For the last four years, the Rams had Gerald Everett as their No. 2 tight end behind Tyler Higbee. He never really met the expectations as a former second-round pick, but he was a legitimate receiving threat and a decent blocker, giving Sean McVay options at the position with two reliable tight ends.
Everett is now with the Seahawks and his replacement, Johnny Mundt, suffered a torn ACL on Sunday. Mundt is now out for the season, leaving a big void behind Higbee. The Rams do have two other tight ends on the active roster and one on the practice squad, but none of them have caught a single regular-season pass in the NFL.
Jacob Harris, Brycen Hopkins and Kendall Blanton are all candidates to replace Mundt but combined, they’ve played a total of eight offensive snaps in their career – and six of those were played by Harris on Sunday.
So who will the Rams turn to as a replacement for Mundt? McVay said Monday that the team is “working through that right now,” and that there are “a couple of guys that are candidates on the practice squad or maybe even on the active roster already.” They could look at the free-agent market for help, too, but for now, it seems like they’ll stick to their in-house options.
Logically, Harris would seem to be the next man up at tight end. He’s been active for all six games, is No. 3 on the depth chart and offers an intriguing skill set as a pass catcher. However, he’s not much of a blocker and is still a very raw player.
He played wide receiver in college and didn’t do much blocking, an area of his game that he’s been working on with the Rams. Mundt was primarily a blocker when he was on the field, complementing the skill set of Higbee.
The Rams shouldn’t expect Harris to immediately come in and become an inline blocker along the offensive line because that’s simply not his game. He’s a receiver who can split out wide, line up in the slot and make plays down the field. He should still get more opportunities now, but he shouldn’t be expected to completely replace Mundt,
Hopkins has been a disappointment as a pro. He was a fourth-round pick last year but was active for just five games and only played two offensive snaps. He was a complete non-factor, though that was to be expected with Higbee and Everett atop the depth chart.
This season, he’s still been unable to contribute. He hasn’t been active for a single game and was quickly supplanted by the rookie Harris during the offseason, failing to do much of anything in the preseason, either.
Despite his inactivity, Hopkins could still get a chance to play in Mundt’s place. He’s bulked up and is a better blocker than Harris, making him a more natural TE2 when the Rams need a blocker up front. Hopkins still has a long way to go before he should be considered a key contributor, but perhaps getting him some playing time now will accelerate his development.
Blanton is on the practice squad, so he would need to be promoted to the active roster in order to play in games. He’s been with the Rams since joining as an undrafted free agent in 2019, so the coaching staff is familiar with his abilities.
Like Harris, he’s a good receiver and offers upside in the passing game, but he needs to improve as a blocker. This preseason, he earned the Rams’ third-highest grade on offense from Pro Football Focus. He’s a big target, too, standing 6-foot-6 and 265 pounds.
It’s unlikely the Rams promote Blanton and put him ahead of both Harris and Hopkins, but stranger things have happened; Dont’e Deayon got more snaps than David Long Jr. and Terrell Burgess combined in Week 6 after being called up from the practice squad.
Trey Burton: He played 13 games for the Colts last season and caught 28 passes for 250 yards with three touchdowns. He has not been the same player from 2018 when he had 569 yards with the Bears, but Burton could still find a way to contribute as a No. 2 tight end.
Tyler Eifert: Eifert used to be a prolific, big-body receiver for the Bengals, but injuries have more or less derailed his career. If healthy, he still offers upside and could be an option for the Rams.
Temarrick Hemingway: Hemingway is a familiar face for the Rams, spending a couple of years on their practice squad. He was released by Washington this August and remains available.
Richard Rodgers: Rodgers caught 24 passes for 345 yards with the Eagles last season after a few solid years with the Packers. He played just eight games from 2018-2019 but it was encouraging to see him bounce back with a productive year in 2020.