For a Los Angeles Rams organization that has made a habit of stealing headlines through blockbuster acquisitions of well-known veterans, the NFL Draft can seem a bit anti-climatic. Even more so with the Rams and general manager Les Snead giving up their top selections in the draft to pull off those trades over the years.
Yet, for every Matthew Stafford and Jalen Ramsey the organization has netted in the trade market, LA has made a habit of continually finding value in the middle-rounds, unearthing team mainstays from Cooper Kupp to John Johnson III on the second day of the proceedings.
With the franchise carrying a roster as top-heavy as any in the NFL, Snead’s ability to continuously identify and develop talent may very well be the difference in the Rams’ quest to bring home the first Lombardi Trophy to Souther California. That the Rams are currently projected to go seven years without the benefit of a first-round pick–no, seriously–that skill will be even more critical.
To see if Los Angeles’ vaunted “Draft House” was put to good use, let’s take a look at every selection the Rams made at this year’s rookie selection.
1.Round two, Pick 57: WR Tutu Atwell
One of the most difficult lines general managers must walk is balancing a team’s positional needs with the available talent left on the board. With offensive tackle Andrew Whitworth already 40 years old–and in the process of rehabbing a torn MCL in his left knee–and center Austin Blythe having departed to Kansas City, the Rams offensive line was the most glaring area of need entering last Friday’s second round. While the unit still boasts enough talent to remain competitive against the bruising defensive lines that populate the NFC West, its lack of depth beyond the starting five is a potential trouble spot heading into the 2021 season.
— NFL on ESPN (@ESPNNFL) May 1, 2021
Snead and the Rams’ decision then, to forgo targeting someone like center Creed Humphrey out of the University of Oklahoma–who the Chiefs would select six picks later–was a surprising decision on its own. Coupled with LA instead choosing the 5’9, 155lb wide receiver Tutu Atwell, despite an abundance of talented skill players already on the roster, and the pick was an absolute shocker.
Unexpectedness aside, it’s difficult to argue that the Rams received adequate value with their first pick in this year’s draft. Though the wideout has explosive speed and could help the offense stretch the field, his more diminutive stature means it is unlikely he will ever become the every-down receiver that would have justified Los Angeles reaching with the pick. Selecting talent over need is a defensible and often times sensible strategy. Unfortunately for the Rams, they failed to fill a need or get standout talent.
2.Round Three, Pick 103: LB Ernest Jones
Where Atwell is unlikely to see significant playing time in his rookie campaign, linebacker Ernest Jones may be given the keys to LA’s defense in short order. While Jones lacks the type of athleticism that otherwise would have propelled him towards the front of the draft, the linebacker’s tackling ability means that he retains a high floor, whatever his shortcomings elsewhere. Add into the mix the fact that Jones can also operate with the Special Teams unit, and the Rams selected another versatile option that McVay and Snead love to populate the roster with.
3.Round Four, Pick 117: DT Bobby Brown III
As a nose tackle, Brown led Texas A&M in sacks last season, a rarity in a game where such position players rarely get to the quarterback. With his hulking 6’4, 324 lb frame, Brown displays surprising quickness and an ability to beat offensive lineman to the punch, making even his average pass-rush grade from Pro Football Focus impressive considering the position he was working from.
The concern, however, is that LA could choose to move Brown to defensive end on those downs in which Aaron Donald sits. While the rookie should be an adequate option from the position in relief, Brown’s aforementioned quickness at nose tackle would translate to sub-par speed at DE. There’s no denying Brown has the talent to succeed in the NFL, but the manner in which the Rams employ him will be just as crucial to his success.
4.Round Four, Pick 130: CB Robert Rochell
The adage that cornerbacks are wide receivers that can’t catch doesn’t ring true when it comes to Robert Rochell. A senior out of Central Arkansas, Rochell collected 10 interceptions during his time with the Bears and is widely considered to be one of the most gifted athletes during this year’s draft. While he can at times rely on his athleticism to be aggressive to the point of recklessness–often getting out of position and getting beat savvier playmakers–Rochell displays all the tools necessary to become a staple of any secondary.
5.Round Four, Pick 141: TE Jacob Harris
The good news: Harris is an athletic freak whose speed and catching ability led him to averaging an insane 20-yards per catch last season at the University of Central Florida.
The bad news: He’s only played two years of football after leaving soccer behind, and it’s not clear whatsoever if he has the polish to succeed against NFL defenses that he can’t burn as easily down the field.
You get the feeling this pick is either going to be a resounding success or a complete and total failure. Then again, the later rounds are for taking chances.
Grade: B+ (We may be grading with our heart here)
6. Round 5, Pick 174: DE Earnest Brown IV
Projected to slot into the Rams rotational depth along the defensive line, Brown is an “instinctive football player” that the LA front office values for his ability to operate in the pass rush. The issue is that the senior out of Northwestern lacks athleticism and only started nine games during his tenure in the NCAA, indicating that his ceiling might not rise beyond a niche role on passing downs.
7. Round 7, Pick 233: RB Jake Funk
A low-risk, high-reward runner, Funk showed explosiveness out of the box during his time at Maryland and could turn into a real weapon for the Special Teams unit. Unfortunately, he also has real knee issues that could torpedo his career before it even begins. At the very least, he immediately has one of the best names in the NFL, which has to count for something.
8. Round 7, Pick 249: WR Ben Skowronek
There are two ways to look at this pick. On the one hand, you could be perplexed that, once again, the Rams selected another pass-catcher despite the abundance of them on the roster, or you could choose to value Skowronek’s size as an asset that LA doesn’t currently boast among its receiver’s corp. “Different,” the Rams might say, but still mostly the same.
9. Round 7, Pick 252: LB Chris Garrett
Garrett put up video game numbers over his four years at Concordia-St. Paul, a Division II school. The obvious question is whether or not that will translate to a roster spot at the NFL level. However, speed and athleticism tend to carry over no matter what the level, and Garrett has both in spades.