Now that we've all had a chance to digest draft grades heralding college players who've yet to visit their respective facilities, I've become increasingly focused on a different class of nine – last year's Rams rookies.
All selected outside the Top 50 in 2020, Los Angeles came away with eight initial roster members, at least five of whom now return as potential starters in the season ahead. The leap they're able to take from Year One to Year Two will factor heavily into the team's fortunes.
"I think we're going to reap the benefits, not only this year, but for years to come with that foundation of players we've been able to acquire through the draft the last couple seasons," head coach Sean McVay said.
Let's take the rising sophomores in order of selection and examine where they find themselves 12 months removed from their own draft day, beginning with the undisputed lead back.
Starting with his Week 13 performance at Arizona, Akers averaged 4.25 yards per attempt on 22 carries per game to close out the regular season and playoffs. That's despite playing through an ankle injury suffered early in Week 15 that cost him the following Sunday in Seattle.
Projected over the course of a full 17-game season (unrealistic though that may be), that pace would put Akers withing striking distance of 1,600 yards rushing.
But might there also be some lighter boxes for Akers in 2021 if Matthew Stafford and his arsenal can keep the back end of defenses honest?
And I truly believe we've only scratched the surface of what the soon to be 22-year-old is capable of in the passing game. Look no further than this reception from John Wolford in the regular season finale against the Cardinals for evidence of his receiving potential.
The receiver room didn't get any less crowded with the additions of DeSean Jackson and Tutu Atwell offsetting the loss of Josh Reynolds. However, Sean McVay went out of his way on numerous occasions over draft weekend to emphasize how much he believes in Jefferson's role and future in this offense.
Little did Jefferson know at age 14 in Michigan that someday he'd be in the huddle with Stafford in Los Angeles. "He was with my dad (wide receivers coach, Shawn Jefferson) in Detroit, so, it's crazy now that I'm playing with him," Jefferson said.
"I just remember running around the facility and seeing (Stafford). Now, I'm going to actually get to play with him. It's pretty cool."
I expect Jefferson to be one of the primary beneficiaries of the quarterback change.
Like Akers, the 57th overall selection from 2020 saved some of his best for last, collecting six receptions and a touchdown, while assisting on a two point conversion, in the NFC Divisional Round at Green Bay.
The Rams receiver groupings and rotations will be one of the more intriguing revelations of training camp and the early season.
By not selecting an edge presence until their ninth and final pick last week, the Rams may have signaled the optimism they have in Lewis – both in terms of ability and availability.
Samson Ebukam accounted for a sizeable percentage of snaps at outside linebacker the past four years. And while there are other viable options in Ogbo Okoronkwo and Justin Hollins to absorb them, Lewis is the highest and most recent draft pick of that trio and figures to get first right of refusal.
If he can put a nagging knee injury behind him and be the bracket opposite Leonard Floyd, the Rams could be on their way to duplicating their defensive dominance from 2020.
There's an argument to be made that Burgess is the make-or-break piece to the Rams 2021 defense.
The defections in the slot and at safety underscore the versatility of the 104th overall pick. Burgess could take some of Troy Hill's reps at nickel or he might team with Jordan Fuller and Taylor Rapp in three safety looks.
Coming off injured reserve, with half of an NFL rookie season under his belt, can Burgess solidify himself as an every down member of the secondary, or at least a chess piece the Rams can deploy to resolve matchup issues?
If so, that relieves a lot of the stress on (slightly) older players like Rapp, Nick Scott, and David Long, Jr.
Hopkins was described as a luxury pick for the Rams in 2020 and effectively redshirted his rookie season, playing just two offensive snaps and participating in 11 percent of special teams reps while dressing for five games.
Now, there are TE2 opportunities available in the absence of Gerald Everett. But Hopkins just watched his team select a tight end prospect at almost the exact same spot on the board a year later. And we can project with some certainty – at least as much as can be offered in May – that Jacob Harris is dressing on game day thanks to his highly coveted special teams prowess.
This becomes a critical summer for Hopkins to somehow differentiate himself within a tight end group that also includes Tyler Higbee and Johnny Mundt.
From the opening win over Dallas to the Monday Night triumph in Tampa Bay to the Wild Card celebration in Seattle, the Rams 2020 success isn't possible without a rookie starting at safety. The gem of the sixth round league-wide, Fuller proved to be instrumental within a deep position group consisting of five drafted contributors.
This is an outrageous oversimplification, but the Rams went 8-3 with Fuller patrolling the deep middle, and 2-3 in games in which he was injured.
The fact that Los Angeles did not draft a safety this spring after John Johnson signed with Cleveland speaks to the organization's foresight from a year ago and the forcefulness of Fuller's first impression.
Lastly, and more subtly than the rest, Anchrum has the chance to deliver extraordinary value from 250th overall. McVay has said the only question with respect to his role is where to align the former Clemson tackle.
"I think he can legitimately play all five spots across the line," the Rams head coach told us following the 2021 Draft.
We'll be looking for the two-time national champion with the "twos" at training camp, as a valuable insurance policy for an offensive line room that returns almost entirely intact from a season ago.
Check out the guys who make up the Rams 2020 draft class!