The Los Angeles Rams hold one of the NFL's strongest rosters from top to bottom, a key reason why the franchise won its second Super Bowl title.
While general manager Les Snead's approach of constantly trading draft picks for players has been questioned, it's led to the Rams having consistent veteran standouts across the board.
If Los Angeles is to defend its crown, these three players will have to perform at a high level, much like they did last season.
3. WR Cooper Kupp
Kupp's 2021 season can be defined in two words: historically elite. En route to winning NFL Offensive Player of the Year, Kupp became the first receiver since 2005 and just the fourth since 1970 to lead the league in receptions, receiving yards, and receiving touchdowns, securing the famed "Triple Crown."
The Super Bowl MVP received a three-year contract extension worth up to $110 million, making him one of the highest-paid receivers in football. While the Rams are expected to have one of the best receiver rooms in football, Kupp's status as a top-tier wideout makes him an incredibly valuable presence.
Taking his elite production out of the equation, the 29-year-old demands additional coverage from defenses, freeing up the rest of LA's talented pieces, including Allen Robinson II and Van Jefferson. As one of the most difficult players to defend in football, Kupp seems poised for another big season.
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2. DT Aaron Donald
For a while, it seemed uncertain as to whether or not defensive tackle Aaron Donald would be playing football this season. As things played out, he's back, and is now the highest-paid non-quarterback in NFL history, making $95 million guaranteed through 2024.
It's a fitting title for the 31-year-old Pittsburgh alumni, who's been a dominant force inside of the Rams' defensive line since he entered the league in 2014. His list of accolades is never-ending, but features eight Pro Bowl nods, seven first-team All-Pro selections, and three Defensive Player of the Year awards.
And still, it feels like Donald can terrorize quarterbacks for the next several years with no letup in performance. He's the heart and soul of LA's defense, an invaluable presence on and off the field, and if history is any indicator, is well on his way to another All-Pro season.
1. QB Matthew Stafford
Stafford entered the 2021 season without a playoff win and left it as a Super Bowl champion. While the former No. 1 overall pick had his ups-and-downs, including leading the league in interceptions, he performed when he absolutely had to, especially in the divisional round win against Tom Brady's Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
There was a point in Stafford's first season with the Rams that the MVP seemed to be well within reach, but a shaky closing stretch to the regular season spearheaded by eight interceptions in the final four games took him out of serious contention.
Now, Stafford aims to deliver a more consistent campaign as he kicks off his second season in LA with a greater understanding of coach Sean McVay's scheme and the weapons around him.
Quarterbacks have won the last nine MVP awards, and with Stafford and McVay proving they can post big numbers, consistency may just be the key that unlocks the door to the trophy for the Rams' gunslinger.