LA Rams add speed with diminutive Louisville WR Tutu Atwell

LOS ANGELES — The Los Angeles Rams selected Louisville receiver Tutu Atwell with their first pick in the draft, supplementing their group of pass-catchers for Matthew Stafford with even more speed.

The Rams used the 57th overall pick on the 5-foot-9 Atwell on Friday night in a mild surprise for a team that lost four defensive starters to free agency and a trade in the offseason.

The Rams also signed speedy veteran receiver DeSean Jackson in the offseason while losing four-year veteran Josh Reynolds in free agency. Los Angeles chose a receiver with the 57th overall pick for the second consecutive season after drafting Florida’s Van Jefferson in the same spot.

Atwell’s greatest asset is his pure speed, and Rams coach Sean McVay has spoken frequently about his desire to use more field-stretching offensive sets that can exploit his receivers’ quickness. While Jefferson and starters Robert Woods and Cooper Kupp are all considered technically skilled possession receivers, Jackson and Atwell can provide the pure speed McVay coveted.

Atwell is a Miami native who earned first-team all-ACC honors last season while leading the conference with 1,276 yards receiving and 12 TDs on 70 catches. He has a three-year history of game-breaking plays and long TDs, two abilities clearly coveted by McVay.

Los Angeles is counting on replenishing its depleted depth with this pick and two third-round selections after using its highest pick to secure proven NFL talent.

The Rams didn’t make a first-round selection Thursday for the fifth consecutive season, and they don’t have a first-round pick in the next two drafts, either. They traded what became the 25th overall pick in late 2019 to Jacksonville in the deal for All-Pro cornerback Jalen Ramsey.

The Rams entered the draft with obvious needs in the defensive secondary, on the offensive line and in their group of linebackers.

Los Angeles has made three playoff appearances in four years under McVay, including last season. Much of the top-level talent that led the Rams to 11 victories and the divisional round last season is still under contract, but they also lost several key starters including safety John Johnson, defensive lineman Michael Brockers and center Austin Blythe.

The Rams’ biggest offseason acquisition is Stafford, who takes over for Jared Goff this fall.

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