Los Angeles Rams Draft Grade + Analysis: 2020 NFL Draft Review

Before the NFL issued a statement prohibiting NFL coaches, general managers, and front-office executives from drafting in the same place, the Rams staff had planned on using Sean McVay’s multi-million dollar home in Encino, California. However, general manager Les Snead and other front-office members would have to draft from their own homes, so McVay was left with an insane setup to man by himself. The triple-monitor, dual-laptop setup looked more like it would be used in the NBA’s replay center in Secaucus New Jersey than by just one guy during the draft.

The Rams finished with a 9-7 record last season after going 13-3 and earning a Super Bowl berth the prior season. They were set to open up the 2020 season in the new SoFi Stadium in Inglewood which they will share with the Chargers, but COVID-19 could halt those plans. Either way, the Rams will be looking to bounce back from a disappointing season. Their losses of Brandin Cooks, Dante Fowler Jr., Cory Littleton, Clay Matthews, Eric Weddle, and Nickell Robey-Coleman left them with plenty of holes to fill in the draft.

Round #2, pick #52 – Cam Akers (RB, FSU) B-

With their first-round pick being sent away in their trade for Jalen Ramsey, the Rams were left waiting to pick until the middle of the second round. Todd Gurley, the former offensive player of the year, was cut from the roster to avoid a massive cap hit, leaving the Rams with no proven running backs. Malcolm Brown and Darrell Henderson are the beginning of an interesting committee backfield, but it wasn’t surprising to see the team add another body here. The Rams’ offense is heavily reliant on a high-level rushing attack to open up opportunities for Jared Goff and co. in the deep play-action passing game.

Akers was possibly my favorite running back in this year’s class, and his college stats didn’t do him justice with how awful the Flordia State offensive line and overall play-calling was this past season. Akers has solid size for the position and is the type of runner who’s speed and balance allow him to bounce off would-be tacklers and pick up a ton of yards after contact. He should also be a factor in the passing game, with his running style enabling him to be a force in YAC. Akers could quickly become the lead back in the Rams offense, although the team may end up regretting spending a second-round pick on a running back with the declining value of the position and the high-level talent still on the board.

Pick I would have made: Ezra Cleveland (OT, Boise State)

Round #2, pick #57 – Van Jefferson (WR, Florida) C+

The Rams sent the oft-injured Brandin Cooks to the Texans this offseason and had a need for a receiver to play alongside Cooper Kupp and Robert Woods. When fully healthy, the Rams prefer to play out of a 3-wide set on offense – they had the highest percentage of plays with 11 personnel in 2018. I’m not sure about Jefferson’s value here, as I saw him as more of a 3rd or 4th round guy. He is one of the better route-runners in this class and he has solid ball skills, but he does most of his damage from the slot where Kupp and Woods picked up a lot of run last season. They can’t all line up in the slot unless Sean McVay has some crazy revolutionary offensive plan up his sleeve, so it will be interesting to see how Jefferson slides into the depth chart.

Jefferson doesn’t have elite athletic traits, as his size is fairly average (6’1″, 200 lbs) and he doesn’t profile as having lightning-quick speed. The other issue with Jefferson is he suffered a Jones fracture in his foot and required surgery – this was uncovered at the Combine, leading to him not taking part in drills. The injury isn’t something he can’t overcome, but it’s the type of thing that could lead to recurring problems down the road. Jefferson is also going to turn 24 this summer, so he’s one of the oldest prospects at receiver in this class. There’s a solid chance Jefferson can contribute with his sneaky YAC ability and route-running out of the slot, but I don’t see the upside in taking him in the second round.

Pick I would have made: Logan Wilson (LB, Wyoming)

Round #3, pick #84 – Terrell Lewis (LB, Alabama) B+

With their selection of Lewis in the 3rd round, the Rams continued a disturbing trend of taking players with injury histories. Lewis missed 10 games in his sophomore season with an upper arm injury and went on to tear his ACL in the summer of 2018. If Lewis never got hurt, there’s a chance he would have been discussed right along with Chase Young as the best edge defender in this class. He was a five-star recruit and won the Washington DC Gatorade Player of the Year at St. John’s High School. If he can stay healthy, he could provide awesome value for a team in need of edge-rushing help even after signing Leonard Floyd to a 1-year deal.

Lewis explodes off the line of scrimmage and possesses an incredible combination of size and physicality. Beyond his size and physicality, Lewis flashed elite athleticism at times for Alabama. He showed the versatility to drop back into coverage or defend the run as a middle linebacker. He can match up against receivers out of the backfield or protect a zone area in the middle of the field. Of course, his true value is as an incredibly versatile pass rusher with his blend of power, speed, and athleticism. If he can stay healthy and polish his technique, Lewis could become one of the premier steals in this draft class.

Pick I would have made: Terrell Lewis (LB, Alabama)

Round #3, pick #104 – Terrell Burgess (S, Utah) B

Eric Weddle was a former multi-time All-Pro player, but at age 34 he only provided a one-year fix to the Rams’ holes in their safety rotation. John Johnson III, who played on less than half of the team’s defensive snaps in 2019, and Taylor Rapp, a second-round pick in 2019, profile as the current starters at the two safety spots. Adding another guy to the rotation was important, especially after the Rams went through free agency without signing any safeties. Burgess is a former cornerback who started one season at safety, and his versatility could make him a valuable piece of the Rams defense in 2020.

Burgess could potentially start at free safety as early as this season thanks to the discipline and field vision he showed at that position last year, but he’s not the type of big-hitting, physical threat which will scare away teams from throwing over the middle. He could become a valuable cornerback in nickel situations thanks to his athleticism and quick-twitch reactions, but his lack of speed could prevent him from being an impact in man coverage. At the very least, Burgess should be an immediate impact guy in special teams. It will be interesting to see where the Rams line Burgess up this season, but for a team with holes across the secondary, his versatility should afford him all kinds of opportunities.

Pick I would have made: Amik Robertson (CB, Louisiana Tech)

Round #4, pick #136 – Brycen Hopkins (TE, Purdue) C+

The Rams have two really solid tight ends in Gerald Everett and Tyler Higbee and don’t run a ton of two-tight end sets anyways, so I was surprised to see them spend even a 4th-round pick on the position. Hopkins had issues in college with catch consistency, and his high drop rate isn’t likely to change too much in the NFL. He has an enticing athletic profile and should be a threat to pick up extra yards after the catch. He’s shown flashes as a high-level route runner, but with his drop rate, lack of necessary strength to sustain blocks, and issues dealing with physical man coverage the pros may outweigh the cons. Even if Hopkins fixes his drops issue, I’m not sure how much long-term upside he has due to his other flaws. If the Rams were suddenly going to stray away from drafting at positions of need, they could have found a higher-upside prospect than Hopkins.

Pick I would have made: Tyler Biadasz (C, Wisconsin)

Round #6, pick #199 – Jordan Fuller (S, Ohio State) C

With a clear need for depth at safety, it makes sense that the Rams picked up another one here. Fuller was a team captain for Ohio State each of the past two seasons and earned first-team All-Big Ten honors in 2019. Johnson has shown the ability to line up and cover bigger tight ends and he has leadership qualities that teams covet. I don’t think he’s a particularly high-upside player, though. He lacks the football intelligence, long speed, and range to play as a single-high free safety and he lacks the tackling ability and physicality to play in the box. He could provide solid depth and cover some tight ends in the NFL, but I don’t see him having huge long-term value and he may have been available in the 7th round or as an undrafted free agent.

Pick I would have made: Josh Metellus (S, Michigan)

Round #7, pick #234 – Clay Johnston (LB, Baylor) B-

Johnson has an unfortunate laundry list of past injuries that could explain his drop to the 7th round. He suffered severe injuries from an ATV accident in high school and went on to break his hand, tear ligaments in his foot, and suffer multiple knee injuries throughout his time at Baylor. Johnston racked up tackles at Baylor with his solid combination of natural instincts and physicality. He has just average speed and athleticism, which will limit his ability to ever become a man coverage guy or pursuit tackler. However, Johnston should be able to contribute on special teams right away and his ability to anticipate plays and tackle could make him a solid backup linebacker.

Round #7, pick #248 – Sam Sloman (K, Miami OH) B-

Greg “the leg” Zuerlein left for the Dallas Cowboys in free agency, leaving the Rams with a need at kicker. With three 7th-round picks, they didn’t mind spending one on the guy they wanted. I rarely advocate drafting a kicker, but this late on it’s a fine selection. Sloman has a big leg, albeit not as big as his LA predecessor, and he went 4-5 on field goals of 50+ yards in his senior season. His powerful leg should make him a solid kickoff guy as well, and he never had a kick blocked during his time in college.

Round #7, pick #250 – Tremayne Anchrum (G, Clemson) C+

Anchrum has been a force at right tackle for Clemson over the past four years, earning first-team All-ACC honors as senior and second-team All-ACC honors as a junior. He doesn’t have the height or length to allow him to start at tackle in the NFL, so he will need to kick inside and learn how to play guard. He only has average hand quickness so he may not be powerful enough against some high-level interior defensive linemen in the NFL, but he could be a really strong zone-run scheme blocker as he has lateral quickness. He lacks experience as a guard though and will need to work on a ton of techniques to maintain his place in the NFL. Anchrum faces an uphill battle but he could become a solid rotational guard for a team that needs help in their interior offensive line.

Rams Team Draft Grade: GPA: 2.91, B-/C+ draft

Bottom Line: The Rams took two players with injury concerns and a running back with their first three picks, but they still came out alright. Akers, despite perhaps not being a great value in the second round, could become the team’s starter this season. Lewis has a lot of upside as a pass rusher if he can stay on the field. Burgess could become a starter if he can prove he wasn’t just a one-year flash in the pan. Outside of those three guys, though, I don’t see a ton of future high-impact guys here. Of course, the team didn’t have a first-round pick, but the Rams could have done more with their selections. The Rams went with more of a needs-based approach in this draft, addressing some of their biggest holes but also eschewing value in the process. In a rapidly improving NFC West, I’m not sure if they did enough to compete with the other three teams in their division.

  
What's up, I'm Jacob. I grew up watching Peyton Manning play and stuck with the Broncos after he retired. I'm also probably the only Clippers fan you'll ever meet. I'm from Southern California but I'm a junior at the University of Michigan studying sport management. Beyond my passion for sports I play guitar, grill a mean rib eye, and enjoy gambling on pretty much everything.

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