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Tutu Atwell
NFL

Can Tutu Atwell Shed ‘Draft Bust’ Label?

  • Justin Melo
  • December 14, 2022
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Los Angeles Rams sophomore wide receiver Tutu Atwell is beginning to play a larger role within their offense. Atwell put forth a solid five-catch, 50-yard performance in Thursday’s victory over the Las Vegas Raiders. Atwell may still prove to be a versatile piece for the Rams moving forward. 

Behind-the-scenes reports have recently indicated that Rams head coach Sean McVay has been pleased with Atwell’s development. It’s easy to understand why. Atwell’s recent string of performances has showcased an NFL-level receiver. The former Louisville standout has seen 14 targets over the Rams’ previous two contests. He’s being utilized as both a gadget-like weapon and a traditional receiver. Atwell ran 63% of his routes from the slot in Los Angeles’ Week 14 victory over the Raiders. Atwell has played 67 total snaps on the boundary and 59 snaps in the slot.

Atwell has 98 receiving yards over his previous two showings. He’s hauled in 7-of-14 targets across that time frame. The second-year wideout is also being used as a backfield weapon via six rushing attempts and is averaging nearly 4.0 yards per carry.

The No. 57 overall selection in the 2021 NFL Draft, now’s the time for Atwell to prove his future still resides in Los Angeles. Superstar wide receiver Cooper Kupp is on IR after undergoing surgery on an injured ankle. The Rams may shut Kupp down for the remainder of the campaign. No. 2 receiver Allen Robinson II also suffered a season-ending foot injury. Atwell is taking up a three-receiver-sets role alongside Van Jefferson and Ben Skowronek.

New Rams starting quarterback Baker Mayfield showed a willingness to pepper Atwell with targets. Mayfield’s presence raises the ceiling for Atwell down the stretch of the 2022 season. Mayfield and Atwell immediately showcased chemistry alongside one another. They’re a tandem worth monitoring.

A tiny but explosive threat, Atwell is averaging 21.5 yards per reception. Atwell won’t break many tackles, but he’s been elusive enough to average 4.7 yards after the catch per reception, per Pro Football Focus. As expected, McVay is utilizing Atwell via the explosive areas of the field. Of Atwell’s 237 total receiving yards, 214 of them have been secured via the intermediate-to-deep areas, per PFF. Atwell is making game-changing plays when afforded opportunities.

The 4-9 Rams have little to play for and have essentially been eliminated from postseason contention. McVay and general manager Les Snead should use their final four contests to evaluate the young talent on their roster. It means Atwell should continue capturing a starring role.

The Rams find themselves in a difficult position against the salary cap. Atwell may provide them with a lifeline at the receiver position at least. Atwell is signed through the 2024 campaign via his four-year rookie deal. Atwell will earn a base salary of $1.1 million in 2023, per Spotrac. That’s the type of low-cost talent the Rams need to usher them through a difficult rebuilding period.

Atwell is unlikely to ever live up to his draft billing, but his recent performances have revealed his path to developing into a full-time contributor. Tutu Atwell’s NFL career is officially back on track.

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Justin Melo