LOS ANGELES – The Rams selected Brycen Hopkins during the fourth round of April’s draft. This rookie played as a tight end at Purdue for the past four years. There, he showed impressive skills on the field and he was awarded Big Ten tight end of the year.
Speaking on the draft experience, Hopkins said, “the anxiety is crazy you know, it kind of eats away at you. You don’t know where you’re gonna go, it’s uncertain, but once your name is called it makes up for everything.”
Hopkins proved his prowess as an offensive lineman during the 2019 collegiate season where he had 61 catches and 830 yards with seven touchdowns. This was a significant improvement from his junior season where he only had 34 catches and 583 yards with two touchdowns. Not to mention that Hopkins did not start playing football until high school. Dedication and work ethic are clearly some of Hopkins’ strengths as he pushed himself to be a better player in much less time than some other NFL players.
To add to these strengths, Hopkins has grown up surrounded by professional football. His father, Brad Hopkins, is a former Tennessee Titans lineman who has no doubt given him some level of experience in the NFL universe just by raising him and supporting him throughout his football career.
One of Hopkins’ key assets is that he has the “ability to separate running tight end routes” said Ted Monago, the Rams’ assistant director in charge of college scouting. “He was an athletic guy with some natural savvy and ability…Coach McVay told us to find players who can double up and create separation…It was very natural for him,” Monago said.
Brian Hill, the Rams’ midwest area scout was also impressed with Hopkins during the recruiting process. “He’s what you’re looking for in terms of an F…he had over 800 yards this year, seven touchdowns, really productive,“ Hill explained.
Of course, this rookie is bound to have weaknesses. Hopkins has not been the most versatile lineman during his career. He thrived mainly when Purdue ran a spread scheme that used its offensive linemen to force the defense of the other team to spread out. But, with such specific strengths, it is unclear how easily he will fit into the Rams’ game plans. Coach McVay will have to do what McVay does best – get creative with his plays.
Luckily, Hopkins has a couple of experienced Rams’ TE veterans to learn from. Tyler Higbee joined the Rams in 2016 and Gerald Everett joined the team in 2017. Over the years they have formed a strong TE group that knows how to work efficiently with the team. Their knowledge and team unity are sure to guide Hopkins and welcome him into the fold, leading the Rams to victory.
Another thing that drew Hopkins to the Rams is their tight end coach, Wes Philips. As the son of Wade Philips, who began coaching in the NFL in 1976, and served as the Rams’ defensive coordinator for the past three years, he has a lot of experience.
“What jumps out to me is just how knowledgeable [Wes] is of the game….He’s done a great job just trying to get the material over to me and to actually help me understand it and help me through the process,” Hopkins said. The combination of Phillips, the veteran tight ends, and Hopkin’s work ethic and desire to learn is very promising.
What is unique about the Rams is their strategy and flexibility of their coaches. “The Rams find the strengths of the players and are able to input them into the offense or defense or special teams in a way that makes them successful,” Hopkins said. This strategy benefits players like Hopkins who are really strong in a certain niche of the game. The coaches work around the players’ weaknesses instead of giving up on them, which will likely lead to great success.
The first game on the Rams’ schedule of the regular season is against the Dallas Cowboys on September 13. There’s no doubt that fans are very eager for this game. The COVID-19 pandemic has raised a lot of uncertainty in the world of sports, and that first game will finally bring a sense of normalcy to the fans.
However, there’s more to the story that sets this game up to be an especially exciting one for Hopkins. Ironically, he was also recruited by the Dallas Cowboys before the draft. Hopkins said, “They have..a great staff and a great team over there as well and I think that’ll be a really good game, and I’m excited that that’s the competition I get to start off with.”