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State of the 2024 Los Angeles Rams: Puka Nacua and Co. ready to press further into the postseason?

Where does your squad stand ahead of the 2024 NFL season? Adam Rank sets the table by providing a State of the Franchise look at all 32 teams, zeroing in on the new faces to know, one significant fantasy spin and the stakes at play in the campaign to come.

Members of the Rams organization, Rams fans around the world and those who lived vicariously through the Chiefs last year as they knocked off the rival 49ers ...

For several years, the Rams lived up to the Eff them picks ethos by general manager Les Snead, dealing away draft capital for veteran talent. That team-building approach paid off in a Lombardi Trophy. But it also seems like it should have eventually required a lengthy rebuild. Instead, the Rams did something kind of unexpected in 2023, two seasons after winning it all -- they competed, going 7-1 down the stretch and earning a playoff berth. (I thought they'd beat the Lions in the Wild Card Round.)

How will the team build off that finish into 2024?

2024 brain trust

Table inside Article
Head coach Sean McVay
General manager Les Snead
Offensive coordinator Mike LaFleur
Defensive coordinator Chris Shula
Special teams coordinator Chase Blackburn

Roster reshuffling

Below is a rundown of the Rams' most notable roster developments for the 2024 season, including this year's draft class, as well as key acquisitions and departures via free agency and trade.

Table inside Article
Draft class (round-pick) Key additions Key departures
Jared Verse, DE, Florida State (1-19) Jimmy Garoppolo, QB Carson Wentz, QB
Braden Fiske, DT, Florida State (2-39) Colby Parkinson, TE Royce Freeman, RB
Blake Corum, RB, Michigan (3-83) Jonah Jackson, OG Ben Skowronek, WR
Kamren Kinchens, S, Miami (3-99) Tre'Davious White, CB Brian Allen, C
Brennan Jackson, DE, Washington State (5-154) Darious Williams, CB Aaron Donald, DT
Tyler Davis, DT, Clemson (6-196) Kamren Curl, S Jonah Williams, DL
Joshua Karty, K, Stanford (6-209) Ahkello Witherspoon, CB
Jordan Whittington, WR, Texas (6-213) Jordan Fuller, S
Beaux Limmer, IOL, Arkansas (6-217) John Johnson, S
KT Leveston, OL, Kansas State (7-254) Brett Maher, K

New faces to know

Los Angeles Rams outside linebackers coach Chris Shula on the field before the Rams take on the Miami Dolphins during an NFL football game, Sunday, Nov. 1, 2020, in Miami Gardens, Fla. (AP Photo/Doug Murray)
Chris Shula
Defensive coordinator

OK, so this isn't really a new face; Shula's been on the coaching staff since 2017. But the grandson of Hall of Fame head coach Don Shula is in a new role, having taken over for Raheem Morris (who left to become head coach of the Falcons), and he'll be facing a new reality for the Rams: life without Aaron Donald. Unsurprisingly, second-year pro Kobie Turner -- who logged nine sacks and Defensive Rookie of the Year honors -- is going forward. And so are a couple of actually new faces ...

Jared Verse
Edge · Rookie
Braden Fiske
DT · Rookie

The Rams used their first two picks in the 2024 NFL Draft to acquire this defensive line duo from Florida State. And they're going to be tasked with helping to make up for the loss of Donald. Kind of like when Will Ferrell and James Spader were asked to replace Steve Carell on The Office. (If you're asking me, Spader was much better than people gave him credit for.) Losing Donald hurts, no doubt. But don't forget that he wasn't the only capable pass rusher on the roster last season; in fact, the Rams were one of just four teams to feature at least three players with eight-plus sacks, with Byron Young (eight sacks) joining Donald (eight) and Kobie Turner (nine). And now they've bolstered their core with Verse and Fiske.

State of the QB

It was funny to me to see some try to take a victory lap on the Rams over Jared Goff's recent extension with the Lions. They must have missed the Rams, you know, winning the Super Bowl with their replacement for Goff, Matthew Stafford. And after an injury-filled 2022, the 36-year-old Stafford was great again last year, helping to drive the team's strong finish by throwing for 15 touchdowns against just three picks in his final six games. Stafford is 13-2 in December games since he joined the club. And he tossed for 367 yards and a pair of scores in the team's playoff loss to the Lions. I was sincerely concerned that we might not see vintage Stafford again after that tough 2022, but we got him last year. I see no reason for him to slow down this season, either. Not with the weapons around him. And the team brought in Jimmy Garoppolo as added insurance. This is a great quarterback room.

Most important non-QB

Puka Nacua
WR · Year 2

Nacua (who was mentioned in this space last year) was an absolute godsend for the Rams last season. Cooper Kupp had a down season, missing the first four games of the year, and the rookie out of BYU stepped up big time. Nacua posted five games with at least 150 scrimmage yards, the most such games by a rookie during the Super Bowl era. He also logged seven games with 100-plus receiving yards and was a finalist for Offensive Rookie of the Year honors. And, of course, he set new NFL records for receptions (105) and receiving yards (1,486) by a rookie. It felt like the playoff loss to the Lions marked the passing of the torch, with Nacua logging 181 receiving yards and a touchdown, dwarfing Kupp's five catches for 27 yards, like when Torry Holt passed Isaac Bruce back in the day (not that you're old enough to remember that). Kupp will still factor into the mix, but it's Puka time now. 

My HOTTEST Rams fantasy take:

I'm in on Kyren Williams again.

I know, many people are going to be drafting rookie running back Blake Corum, and that's not a bad strategy. But Kyren was so good down the stretch in 2023. On the season, he led the NFL in rushing yards per game (95.3) and, despite missing five games, finished third in total rushing yards (1,144). Sean McVay typically gives the bulk of the carries to one back, and Williams should have plenty of chances to eat in an offense that ranked 11th in rushing in 2023. The only drawback is that he wasn't a huge factor in the passing offense -- if that were to change, Williams could challenge as the RB1 in fantasy. Look, make sure you draft Corum as a handcuff. But don't let the fantasy geeks steer you away from Kyren this season.

2024 roadmap

Three key dates:

  • Week 1 (SNF): at Detroit Lions. The Matthew Stafford REVENGE GAME! Or, wait, is it the Jared Goff REVENGE GAME? I would say both teams can claim victory in the trade that sent Stafford to Los Angeles and Goff to Detroit. Stafford won his Super Bowl (and he remains the most recent NFC quarterback to do so). Goff got paid. Still, this one is huge, not least because the Rams should be plenty motivated to make up for their playoff loss in Ford Field back in January.
  • Week 12 (SNF): vs. Philadelphia Eagles. I sort of fancy the Rams as Super Bowl contenders (I'll get into that in a few moments). To solidify that status, they'll need to beat one of the other teams expected to be among the best in the NFC.
  • Week 15 (TNF): at San Francisco 49ers. I dunno; maybe this should have been the final game of the regular season? (I swear, I don't get the schedule sometimes.) Anyway, this could be for the NFC West.

For 2024 to be a success, the Rams MUST:

A) Win the Super Bowl
B) Make a playoff run
C) Earn a playoff berth
D) Finish above .500
E) Show progress

My answer: B) Make a playoff run. This was a playoff team last year that took the Lions to the edge. And as I laid out above, the Rams are kind of better than they were last season. I know it seems weird to say, with Aaron Donald being retired and whatnot. But those rookies from last year were excellent. There are reasonable expectations for the new guys. The offense is going to score a lot of points. Again, while the Super Bowl is the ceiling, I would expect the Rams to be back in the postseason at a minimum this year.

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