But it’s not just the toast of 2022 Rams preseason football Lance McCutcheon, also known as the NFL’s leading receiver during this month. Turns out the Rams have a veteran receiving threat who has caught the attention of one national analyst from The Athletic on Wednesday, August 24 as he ran down his list of NFL Preseason standouts.
And this member of the Rams has gone from catching just one pass during the regular season to becoming one who is “starting to blossom.”
Which Ram Earned ‘Breakout’ Label
Nate Tice didn’t select any rookies for his list of emerging talents. He went with young veterans utilizing this session to boost their roster chances.
Tice has recognized one towering option who is witnessing an uptick in his snap counts, receptions and overall production. He chose Brycen Hopkins as his Rams representative — the towering 6-foot-4, 245-pounder who’s now halfway through his four-year, $3,948,132 contract he signed in 2020.
Tice, known for his X’s and O’s breakdowns in his stories, noted how Hopkins’ hot streak never started during contests against the L.A. Chargers and the Houston Texans in the preseason. It began in the Rams’ final game of the 2021 season…the Super Bowl.
“The owner of one target over his first 13 regular-season and playoff games before making four catches in the Super Bowl, Hopkins converted three of those Super Bowl catches into first downs,” Tice wrote. “His continued progress as a player has been rewarded by the Rams, who waived tight end Kendall Blanton and cleared a path for Hopkins to see more playing time in 2022.”
The Journey of Hopkins
Hopkins came into the league with fourth to fifth round value by nfl.com draft expert Lance Zierlein.
Hopkins got described as a “flex tight end with enough route acumen and separation quickness to open throwing windows.” Yet had “modest ball skills and below-average hands can turn potential completions into drops.”
Lastly, Zierlein predicted that “Hopkins’ issue with catch consistency has been ongoing and is unlikely to change as a pro.”
Again, the fourth rounder Hopkins has played sparingly in the Rams offense as TE1 belongs to Tyler Higbee, while Blanton and Johnny Mundt were the second and third options. But now, the 25-year-old Hopkins has stuck around the roster — and Tice has recognized how much more the Rams are using him.
“This preseason, the Rams have aligned the athletic Hopkins across the formation — 24 percent of Hopkins’ 50 preseason snaps have come split out as an outside option,” Tice said. “And Hopkins has shown reliable hands, solid inline blocking and an improving route tree (including a target on an angle route, which is typically reserved for a team’s craftier route runners).”
Out of the guys working with the TE group this season, it was Hopkins who took the most snaps in the Texans game with 32 according to Pro Football Focus. He also earned this title: The leader in receptions with six.
Now, Tice delivered this bold prediction for the TE who had been waiting his turn to be inserted into the offense.
“Hopkins likely will play more than the 59 snaps he saw through all of the ’21 regular season. He is starting to blossom, with more attention from Sean McVay and the Rams coming his way,” Tice wrote.