The Los Angeles Rams are nearing the 2021 season. The team will play its first preseason game this Saturday against the Los Angeles Chargers in SoFi Stadium to kick off the year. The offseason is typically a time for predictions. Pundits tend to make predictions on how they think a team or player will do.
When it comes to these predictions, analysts are very rarely held accountable for their takes. Some may toot their own horn when they’re right and be like, “I told you so.” However, very few point to their mistakes. Below I have 15 predictions for the Los Angeles Rams season that I’m willing to put my name on. We’ll see how I do at the end of the year.
1. Matthew Stafford won’t throw for 5000 yards
Quarterback Matthew Stafford will be playing in arguably the best offense in his career with the best overall weapons in his career. That should bode well for a good season. However, a good season doesn’t necessarily mean a ton of yards. There are some who believe that Stafford will throw for 5,000 yards, lead the NFL in passing touchdowns, and be a NFL MVP candidate.
All of those things would be great, but they don’t necessarily translate to winning. Matthew Stafford came to Los Angeles so that he didn’t have to carry the load. That was one of the main reasons for getting out of Detroit. The injury to Cam Akers certainly puts a damper on that, and the Rams may need to rely on the passing game a little bit more. However, the Sean McVay offense has always gone through the running game.
Additionally, if the Los Angeles Rams are going to be winning a lot of games and be leading in them, they are likely going to be running the ball in order to run the clock. That means that late in games, Stafford won’t be throwing the ball as much.
Lastly, while Stafford is still a very good quarterback, he is no longer “in his prime” per se. Stafford hasn’t thrown for more than 4500 yards in a season since 2013. He’s thrown for 4000 yards just once since turning 30. 5000 yards would be a great accomplishment, but 5000 yards doesn’t translate to wins.
The Rams are going to play good defense and revolve the offense around the run game as they have the last four years under McVay. However, now they have a quarterback who is capable of making all of the throws and has a high football IQ at the line of scrimmage.
2. DeSean Jackson will have a good season
There are many who have doubted the DeSean Jackson signing. He’s too old and he can’t stay healthy. However, I am a firm believer that DeSean Jackson is going to have a good season with the Rams. To quantify a good season, we’ll say he has at least 30 receptions for 500 yards.
Jackson hasn’t surpassed the 30 reception and 500 yard mark since 2018. These should be realistic numbers for Jackson and it wouldn’t be surprising to see him surpass even that. It will depend on how much of a role Van Jefferson has in the offense. Even if Jefferson is involved, the Rams are going to make it a point to get Jackson the ball.
We’ve seen this already in training camp and the Rams making it a point to get Jackson the ball down the field. If the Los Angeles Rams can do that throughout the regular season, Jackson is in for a big comeback year.
Stafford connects with DeSean Jackson for a bomb 👀👀👀👀😍😍 pic.twitter.com/kLbUqFzBqr
— LA Rams Fanboy 💀 (@Rams4evver) August 7, 2021
This prediction also is based on Jackson being able to stay healthy. While he could miss 3-5 games, I expect Jackson to play the majority of the season. The Philadelphia Eagles are notorious for bad luck when it comes to injuries. Meanwhile, the Rams do a very good job of keeping their players healthy. Jackson won’t be expected to be “the guy” at 34 years old and the Rams will be able to keep him fresh.
3. Cooper Kupp will have a career year
While I don’t have Stafford going for 5,000 yards, I do believe the addition of Stafford will have an effect throughout the roster. One of the main beneficiaries of the Matthew Stafford trade will be Cooper Kupp. Kupp is in for a career year this season.
What does that mean? To quantify it, I’ll predict that Kupp surpasses the 100 reception mark for the first time in his career, hits 1300 yards and has 12 touchdowns. The last Rams receiver to his 1300 yards was Torry Holt in 2004. Kupp has never surpassed 1200, but with a quarterback like Stafford, he’ll have a very good chance to break that mark.
In the early stages of camp, it looks as if Stafford and Kupp have a very strong connection. It would not be surprising to see the wide receiver out of Eastern Washington become Stafford’s primary target. Golden Tate had 1300 yards with Stafford in 2014. Kupp should be able to do that as well.
4. Darrell Henderson will prove his capable starting running back
There are many that doubt Darrell Henderson as a starting running back in the NFL which is very odd. Analytically speaking, Henderson had a better year than Cam Akers last season. He also had one fewer yard on seven less carries. If you take the names away, it’s clear to see who had the better season last year.
Player A: 145 carries, 625 yards, 7 broken tackles, 4.3 YPA, 2 TDs, 41st DYAR, 41st DVOA, 48% success rate.
Player B: 138 carries, 624 yards, 8 broken tackles, 4.5 YPA, 5 TDs, 9th DYAR, 4th DVOA, 55% success rate.
Cam Akers is obviously Player A and Player B is Darrell Henderson.
Darrell Henderson is going to prove that he’s a capable starting running back this season. That may look more like Alvin Kamara than Derrick Henry or Dalvin Cook in terms of total carries and yards. However, Henderson will be the clear lead running back.
To quantify this prediction, I’ll say that Henderson has at least 175 carries this season and 750+ yards.
It’s likely that another running back will have some sort of role in the offense, but the Los Angeles Rams will be conscious in keeping Henderson fresh and available throughout the year.
5. Jake Funk will be a special teams player
Jake Funk has become a fan favorite this offseason ever since the Rams drafted him in the seventh round. Funk could be a productive role player eventually, but during his rookie season, it’s hard to see that being the case. Unless Funk shows out during the preseason, it’s likely that the Rams would a sign a vet before making Funk the number two behind Darrell Henderson.
Funk was drafted as a special teams player and that’s what he’ll be at least early on in his career. I would be very surprised if he plays very much on offense if at all. It’s much more likely that he’s on the kick coverage unit and possibly in line to return kicks.
6. Jacob Harris could show flashes, but will have minimal impact
I’m not here to necessarily hate on the rookies, but more just have realistic expectations. Jacob Harris had a strong OTA’s and has seemed to carry that in the beginning stages of training camp. However, as I’ve stated multiple times. Harris is still a rookie making the transition to the NFL. Not only that, but he’s a rookie who is changing positions. To add to that, he’s making the transition at tight end which is one of the more difficult positions to learn at the NFL level.
Jacob Harris has potential to turn into a very good player within the next year or two. However, I believe his effect as a rookie will be minimal. He could see some red zone looks, but this is Tyler Higbee’s tight end room and the Los Angeles Rams value what Johnny Mundt brings as a blocker.
Harris seems to be better than Brycen Hopkins initially, but even Hopkins only played two offensive snaps last season. Harris will likely see more than that, but he’s not going to be an every down player. To quantify this prediction, I’ll say that Harris has less than 10 receptions and doesn’t surpass 100 receiving yards.
7. Ogbonnia Okoronkwo’s impact will be minimal
Ogbonnia Okoronkwo has had an offseason hype train in every season since his rookie year. I compare it to former Rams wide receiver Brian Quick. Both players were physical monsters, but both players were unable to put it together on the field. Some are expecting Okoronkwo to once again have a coming out party in 2021, but he’s a player that I just can’t get excited about.
In two years, Okoronkwo has 2.5 sacks. It’s not as if he’s been sitting behind star players at the edge rusher position either. He’s had opportunities, but played behind Samson Ebukam. I see another 1-1.5 sack season for Okoronkwo and the Rams allowing him to walk in free agency next year.
With the spot opposite of Floyd wide open this year, it looks as if Justin Hollins has taken the starting position while Justin Lawler has even shown that he deserves to be in the rotation. The time is now for Okoronkwo and I just don’t see it happening.
8. Jordan Fuller will become a star at safety
The Los Angeles Rams lost John Johnson in free agency which was seen as a big hit to the defense. While the Rams could miss Johnson, Jordan Fuller is ready to take that role and become a star on this defense. In just his second year as a sixth round pick, Fuller has been wearing the green dot on his helmet, meaning he’s been calling out the plays on defense.
We saw flashes of what Jordan Fuller could be last season. In Week 1, it was Fuller who made the stop on fourth down to get the win against the Dallas Cowboys. It was Fuller who intercepted Tom Brady not once, but twice in a win against the Buccaneers.
Fuller will become one of the premier safeties in the NFL this season and show that the Rams did the right thing in handing the reigns over to him.
9. Ernest Jones will be starting by midseason
I have been a firm believer in Ernest Jones since before the Los Angeles Rams even drafted him. I called him the perfect fit for the Rams prior to the draft and even had him going to the Rams in my mock draft. The Rams are deep at the linebacker position, but Jones could be starting by midseason.
He had the highest leadership grade on the Rams’ draft board which is what the Rams want playing on their defense. It could take him a few weeks to work his way in, but I don’t see this being a Micah Kiser situation in which he has four total tackles during his rookie season.
The Rams have some talent at linebacker and they are deep, but Jones has had a strong training camp and shown that he belongs. My guess is that the Rams won’t be able to keep him off the field as the season goes on.
10. David Edwards will take a big leap in year three
I have been a firm believer of David Edwards ever since his rookie year. This was a potential first round pick that dropped because of injuries during his final season at Wisconsin. Edwards played well as a rookie and started slow last season before taking over at guard and playing well. According to Pro Football Focus, Edwards was the 10th rated guard among players drafted since 2018.
Rodger Saffold made a big jump from his second year to his third year. He went from a 64.1 overall grade to a 77.3. Edwards had a 70.3 overall grade last season and could see a similar jump. Edwards is one of the premier young guards in the NFL and he’ll show that in 2021.
11. Austin Corbett will have success at center
The Los Angeles Rams mishandled the center position this offseason. They played chicken with Austin Blythe and lost and then didn’t draft a premier prospect like Creed Humphrey. Instead, they’ve opted to move Austin Corbett over to center. This is all after Corbett has had a lot of success at guard.
Moving Corbett over to center is a risk, but given how the Rams handled the position this offseason, it was the only option. Brian Allen was a disaster at center in 2019 and the other option is Coleman Shelton. Corbett has experience at center with the Browns during the preseason, but that’s it.
While it is a risk, Corbett has had success in the Rams’ system which should bode well for his success at center. He’ll also be playing with a veteran quarterback in Matthew Stafford. Corbett could have some rough moments early, but by the end of the season, he could be a top-10 center.
12. The Rams offensive line will have a strong year
There are some that think that the Rams offensive line will have a drop off this season after being named Pro Football Focus’ third best offensive line last season. While losing Austin Blythe certainly hurts, the offensive line is still very good and is deep.
If there is one spot that the Los Angeles Rams have question marks at, it might be right guard where Bobby Evans will be playing. However, this is still a group that can be in the top-10 if they can remain healthy. That’s the key.
Andrew Whitworth is still stable on the left side. As mentioned, David Edwards is one of the more promising young guards in the NFL. Austin Corbett should be able to make the transition to center. Bobby Evans is the one question mark at guard. Finally, Rob Havenstein remain solid on the right side.
This offensive line may not be the best, but it is far from the worst. I think they finish inside the top-10 once again.
13. The Rams offense and defense will finish inside the top-10
The Los Angeles Rams are coming off of their first year in which the offense didn’t finish inside the top-10 under Sean McVay. That will likely change with Matthew Stafford under center. It’s hard to see this unit with Stafford, Kupp, and Woods not finishing inside the top-10.
The defense lost a handful of starters in John Johnson, Troy Hill, and Michael Brockers. However, this is a unit that still has Aaron Donald and Jalen Ramsey. As long as those two players are playing well and remain healthy, it helps everyone around them. Those two players are the most important pieces on the Rams offense. This is a group that may not finish number one in 2021, but they should be a top-10 unit.
14. The Rams will win the NFC West
The Los Angeles Rams should have won the NFC West last season. They were in control of their own destiny until the final weeks which saw Jared Goff literally throw games away against the Seattle Seahawks and New York Jets. Because of that, the Rams ended up with a wild card spot and a trip to Green Bay in the divisional round.
The Rams haven’t won the NFC West since making the Super Bowl in 2018. The 49ers have promising young talent, but are in a transition year with Trey Lance and Jimmy Garoppolo at quarterback. The Cardinals still don’t have a defense and look to go 9-8 or 8-9 once again. The Seahawks will be the Rams’ biggest competition for the division title once again, but this time, the Rams will come out on top.
15. The Rams will win at least 12 games and make NFC Championship
I’m not sure if the Rams will make the Super Bowl. This could be Aaron Rodgers’ last season in Green Bay and he could be looking to go out with a bang. Meanwhile, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers will also be a difficult challenge as they bring everyone back from their Super Bowl run.
I feel pretty confident that the Rams can will 12 games this season. If they’re the number two seed, I see the Rams making the NFC Championship game. Getting to the Super Bowl will be a challenge, especially in Matthew Stafford’s first year. However, making the NFC Championship game will show that trading for Stafford was worth it.