Are the Rams trying to play chess with NFL Draft pick Tutu Atwell?

Louisville Cardinals wide receiver Tutu Atwell (1) runs against the Boston College Eagles. Mandatory Credit: Winslow Townson-USA TODAY Sports
Louisville Cardinals wide receiver Tutu Atwell (1) runs against the Boston College Eagles. Mandatory Credit: Winslow Townson-USA TODAY Sports /

The Rams made an interesting decision with their first draft choice in 2021. Are they playing chess by taking Tutu Atwell in the NFL Draft?

The Los Angeles Rams made one of the more head-scratching picks in the second round of the NFL Draft. They took Chatarius Atwell also known as Tutu, who is a 5’9”, 155-pound wide receiver. He looks like a got lost on his way to high school out on the field size-wise, but talent-wise he can be very explosive. Was this pick the Rams playing chess while everyone else is playing checkers?

This nothing new for the Rams after getting a similar player, however much earlier a few years ago in Tayvon Austin. But, with all the concern surrounding DeVonta Smith and his weight, taking a guy who is not only shorter but about 20 pounds lighter in the second round raised some eyebrows. They just swung a big trade for Matthew Stafford at quarterback this year and gave up some solid draft capital to get him.

Going after a wide receiver early was not a surprise. Getting one who has little shot of ever playing anything outside the slot or in gadget formations is.

Tutu is like lightning in a bottle as his 2019 season showed. He snagged 69 catches for 1,272 yards and 11 touchdowns. He was also used out of the backfield rushing the ball, and on punt returns. However, he has only played over 11 games once in his career as he played in 10 games his first year and six games in 2020. Only in his 2019 season did he play 13 games, and he exploded during that 2019 season.

Last year was sort of a reality check for him as he had his lowest per catch average of his career, but still managed over 600 yards and hauled in seven touchdowns.

This might be the most versatile wide receiver in the draft next to Jaylen Waddle, but Waddle is a much different animal than Atwell. Tutu will also be an interesting fit on a team that does not have a real need in the slot or at running back. With a quarterback who now is about as fast as a turtle, any option stuff is out of the window for the most part. So where this highly drafted player fits will be quite interesting.

He is projected as a slot, third-down backfield motion from running back, returner, and fourth receiver at the next level.

What could we expect from Tutu Atwell?

We should expect the Rams to try and get him the ball in space and let his amazing speed and elusiveness do the rest of the work. How they will do that is not known to just about anyone, but they do have maybe the best offensive guru at head coach in the league. So if anyone could figure it out it would be him. This could be a situation where TuTu is the main or only target on 10-20 scripted type plays and the whole plan is just to use his abilities other than that we won’t see much of him.

The bigger question is how will teams try and defend him?

If he is only on the field for 25 snaps a game and continues to line up at different positions how do you get the match-up you want? He could end up being the best decoy in the game, or the one player that every team has to game plan for who is on the field about as much as a backup tight end. It is worth noting though that the wide receiver corps of the Rams have been very explosive and very fast with Robert Woods, Cooper Kupp, Van Jefferson, Tutu Atwell, and DeSean Jackson.

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Their wide receiving corps is starting to take on the same shape as the Kansas City Cheifs pass catchers, if they come out in a five-wide-out set there is not a defense in the league who could keep up. Speed kills and clearly Sean McVay knows that.