all over the field as he was always around the ball and ready to make a play. Getting Johnson back from injury will only help with the progression of Rapp as Johnson is one of the more underrated players in the league, still young (only 24!) and an excellent communicator on the back end.
Obtaining a rhythm and trust from your corners is an important aspect for a safety; with the Rams trading for Ramsey mid-season while having Troy Hill step into the CB2 role (after the trade of Marcus Peters to Baltimore), there wasn’t much time for them to get on that same page. With the continuity of these players going into a full offseason program, you can expect them to all be hitting on all cylinders.
Rapp is a key building block for this defense, and the Rams expect him to combine with Johnson to take that next step in becoming one of the leagues best duos.
2. OLB, Ogbo Okoronkwo
With the departures of Clay Matthews and Dante Fowler, Okoronkwo can really make a name for himself in 2020. Out of the linebacker position at the University of Oklahoma, Okoronkwo stacked up 21 sacks, tying him 2nd all-time in Sooner history. Additionally, every season of his college career he showed signs of progression; I expect that to be no different as the Rams likely assign him more opportunities in 2020.
After injuries derailed his rookie season in 2018, he received a limited amount of game action in 2019. But the times he was on the field, it felt as if he was living in the backfield, ready to make a play on every snap. Not to mention, during this offseason you can really tell from his social media pages that he has truly been putting in the work every day to take the next step in the league.
While most think the Rams are in a conundrum with their pass rushers, they truly are set up for success because of talented, wild card players like Okoronkwo.
3. WR, Josh Reynolds
Josh Reynolds has already shown he can be a special talent in this league. Reynolds hasn’t had many opportunities due to a loaded WR room of Cooper Kupp, Robert Woods, and Brandin Cooks, a corps considered to be at or near the top of the league the past few seasons. But in 2018 when Cooper Kupp went down with a torn ACL, Reynolds registered 402 yards and brought in 5 touchdowns as a WR3.
In my opinion, Reynolds could be the WR1 or WR2 for a lot of organizations. Reynolds can be a red zone threat, he can provide you with a vertical threat downfield, and he can provide a speedy option for WR end-around play calls (a favorite of HC Sean McVay in recent years).
He is the total package and during this offseason, McVay has reiterated the confidence he has instilled in Reynolds to be a premier player in this league for years to come.
With the trade of Cooks, it’s now his time to shine.
4. ILB, Micah Kiser
Most were pleading with the Rams to take an ILB early on in the 2020 draft, especially because of the departure of stud ILB Cory Littleton. The Rams did not end up drafting one until the 7th round, in which they chose Clay Johnston out of Baylor. As Johnston surely does look like a great option from the tape, the fact that McVay and the rest of the Rams’ staff held off until the 7th round shows how much they believe in the return of Micah Kiser.
The Rams invested a 2018 5th round pick in Kiser and have been very high on him from the start. Kiser is a physical LB who was ready to fill the shoes of departing ILB Mark Barron last season; unfortunately for Kiser (and the Rams), he suffered a torn pec in the 2019 preseason matchup vs the Dallas Cowboys and missed the entire 2019 regular season.
Kiser had an extremely successful career at the University of Virginia as he notched 19 career sacks and 78 QB pressures. On top of his pass rush abilities, he’s also a force in stopping the run (a struggle for the Rams in recent seasons).
Kiser is no doubt fully recovered and ready to prove why he belongs.
5. RB, Cam Akers
In the 2020 draft the Rams selected Cam Akers with the 52nd pick out of Florida State. There’s a reason he was a five-star recruit and every college in the nation wanted him: he just has “it”.
In a draft scout call with Les Snead, Michael Pierce described Akers as the total package. Michael Pierce stated on that call about Akers “He can run inside, he can run outside and he catches the ball well”. Pierce continued on by saying “He does everything well and I’m saying this even with the offensive line he was running behind”. You can tell how excited McVay was after drafting Akers as he pumped his fist while on the call. The Rams also had thoughts of trading up because they didn’t think he was going to be there at pick 52. Akers is a workhorse, and he’s an every-down back that is going to make the transition from Todd Gurley an easy (or easier) one.
His explosiveness, instincts, and yards after contact were a big reason he was a top priority for McVay and the rest of the Offensive staff to obtain him and the newest Los Angeles Ram has been working hard every day and is ready to roll into the 2020 season.
Who do you think is going to break out in 2020? Leave us a comment!