When the Los Angeles Rams selected wide receiver Tutu Atwell with the 57th overall pick in the second round of the 2021 NFL Draft, many people, including myself, questioned the pick.
The Rams went into that draft with a number of needs but without a first-round pick. Wide receiver was not one of those needs, and Atwell isn’t even a traditional wide receiver. For the Rams to use one of their top picks on a guy that weighs 160 pounds soaking wet just didn’t make a ton of sense.
But now, almost two years later, the Rams are starting to see some of the fruits of that labor.
After hardly contributing during his rookie season due to injury and also the first half of this year, Atwell has begun to come on in recent weeks with his role expanding due to injuries.
Atwell is still as tiny as he was when the Rams drafted him, but that doesn’t mean that Sean McVay can’t utilize his skillset to benefit the Rams’ offense.
Over the last five games, Atwell has played in about 50% of the Rams’ offensive snaps, hauling in 11 receptions for 193 yards and a touchdown. That is obviously far from star production but it’s something and he may be showing that he can add a layer to the Rams’ offense moving forward.
Outside of half of a season of DeSean Jackson, the Rams have not had a true deep threat in the McVay era. And call me crazy, but I actually think the Rams offense was at its best when the threat of Jackson getting open deep was there, opening up the middle of the field for other guys.
And that’s what we’ve been starting to see with Atwell in recent weeks. Not only has Atwell caught a couple of deep balls, but he has also drawn a couple of long pass interference calls as well. Those don’t show up in the stat sheet but obviously go a long way in helping your offense move the ball down the field.
McVay wants to utilize more
It’s more than that though as Atwell has shown that he is capable of running other routes as well, not just utilizing his speed to run go balls. This is something McVay has noticed as well, stating a few weeks ago that he should’ve been getting Atwell more opportunities sooner.
“I think last year he had the injury and I think just sometimes opportunities are presented and (he) probably should have had more opportunities this season. Last year was more of a result of the injury and the depth that we ended up having at that position with guys that we already knew were ready to roll. This year probably should have gotten more opportunities earlier on in the season and that’s something that I won’t run away from because all this guy has done is answer the bell when he is had his chances.”
You never hope to see players get injured, but in this case, the Rams’ injuries to receivers like Cooper Kupp and Allen Robinson has led to a guy like Atwell getting more opportunities to show what he can do.
With Kupp, Robinson and Van Jefferson already in place for 2023, perhaps the only thing the Rams are missing is that deep threat to open up the field. So while this season hasn’t gone as planned for the Rams with them sitting at 4-10, at least they are figuring some stuff out for the future by getting these young guys looks with Atwell being a prime example.
The Rams obviously saw something in Atwell when they drafted him in the second round, and we are finally seeing what that is.