The Los Angeles Rams have begun training camp this week. In the biggest season yet in Los Angeles, we’re taking a look at how the 2021 season could play out. In order for that to happen, a handful of players are going to need to step up and have career years.
In this article, I’ll predict an MVP, Offensive Player of the Year, Defensive Player of the Year, Rookie of the Year and winners in several other categories.
MVP: QB Matthew Stafford
You could certainly argue Aaron Donald for this category. However, the Rams are only going to go as far as Matthew Stafford takes them. A healthy Donald, and the Rams potentially beat the Green Bay Packers in last season’s playoffs. Contrarily, competent quarterback play against the San Francisco 49ers, Miami Dolphins, and New York Jets and the Rams are either hosting Green Bay or playing a different opponent entirely.
The Rams traded two first round picks and Jared Goff for Stafford because they believe he’s the one that’s going to get them over the hump. Aaron Donald is a great football player. Jalen Ramsey is a great football player. However, Matthew Stafford is the most valuable.
Offensive Player of the Year: WR Cooper Kupp
If Cooper Kupp can stay healthy, he’s going to be in for a big year. The Rams wide receiver has never started all 16 games in a season. Because of that, 2019 is the only year that he’s eclipsed the 1,000 yard mark. Kupp and Stafford have potential to develop a special connection this season.
With no Cam Akers at running back and Kupp/Woods the most experienced playmakers outside of Tyler Higbee on offense, they will be relied on the most. It’s not totally out of the realm of possibility that Kupp has 1300 yards and 10+ touchdowns this season.
We saw how important Kupp was to the Los Angeles Rams offense in 2018. After Kupp went down, the offense relied heavily on Todd Gurley. Some would argue that will a healthy Kupp, the Rams defeat the New England Patriots in the Super Bowl. Kupp is going to be in for a big season and will be this team’s offensive player of the year.
Defensive Player of the Year: DT Aaron Donald
Aaron Donald finally makes this list. He’s the best defender in football for a reason. This season he’ll be going for his record fourth defensive player of the year award. Additionally, with another first-team All-Pro selection, he’ll beat Reggie White’s record of five consecutive first-team All-Pro selections.
Rams fans have always known how good Aaron Donald is. However, before last year, many maybe didn’t understand just how important he is. Donald tore rib cartilage in the NFC Wild Card game against the Seattle Seahawks. This made it so that he was way under 100% for the Green Bay Packers. The defense had their worst game of the season.
Donald makes everyone around him better. He makes the pass rushers more effective which in turn helps the secondary. Donald may not just be the Rams’ Defensive Player of the Year, but the NFL Defensive Player of the Year.
Rookie of the Year: LB Ernest Jones
It’s hard to pick a rookie, because the Los Angeles Rams don’t typically play their rookies. However, if there is one rookie that is going to make an impact this season, it’s Ernest Jones. The Rams linebackers have been the weak point of the defense over the last few years. There will be an opportunity for Jones to make an impact, and it wouldn’t be surprising to see him starting by midseason.
Jones had the highest leadership grade on the Rams’ draft board in the 2021 NFL Draft. Additionally, he was a perfect fit for their defense and what the Rams look for at the position. Jones might not start in Week 1, but by midseason, he could have a firm role in the linebacker rotation.
Breakout Player of the Year: LG David Edwards
There are a couple of options here. Some of my honorable mentions would likely be Sebastion Joseph-Day and Darrell Henderson. However, I see a big year for left guard David Edwards. Los Angeles Rams fans don’t seem to be aware of just how good David Edwards can be. He’s only improved since his rookie season and I expect a big season for him in year three.
It’s hard to quantify offensive line play. However, among guards drafted over the last three seasons, David Edwards ranked 10th according to Pro Football Focus. Edwards is one of the 10 best young guards in the NFL. To add to that, he ranked fifth among guards to play 80% of their teams offensive snaps.
Edwards has potential to be the Rodger Saffold of this offensive line. In fact, if you compare their PFF grades, Edwards had better total offense and pass-blocking than Saffold in year two and his run blocking grade only trailed Saffold by six points. Saffold showed promise in years one and two, but solidified himself in year three. I expect the same for Edwards
Best Veteran Addition: WR DeSean Jackson
The Rams didn’t make a lot of veteran additions this offseason. You could technically include Stafford here, however, I’m going to limit this to signings. The Rams signed DeSean Jackson to be their vertical speed threat. If he can remain healthy, Jackson has potential to have a very good season.
In fact, Jackson is already catching eyes during training camp and making plays down the field. The key will be to keeping him healthy over 17 games. If the Rams can do that, Jackson will be electric throughout the season. In 2020, Jackson’s average depth of target was 16.6 yards which ranked seventh in the NFL. His long reception of 81 yards was also 25 yards more than any Rams receiver.
— Vincent Delgado (@Vincent7597) July 28, 2021
The Rams have lacked a deep threat since trading Brandin Cooks to the Houston Texans. Jackson will be able to play that role and has potential for a big year.
Comeback Player of the Year: DL A’Shawn Robinson
The Los Angeles Rams did a good job avoiding the injury bug last season. That makes choosing a comeback player of the year quite difficult. However, A’Shawn Robinson only played eight games last season and didn’t make a single start for the first time in his career.
The Rams are going to need to be able to replace Michael Brockers. Robinson will play a big part in being able to do that. Brockers had the highest tackling grade from Pro Football Focus last season among defensive linemen and his run defense grade ranked seventh in 2019. His presence will be missed.
Robinson could be that stout run defender for the Rams. In 2018, he put together a run defense grade of 91.3 which ranked sixth. He’s also had 40 or more tackles in each of the three previous seasons before last year. He’s going to have a big role on the defensive line now with a full season. He’ll have a good bounce back year.