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2023 Breakout Candidates: Rookie Class

Already the least predictable group on any roster, picking a breakout star from the Rams Class of 2023 is especially challenging given the sheer size of the group – 14 drafted and all of them made the team!

It's no wonder the Rams are expected to be the least experienced group in the NFL this season.

But that also means that, unlike on rosters of recent vintage, more will be asked of the rookies between the lines in their debut campaigns.

Fortunately, several have made positive first impressions. As we turn our attention to Week One in Seattle, let's take a lap through the draft class to see where things stand for these first-year pros.

And we'll break format a bit, grouping the players into expected depth chart tiers after Tuesday's roster trimming.


G Steve Avila (Pick 36) – He's been as advertised, entrenched at left guard since early in the summer. My colleague D'Marco Farr went as far as to project him as the first Pro Bowl guard of the Sean McVay era.

EDGE Byron Young (Pick 77) – The first of several darts the Rams threw at their void on the edge, Young rushed to the top of the pecking order in training camp. And after just one game at SoFi Stadium, the staff had seen enough to hold Young out the rest of the preseason to protect him for September 10.

WR Puka Nacua (Pick 177) – How was this young man still available in the fifth round? He's on track to make the most impactful rookie contributions to a Rams offense since Cooper Kupp in 2017. Technically, he may or may not be "first team," but his role looks like it will be that of an offensive starter. And he could have a role on punt return, as well.

P Ethan Evans (Pick 223) – It won't make headlines, but if the Rams have found their "next Johnny Hekker," it's hard to overstate the accomplishment for general manager Les Snead, special teams coordinator Chase Blackburn, and their staffs. Can't wait to see what this rookie does with a top-flight, cohesive coverage unit to help track down his bombs.

Immediate Contributors

DB Tre Tomlinson  (Pick 182) – No one has done more to establish himself since the Rams broke camp. Tomlinson was going to make the team leaving Irvine, but after what he's demonstrated under the lights at SoFi Stadium and in joint practices against some of the game's best targets, he's vying for much more.

DT Kobie Turner (Pick 89) – After Aaron Donald, he's been the brightest spot and most consistent presence on the Rams defensive front. Los Angeles will lean heavily on him from the jump. If we're making Greg Gaines comparisons in September, he'll have done his part.


QB Stetson Bennett (Pick 128) – The longer he's allowed to develop behind Matthew Stafford, the better – for him and for the Rams. It didn't look great in Denver, but let's allow him to incubate in actual game plans with rostered weapons and offensive linemen around him.

OLB Nick Hampton (Pick 161) – Strength and conditioning, nutrition, locking horns with professional tackles, you name it. A year spent in an NFL facility could do wonders for someone of his skill set.

OL Warren McClendon Jr. (Pick 174) – That the Rams had an abundance of tackles, including a converted Logan Bruss, but opted to move forward with him is a good sign for McClendon.

TE Davis Allen (Pick 175) – The breakout star of the preseason game versus the Raiders, Allen came roaring back from an injury that cost him all of training camp to secure his spot in a suddenly crowded tight end room.

OLB Ochaun Mathis (Pick 189) – I wish you all could walk past Mathis in a hallway. You'd feel much better about the Rams options on the edge, because does he ever look the part. Thankfully, he avoided the worst-case scenarios with his injured knee and will be on injured reserve, designated to return. Could be someone to look for in the back half of the schedule, if not sooner.

RB Zach Evans (Pick 215) – We didn't see much, or at least enough, in the preseason. But depth at running back is an important luxury for the 2023 Rams, and could be for Evans, as well.

DB Jason Taylor II (Pick 234) – That he's still on board even after the Rams added veteran John Johnson III late in the summer is impressive. Hopefully it means they see a role for him in the kicking game in addition to being a potential back-end contributor down the road.

DE Desjuan Johnson (Pick 259) – There's not much we care to remember from Denver, but Johnson putting a dent in the Broncos to help secure his roster spot might be the thing. At a position group of serious need, it's nice to see the Toledo product stay in L.A. He was once described as the Aaron Donald of the MAC, after all.

Final Answer

We could make a case for any of the starters, depending on what you're looking for in your 2023 Rams Rookie of the Year. If it's peace of mind for Matthew Stafford or rushing lanes for Cam Akers, then Avila's your man. If it's the toolkit to make preseason prognostications like this one or this one look foolish, then you can't go wrong with Nacua. Those are the top two for me, and I'll lean Avila in a coin flip.

Take a look through photos of the Los Angeles Rams 2023 NFL Draft Class during their time in college.

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