The Rams are coming off a 10-6 season where they beat the Seahawks in the wild card round and lost to the Packers in the Divisional round. 2020 was a season that saw Jared Goff fall out of favor with Head Coach Sean McVay. Although Goff stepped in and lead the Rams to the wild card win over Seattle, it was clear McVay was ready to move on from him. They ended up with the 25th pick in the NFL draft, which went to the Jaguars because of the Jalen Ramsey trade. The Rams finished the season with 11th best offense, averaging 377 yards per game. They came in ranked 13th in the passing game averaging 250.9 yards per game and ranked 10th in the run game with 126.1 yards per game. The Rams did struggle a bit with finishing their drives only averaging 23.3 points per game. This was only good enough to be ranked 23rd. The Rams finished the season with the best defense in the league. They were only giving up 281.94 yards per game and 12.69 points per game. They had the best passing defense and the 3rd best rush defense in the league. The Rams decided that last year was not good enough as they are pushing to win a championship, so they made some big changes to try and improve and get them over the hump.
Sean McVay is coming into his fifth season as the Rams head coach. Les Snead is going into his eighth season as the general manager for the Rams. Snead has never shied away from making a big move via trade and has done a great job drafting over his tenure. After the loss of Brandon Staley to the head coaching job of the Chargers in the off-season, the Rams brought in Raheem Morris as their defensive coordinator. Morris has some big shoes to fill after the Rams finished with the first overall defense last season. Kevin O’Connell is entering his second season as the offensive coordinator. With the major addition of Matt Stafford, look for the offense under O’Connell to take a step forward and improve on their scoring efficiency.
Cap Space: $4.24 million (24th in the NFL)
Key Free Agent/Off-season Losses: Jared Goff (QB), Michael Brockers (DT), John Johnson (SS), Samson Ebukam (OLB), Troy Hill (CB), Morgan Fox (DE), Gerald Everett (TE), Malcolm Brown (RB), Josh Reynolds (WR), Austin Blythe (G)
Key Free Agent/Off-season Additions: Matt Stafford (QB), DeSean Jackson (WR), Kareem Orr (CB), Sony Michel (RB)
With the Rams number one defense returning largely intact from last season, Snead and McVay decided it was time to “revamp” their offense to get them over the hump. Snead made two very big moves this off-season in the acquisition of Matt Stafford and Sony Michel. Stafford will flourish in this offense. I look for him to have a huge year this year. This is hands down the most talent he has ever had on a team from top to bottom. Although Michel did not have that great of a season last year with the Patriots, I really like his addition as well. Henderson cannot handle the workload on his own, and Michel is a very good complimentary back. You will see Michel look a lot more like he did in college behind this very good Ram’s offensive line. The real question with the Rams this season is going to be how much the losses of Brockers, Johnson, Ebukam, and Hill are going to affect their defense?
Draft (9 picks)
Round 2 Pick 57: Tutu Atwell (WR, Louisville)
McVay made it very clear in the off-season that the Rams were missing a WR who could take the top off from a defense. They addressed that need immediately with their first pick in the draft. Atwell is an extremely small WR, coming in at only 5’8” and 155 pounds. He ran a 4.35 40-yard dash. McVay compared him to DeSean Jackson, who they also signed in free agency. Look for him to come in and challenge for the starting slot receiver roll. He is very good after the catch and could be used on punt returns as well. The big concern with him is his small catching radius and his durability due to his size. I understand what Snead was doing here but this was a reach. There was better value here at other positions of need like offensive line and corner. He will not be a guy with a high volume of receptions, but he has the potential for a home run every time he touches the ball!
Round 3 Pick 103: Ernest Jones (LB, South Carolina)
Jones is coming out of college as the leading tackler the last two seasons for the Gamecocks. He is a very physical linebacker with a high motor and extremely physical. The Rams were in desperate need of linebacker depth going into this off-season due the health struggles of the current linebacking core. Look for Jones to come in and compete right away for a starting spot in the middle of that defense. Look for him to solidify his leadership on this defense over the next few years. He needs to improve on his coverage but will be great against the run. This is the best pick that the Rams made in this draft and filled a major need.
Round 4 Pick 117: Bobby Brown III (DT, Texas A&M)
Brown is a big, physical, and athletic defensive tackle. The knock on Brown is he is extremely raw. He is one of the youngest players in this draft. Brown is coming into the best possible situation in the NFL for a young raw defensive lineman, he will be under Eric Henderson. The Rams are known for very good defensive lines. He will come in as a developmental DT with a ton of upside. Look for him to get some playing time but it will more than likely be limited barring a big injury. He has the potential to be a very good DT for years to come if he can develop.
Round 4 Pick 130: Robert Rochell (CB, Central Arkansas)
Rochell is a good size corner with good speed. He comes in at 6-foot and 193 pounds and ran his 40-yard dash in 4.39 seconds. He is a good tackler and plays the ball very well. He had five interceptions last season. Look for him to come in an compete for playing time against David Long. Even if he does not take the starting role, he will get his fair share of playing time this season. The big knock on him is inconsistent footwork and technique. Under the guidance of Ramsey and Williams, that could be addressed as he gets more comfortable. This pick also addressed a need for cornerback depth after the loss of Troy Hill to Cleveland.
Round 4 Pick 141: Jacob Harris (TE, UCF)
Harris is coming in as a special teams guy and a project tight end. The Rams look for him to step in immediately and make an impact on special teams. Harris was their top ranked special teams guy. Harris was a wide receiver in college, but he is 6’5” and 211 pounds so he is expected to transition to tight end this year. He has the rare combination of size and athleticism. With him being able to stick with an NFL roster due to his special teams contributions he will have the time to grow and improve as a tight end.
Round 5 Pick 174: Earnest Brown IV (DL, Northwestern)
This is another pick by the Rams to improve their defensive line depth. He is projected to be a backup defensive end in a four-man front. He fits the size mold that the new defensive coordinator Raheem Morris wants. Brown is 6’4” and 270 pounds. Brown is very good at setting a physical edge and staying disciplined with his assignments against the run. He lacks up-field speed and is not much of a pass rusher. Look for Henderson to get the most out of Brown and push him to improve his pass rush.
Round 7 Pick 233: Jake Funk (RB, Maryland)
This is another special teams pick. Funk is known for his special teams contributions. He also holds the tools to potentially develop into a running back who can contribute in the run and passing game. He had a good pro day with a 4.43 40-yard dash, a 38-inch vertical, and he did 22 reps of 225 pounds. Do not expect Funk to get much if any carries this year unless the running back room suffers an injury but look for him to come in and contribute right away on special teams.
Round 7 Pick 249: Ben Skowronek (WR, Notre Dame)
The common theme for the Rams on day three of the draft was special teams. Skowronek is another player who fits that mold. He comes in at 6’2” and 220 pounds. He is not overly fast, running a 4.65 40-yard dash. He is a good pass catcher but struggles to separate from coverage. He is coming into an already crowded receiver room. He projects to be a backup receiver or potentially tight end but will come in and challenge for a spot on special teams immediately.
Round 7 Pick 252: Chris Garrett (OLB, Concordia-St. Paul)
Garrett is an interesting pick by the Rams. He was a pass-rush specialist in college and set the D-II record for career forced fumbles with 15. He was drafted to be another special teams guy. The intriguing thing about Garrett is that he has the potential to develop into a pass-rush specialist. He comes in at 6’4” and 220 pounds. He will be competing with Okoronkwo and Lewis for playing time opposite of Leonard Floyd. This fills a need of adding outside linebacker depth, special teams depth, and gives them a guy that has a knack for finding the football.
Draft Grade: C+
Notes & Predictions:
The Rams are coming off a good season without a great quarterback, where they won their wild card round game and lost to the Packers in the Divisional round. McVay and Snead have gone out and improved their team through trades by swapping Matt Stafford for Jared Goff and adding Sony Michel. They will be better just because of these two moves. I could not give them a better draft grade because they missed an opportunity to draft an offensive lineman and should have taken a corner sooner. This draft clearly addressed the need of improving the special teams however, with their last three picks specifically being made to bolster those groups. The Rams improved a lot on offense and their defense is already very good. Look for the Rams to win the NFC West and make it to the Super Bowl this year.
Season Record: 12-5, 1st in the NFC West, Make the Superbowl