Rams Camp is just two weeks away, and we have two tiers of the roster left to cover.
Hope you've enjoyed our series to date examining breakout potential, from the rookie group all the way through the Class of 2019.
If you're familiar with how contracts work in the NFL, we're now venturing beyond the duration of rookie deals to look at the Class of 2018. This is, characteristically, the thinnest portion of the Rams roster. In recent years, they've invested in proven stars (Aaron Donald, Jalen Ramsey, Cooper Kupp, to name a few) and developed young role players (Jordan Fuller, Greg Gaines, David Edwards, and many others) to balance their budget.
Los Angeles chose a whopping 11 players in the spring of 2018 – but only one in the first 90 picks. It was an exceptional collective effort by the players, the coaches who poured into them, and the front office who identified their potential and maneuvered around the draft board to secure their services.
Go behind the scenes of the Rams' 2018 Draft by viewing photos from the team's Draft war room.
Only three are still on the Rams roster, though several others will continue their careers with other franchises this fall.
All that to say, those still with the Rams for a fifth campaign have done very well for themselves. And Sean McVay's staff likely has a specific – if not starting – role in mind for said players.
Draft Picks: LT Joe Noteboom, C Brian Allen, LB Travin Howard
Other Candidates: WR Brandon Powell, OL Coleman Shelton, QB John Wolford
The Favorite: LT Joe Noteboom
The heir apparent to Andrew Whitworth is the reason we chose not to lump this age group in with the veterans (still to come).
Noteboom deserves his digital ink, because of the promise he's demonstrated through 18 starts and nearly 1,400 snaps in his career, and also because of how essential he'll be to the Rams fate in 2022.
Whitworth set all sorts of longevity records on his way to Walter Payton Man of the Year honors; he also remained entrenched as one of the top five tackles in football until his very last game – a Super Bowl championship. He'll go down as perhaps the most consequential free agent signing in franchise history.
That Noteboom has been able to uphold Whitworth's standard on the field is a testament to his talent and diligence. Now he's the proud owner of a three-year contract that says he's ready to break out and earn his own recognition as one of the best left tackles in the game.
One to Watch: C Brian Allen
Like Noteboom, Allen agreed to a three-year offer from the Rams this March.
Allen's story was one of the best of the title run, overtaking his competition in Irvine during training camp to reclaim his starting job. This after a brutal knee injury midway through his 2019 campaign and a rehabilitation that was complicated by pandemic protocols.
Having already achieved a career season a year ago, earning recognition as a Pro Bowl alternate, what more can Allen do to distinguish himself?
If McVay and Matthew Stafford love him – and they do – then there's no reason to doubt that Allen can level up again. The 26-year-old once told me that in this offense, the center has to know only "a hair less" than the quarterback. The value of that institutional knowledge Allen has built up is hard to overstate. (Think back to the impact John Sullivan had in 2017 at the same position.)
Allen also delivered one of the most quotable lines of the offseason.
The best part of my day is coming here," he said of arriving at the team facility to go to work. "The worst part is leaving." Have to appreciate having that type of attitude in your building.
Up next: We started this exercise reflecting on all the Rams who enjoyed career years in 2021. Many of them – including Kupp and Ramsey – were already veterans. Who are some leading candidates to break out in 2022, even if they're already household names? Wide receiver Allen Robinson II will be a popular pick.
More to come as we count down to Rams Camp.