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2020 positional preview: Tight ends

Photo credit: WKUSports.com.

In the post-2020 NFL Draft calm, the Los Angeles Rams have added players they believe will piece the offensive puzzle together. There was not a huge need in the tight end department, but the Rams brought in Purdue standout Brycen Hopkins anyway.

Tyler Higbee is still slated to start after an impressive 2019 season. No. 2 Gerald Everett will see more playing time according to head coach Sean McVay, and we can expect to see a scheme that will better showcase his skills in 2020. The Rams still have Johnny Mundt, a good blocker and an improving receiver, and backups Kendall Blanton and Ethan Wolf. Here are what the Rams’ tight ends will bring to the table next season.

Tyler Higbee: Starter

There is no doubt that Higbee will be starting for the Rams. His recent 4-year, $29 million dollar contract extension signed at the beginning of last season shows the confidence the coaches and front office have in Higbee. In 2019, he had 69 receptions for 734 yards and three touchdowns. He also set a franchise record for tight end receptions and had the most touchdowns in a season during his career.

Higbee offers benefits to the Rams on several fronts. He is the perfect size for a tight end and his skillset continues to improve. It is possible he will be in more tandem sets with Everett, much like the last two seasons. Higbee is also a solid blocker, helping at the offensive line when needed. He can get a lot of yardage after the catches too, making him an effective offensive weapon.

Gerald Everett: No. 2

Calling Everett the No. 2 backup to Higbee seems unfit. He is really like a second starter and has been used heavily throughout the last three seasons. He has made crucial catches in big games and pushed the Rams over the hump when needed. In 2019, he had a career-high 37 receptions for 408 yards. His three touchdowns last season were one less than 2018. He did suffer an injury later in the season and Mundt took over the No. 2 spot. It is unknown how Everett’s injury will affect his 2020 performance, but we already know McVay has big plans for him.

One thing is for certain. The Rams rely heavily on Everett when they need that one big play or a big push downfield. Last season’s Week 5 matchup against the Seattle Seahawks was one example, and the great shootout in 2018 against the Kansas City Chiefs was one of his best.

Johnny Mundt: Potential No. 3?

Mundt pulled through as a backup to Everett during his injury recovery and is a good blocking tight end. He was not only a great help on the offensive line, but he has been a huge contributor to special teams. He should be just as good on the line if not better in 2020. In 2019, Mundt only had four receptions for 26 yards, but this year he may get more opportunities. Currently, he is set to be a restricted free agent in 2021.

It’s not known where he will be placed on the depth chart. That said, younger tight ends will have to impress to take playing time away or move above him.

Brycen Hopkins: Potential N0. 3 or 4?

Hopkins is the newest addition to the tight end corps and shows a lot of promise to the position. The Rams currently have two other tight ends with preseason experience and practice squad reps, but they have not seen any time on the field during the regular season. Mundt is also most likely the pick for the number three spot entering training camp, but Hopkins may offer some strong competition.

The highly-skilled Hopkins comes out of Purdue with a career 130 receptions for 1,945 yards and 16 touchdowns. In 2019 he had 61 receptions for 830 yards and seven touchdowns. His ability to get to break away and get to the ball is almost Everett-esque. He may give the others a run for their money as a backup. Although these are impressive stats, he is a fourth-round rookie. It will be up to the coaches to see if he is ready to compete. He may see a few snaps in 2020, but he will likely be a special teamer, while developing his tight end skills in the background.

Kendall Blanton: Unknown

Blanton saw action in the 2019 preseason with a touchdown against the Houston Texans. Although he did not see any snaps during the regular season, he was activated from the practice squad to the active roster in December. Blanton has good potential and is their biggest tight end on the roster. The Rams may keep him as a younger backup, but there is no guarantee as training camp and the preseason are around the corner.

Ethan Wolf : Unknown

Wolf is the second most recent tight end acquisition by the Rams. He was signed from the Jacksonville Jaguars practice squad in 2019 and is now a street free agent (SFA) with the Rams for 2020. His size will make him a strong competitor for the backup position to Everett or Mundt. He is around the same size as Higbee or Blanton. It remains to be seen if Wolf will see any snaps this season or be put on special teams.

2020 Expectations

The Rams want to be strong on all offensive fronts, but the tight end position is particularly special. Coach McVay has specialized in utilizing his tight ends throughout his career, and the Rams are no stranger to this in recent seasons. As the NFL showed last season, tight ends were major weapons and keys to the successes of many offenses. The Rams will face George Kittle and the San Francisco 49ers twice this season. Kittle hurt the Rams last year in Week 16. In 2020, the Rams may scheme a stronger offensive attack with Higbee and Everett.

Higbee and Everett most likely will be a tandem to be used in 12 personnel or interchangeably. The Rams have enough tight ends with which to work with. The talent level is excellent with some and decent with the others. The Rams most likely won’t keep all six on the roster. There is a chance one or two may be picked up by other teams or outright cut based on performances.

Sources: Pro-football-reference.com/

You can follow Erik Ho on Twitter @EHoinSDLVLA. Be sure to follow Rams Talk on Twitter @TalkRams.

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