The LA Rams had one of the more interesting drafts in recent NFL memory. And since half of The Stain avidly supports the franchise as a fan, it’s only right that we try to make some sense of it. I’ve been told that I’m prone to negative overreaction and hyperbole when it comes to evaluating the operations of the teams I support, but I promise to be objective.
Even for the impartial observer, the whirlwind of roster turnover from the Rams’ Super Bowl runner up squad has been a thing of interest. While the offensive acumen of head coach Sean McVay and the boldness of GM Les Snead are beyond dispute, it is fair to wonder if they have a plan. I for one was curious how they would approach this draft, both as a fan and as someone who has difficulty looking away from train wrecks. Perhaps I’m still scarred from the Jeff Fisher era’s brutal ineptness. Who knows?
Summary: Welp, I predicted exactly zero of these picks correctly. Let me be clear, this draft is in no way an abject failure, as so many of their drafts have been in my nearly four decades of fandom. The team added a considerable amount of quality football players, which in itself is a nice accomplishment considering they didn’t have a first rounder. The oddity here is, the team had some pressing needs and one is left to wonder if they addressed any of them. Let’s take a look at the picks.
Cam Akers, RB, Florida State – Round 2, 52 Overall: In terms of player quality, it’s not really debatable. Akers is better than the 52nd player in this draft. But, in the new analytics-driven NFL, there’s a market inefficiency at running back.
What I like about the pick: Akers is really a terrific player. A true three-down back, he put up remarkable numbers behind a flimsy offensive line in college. The tape indicates he’s willing and able in pass protection, and he’s a load to bring down. He’ll play significant snaps immediately.
What I don’t like about it: They didn’t need him. Last season they spent a pick on Darrel Henderson, whose analytics in a small sample size showed reasons for optimism. Malcom Brown has shown himself to be a capable deputy to the since departed Todd Gurley for several seasons now. There were quality running backs on the board as late as the 7th round, Arizona State’s Eno Benjamin for example.
Grade: B-. It’s certainly not a terrible choice. I was initially a bit more sour on Akers’ selection here but it’s not fair to be too harsh in grading a pick that figures to be productive for a long time, even if he doesn’t fill a direct need.
Van Jefferson, WR, Florida – Round 2, 57 Overall: Again, not a bad player here. Just… why though? The value is here. But not really the need.
What I like about the pick: Jefferson is considered an elite route runner – which is probably the most important skill a receiver can have. Think Cooper Kupp. In the absence of any dominating physical trait, an elite route runner can still put up borderline dominant numbers and be a terror on opposing secondaries.
What I don’t like about it: If running back wasn’t a need, then wide receiver definitely wasn’t. Even after shipping Brandin Cooks to the Texans, the team still has Robert Woods, Kupp, the underrated Josh Reynolds, and tight end Tyler Higbee as weapons for Jared Goff. And if wide receiver WAS in fact the pressing need, wouldn’t waiting around and taking a deep threat like Devin Duvernay rather than a Kupp facsimile have made more sense?
Grade: C. There’s a lot to like about Jefferson as a player. I just wonder how much he’ll see the field his rookie year. If the team doesn’t lock up Kupp long term, this grade may get a bump. If they do, and he’s not getting significant snaps by 2021, well then it may take a hit. Not a terrible pick here. But not a very good one either.
Terrell Lewis, OLB, Alabama – Round 3, 84 Overall: There’s no arguing it, Lewis is a monster… when he’s on the field. Had he not missed two seasons with injuries, his name would be mentioned alongside Chase Young’s.
What I like about the pick: Lewis is a first round talent who fell to the third. Plus, pass rushers are in short supply and high demand. I can’t imagine the front office was expecting Lewis to be here so you have to give them immense credit for pouncing.
What I don’t like about it: Not a damn thing. Even with the considerable injury risk, Lewis is a tremendous get here. If I had to quibble and choose SOMETHING negative, I would say it makes the already idiotic signing of A’Shawn Robinson that much more stupid. Oh well.
Grade: A+. Even if Lewis gets hurt over and over and never plays meaningful downs for the team, you make this pick 100 out of 100 times. Well done.
Terrell Burgess, S, Utah – Round 3, 104 Overall: Burgess was a key member of a Utah defense that was one of the best in college football last season. He’s a bit small for safety and a bit slow for corner, so it remains to be seen where he fits.
What I like about the pick: At the risk of being repetitive, he was a quality player on an exceptional unit. If the goal is to add good players irrespective of position, you can’t do much better than Burgess.
What I don’t like about it: Where is he going to play? John Johnson and Taylor Rapp are the safeties. He can’t play outside. You could slot him in at the nickle, but the team is high on David Long already. Plus, another round is gone and with it an opportunity to address the squad’s biggest weakness – offensive line.
Grade: C+. I was going to be a bit harsher here, and then I remembered how Green Bay’s draft was going at this point. Burgess is a fine player. They can figure out what to do with him later.
Brycen Hopkins, TE, Purdue – Round 4, 136 Overall: Purdue is a physical handful without any real indicator that he can catch well enough to be a primary target, run routes well enough to get open, or block well enough to open running lanes.
What I like about the pick: Very little. With Hopkins’ physical traits, you can always hope to catch lightning in a bottle. And if that happens, I will happily admit I was wrong here.
What I don’t like about the pick: The team has Tyler Higbee, Gerald Everett and Johnny Mundt already. It’s not inconceivable that Hopkins doesn’t even make the team, and that’s very poor for a fourth round pick.
Grade: D-. Thaddeus Moss went undrafted, and is a better player. *shrugs*
Jordan Fuller, S, Ohio State – Round 6, 199 Overall: It’s hard to quibble with nabbing a three year starter from an elite program at this stage in the draft. Fuller is better against the run, according to the experts, than he is against the pass.
What I like about the pick: See Burgess, Terrell. Good player. Good unit. Keep in mind, nearly 200 players have gone at this point and if you’re getting an NFL-ready player here, you’re ahead of the curve.
What I don’t like about it: There’s no path to playing time for Fuller. He should make the team if he does well enough on special teams in the preseason, but if he doesn’t kill it there, and there aren’t any injuries, how does he work his way onto the team?
Grade: B-. Judging purely on the quality of player, he’d get a higher grade. It’s hard to ignore the truth at this point though, that the team had needs at linebacker, offensive line, and backup quarterback and still haven’t addressed them.
Clay Johnston, LB, Baylor – Round 7, 234 Overall: A popular and emotional leader for the Baylor defense, Johnston was injured for half of 2019.
What I like about the pick: Los Angeles Lakers fans from the 90s will get this reference. There’s some Mark Madsen to Johnston. And if you get beyond the novelty of it, there’s enough quality to his game to justify being employed. If he’s healthy, he’ll make the team, which in itself makes this a good pick at this point.
What I don’t like about the pick: Yo! Where’s my offensive linemen at!?
Grade: B+. There’s a path to playing time for him almost immediately, which speaks both to the quality of this pick as well as the absence of any depth to the team’s linebacking corp.
Sam Sloman, K, Miami of Ohio – Round 7, 248 Overall: A place kicker… for the love of God.
What I like about the pick: Very little. Sloman’s kick percentage in his college career is pretty good, culminating with an impressive 87% last season. But at MoH, how many real pressure kicks did he take?
What I don’t like about it: You’ve already signed quality CFL veteran Lirim Hajrullahu. There’s ALWAYS quality veterans like Kai Forbath looking for work. Reclamation projects like Brett Maher. Veterans who for some reason seem to start every season unemployed before getting picked up by a contender… Nick Folk comes to mind. Why? Why do this?
Grade: F+. It’s a stupid pick. But at least if they took a kicker, they took one who has a chance to be decent.
Tremayne Anchrum, OL, Clemson – Round 7, 250 Overall: Finally. A lineman. Anchrum was named All-ACC last season as a senior.
What I like about the pick: Did I mention he’s a lineman? He’s also a pretty good one from a pretty good team. The Rams needed Guard help badly, and finally got it.
What I don’t like about it: Nothing. Anchrum won’t be Orlando Pace, but he was also chosen 249 picks later.
Grade: A+. Anchrum should play significant snaps as a rookie, and despite being a big small for an NFL guard, he can eat a few sandwiches and play well. I’d have given this pick an A even if they took him two rounds earlier.
Agree with me? Let me know on Twitter at @thestainsports. Disagree? Think I’m a moron? Let @shaunkernahan know. Thanks for reading.