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Rams Breakout Candidates: 2019 Draft Class | Greg Gaines & David Long Jr.

So far in this series, we've examined breakout candidates among rookies, as well as the Classes of 2021 and 2020.

Now we land on the fourth-year pros, which is often a high leverage season for a player, due to their expiring rookie contracts. A career-best showing this fall could turn free agency into a very profitable endeavor.

For the Rams, their 2019 draftees already have been very productive. And while it's still too early to "grade" the class, the fact that seven of the eight players selected are still on the roster and boast starting experience is a healthy indicator – even more so considering Los Angeles did not draft in the first 60 picks, per usual.

In preparation for this year's NFL Draft, take a look back at the Rams 2019 Draft class!

In addition to the drafted players from 2019, the Rams claimed Justin Hollins off waivers from Denver. Likewise, they picked up Matt Gay via Tampa Bay and the Indianapolis practice squad. Therefore, we'll include them in this exercise.

Also of note: as of this writing, none of those seven draft picks plus Hollins and Gay have received contract extensions (the kicker signed his original-round tender in April).

Translation: they're all entering the most important season of their careers.

Who's ready to become a Rams House-hold name?

Leading Draft Picks: S Taylor Rapp, RB Darrell Henderson Jr., CB David Long Jr., DT Greg Gaines, G David Edwards

Other Candidates: OL Bobby Evans, S Nick Scott, EDGE Justin Hollins, K Matt Gay

The Favorite: DT Greg Gaines

I like the opportunity in front of both safeties. Scott, in particular, has ascended from a special teams ace to perhaps the hardest-hitting safety in the league. Nonetheless, the very fact that he and Rapp are together on this list, and playing next to captain Jordan Fuller, makes it nearly impossible to single either out.

If Henderson were to have a career campaign, the only surprise would be that he did it despite our hopes and expectations for Cam Akers.

Edwards should be coming into his prime at left guard. And it's Hollins's job to lose at right edge opposite Leonard Floyd. Gay's already been selected to a Pro Bowl.

This was really difficult; probably the toughest choice I've had to make in this series so far.

Therefore, I defaulted to arguably the fastest man in the National Football League. Gaines not only became a fan favorite and a viral Sounds of the Game sensation, he also graded as the 35th-best interior defensive lineman in the league last year, according to Pro Football Focus. Forming a trio with Aaron Donald and A'Shawn Robinson, they made life miserable for opposing offenses, and I like Gaines's chances of taking it to another level at age 26.

One to Watch: CB David Long Jr.

I hinted at this in a prior installment, leaning linebacker Ernest Jones over corner Robert Rochell as my pick to break out from the Class of 2021. The thinking being that Rochell had more competition around him at corner.

A few players I've spoken to this offseason, asked who they like to thrive in 2022, have pointed to Long. Among his high points last season were interceptions in the opening triumph over Chicago and a pick-six of Kyler Murray's Cardinals in the Wild Card win. Between those season bookends were various highs and lows.

With Darious Williams moving on, there's a critical role to be claimed opposite Jalen Ramsey. And a few of those closest to that void are confident Long can fill it.

Up next: The last group we'll look at before getting to the pool of seasoned veterans is the Class of 2018, where the Rams found their heir apparent to Andrew Whitworth at left tackle.

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