The start of the 2021 NFL Draft is only a few days away (April 29 through May 1), and even though the Los Angeles Rams won’t be picking in the first round this year, having traded away their 2020 and 2021 first-round picks for All-Pro cornerback Jalen Ramsey back in 2019, they will be active on day 2 with three picks between the second and third rounds (57, 88, 103).
The Rams have some obvious holes they still need to fill for the upcoming 2021 season, specifically at center in addition to a lack of depth at cornerback. And playing in a division against Kyle Shanahan’s tier-based and Kliff Kingsbury’s spread offenses in San Francisco and Arizona isn’t doing them any favors. Having to match up against receivers such as DeAndre Hopkins and Deebo Samuel not to mention DK Metcalf and Tyler Lockett twice a year, either you have enough good quality cornerbacks to compete in the division or your roster hole gets exposed and exploited quickly and often.
Rams General Manager Les Snead has been one of the best in the league at drafting players to fill future roster holes created through free agency losses a year or two early. With that in mind, a look at the Rams potential free agents in 2022 include:
|Center||Brian Allen||Kicker||Matt Gay|
|Center||Coleman Shelton||Offensive Tackle||Joseph Noteboom|
|Cornerback||Darious Williams||Outside Linebacker||Travin Howard|
|Defensive End||Justin Lawler||Outside Linebacker||Ogbonnia Okoronkwo|
|Defensive Tackle||Sebastian Joseph||Quarterback||John Wolford|
|Guard||Chandler Brewer||Safety||JuJu Hughes|
|Guard||Austin Corbett||Safety||J.R. Reed|
|Inside Linebacker||Micah Kaiser||Tight End||Johnny Mundt|
|Inside Linebacker||Troy Reeder||Wide Receiver||DeSean Jackson|
|Inside Linebacker||Kenny Young||Wide Receiver||Nsimba Webster|
Between the immediate 2021 needs at center and cornerback, and 2022 potential free-agent losses, attentive fans may recognize a bigger “needs” picture coming into focus that would suggest the Rams likely to address some or all of the following positions in this draft and/or immediately after via the post-draft wave of free agency:
Astute fans may have already picked up on the fact that Snead has a growing track record for picking players that showed well at the Senior Bowl having recently drafted and/or secured the following Senior Bowl players over the last 3-years:
|2020||Defensive Back||Terrell Burgess||Utah|
|2020||Tight End||Brycen Hopkins||Purdue|
|2020||Outside Linebacker||Terrell Lewis||Alabama|
|2020||Offensive Line||Tremayne Anchrum||Clemson|
|2020||Wide Receiver||Van Jefferson||Florida|
|2019||Defensive Tackle||Greg Gaines||Washington|
|2018||Defensive End||Obonnia Okoronkwo||Oklahoma|
|2018||Inside Linebacker||Micah Kaiser||Virginia|
|2018||Offensive Tackle||Joseph Noteboom||TCU|
*Austin Corbett wasn’t drafted by the Rams but he originally caught their eye at the 2018 Senior Bowl and was secured via trade in 2019
I’m not saying Snead limits himself by looking to only draft players who played in the Senior Bowl, but what I am saying is… recently, he’s been using the Senior Bowl as his own private “fishing hole” using several mid-to-late round picks to fill roster depth which has worked out well for the Rams as many of those players have been productive with some even developing into front line starters for the team.
With Snead’s private secret now out in the open, let’s take a closer look at who played in this year’s Senior Bowl and matches up with the Rams’ needs for this year and next. Listed below are several players at positions of need who could potentially still be available when the Rams are on the clock. Knowing about Snead’s sweet tooth for Senior Bowl players, it shouldn’t come as a surprise to hear some of the names listed below called out throughout the team’s draft.
The rounds (Rd) column is the projected round each player is expected to be taken while the numbers in the PFN (Pro Football Network) and TDN (The Draft Network) columns represent where each draft site rates these players on their respective big boards.
|2||57||119||C||Quinn Meinerz||6’3 ¾“||320||33”||Wisconsin-Whitewater|
|2||52||93||CB||Aaron Robinson||5’11”||190||30”||Central Florida|
|2-3||73||47||ILB||Jabril Cox||6’2 ¾“||233||32 ¾“||LSU|
|3||101||181||CB||Camryn Bynum||6’ ½“||198||30 ¾“||California|
|3||107||190||CB||Robert Rochell||5’11 ¾“||195||32 ½“||Central Arkansas|
|4||143||290||CB||DJ Daniel||5’11 ¾“||183||33”||Georgia|
|4||144||130||CB||Thomas Graham Jr||5’10 ¾“||192||31”||Oregon|
|4-5||150||164||CB||Keith Taylor||6’2 ½“||191||31||Washington|
|5||160||161||OLB||Charles Snowden||6’6 ¼“||232||34”||Virginia|
|5||186||215||OLB||Shaka Toney||6’2 ¼“||238||33”||Penn St.|
|6||207||261||ILB||K.J. Britt||6’0”||239||30 ¾“||Auburn|
Pros: 3-year starter at Oklahoma, strong zone blocker, fundamentally sound with good knee bend. Explosive at point of attack and keeps feet moving.
Cons: Not a mauler type, must get stronger at point of attack, short reach.
Pros: Aggressive blocker, plays with a nasty attitude, good knee bend, uses leverage and hands well. Explosive at point of attack, and keeps feet moving. Caught multiple eyes at Senior Bowl, dominate in practice, rapidly climbing draft boards.
Cons: More mauler type, questionable if can have success in zone block scheme, played against D3 level competition.
Pros: Physical/nasty type blocker, keeps head on swivel and feet moving, uses leverage well.
Cons: Injury history is the biggest knock against otherwise should be a late first early second-round pick. Heavy footed, struggles to slide in space, has the biggest upside of anyone in the draft if can remain healthy which is also draft’s biggest “if”. Definition of “Big risks may pay big rewards” saying.
Pros: Physical corner, likes to engage receivers at the line of scrimmage, good hip movement, covers crossing patterns well, has good burst, able to beat blocks.
Cons: Plays slower than his 4.39 speed, average instincts, a little slow to react off the line.
Pros: Good burst, fluid hips, excellent in transition, good instincts with excellent ball skills, gets good positioning to break up throws, intelligent.
Cons: Needs to improve his tackling and occasionally slow to react.
Pros: Fluid hips, excellent in transition, tough with good instincts, intelligent and doesn’t make too many mistakes, not afraid to mix it up defending the run, 2-time captain, 4-year starter.
Cons: Lack of deep speed, got beat deep often, struggles against bigger receivers.
Pros: Good instincts and excellent field awareness, excellent ball skills, good at keeping plays in front of him, good burst when closing.
Cons: Hips a little stiff, a little inconsistent with his technique, not physical in run game.
Pros: Good burst to ball, not afraid to help in run support, physical corner, good tackler.
Cons: Slow out of backpedal causing him to lose a half-step to receivers inside first 5-yards. Doesn’t track ball well, inconsistent game.
Pros: Good hips, plays like gum – stays on receivers out of breaks, able to quickly diagnose plays, good burst to ball, aggressive instincts.
Cons: Will bite on first move, slow to close, a half step slow off the line, lacks deep speed.
Pros: Good burst on ball, physical corner, aggressive and instinctive, keeps everything in front of him, not afraid to play the run.
Cons: Gives too much cushion, struggles in man coverage, needs to improve footwork.
Pros: Instinctive and athletic/fluid, able to cover sideline-to-sideline, intelligent and disciplined, quick to diagnose plays, gets deep in coverage, stands out in coverage.
Cons: Struggles taking on blocks doesn’t stack well against the run, and needs to get stronger. Projects better as outside linebacker in 4-3 alignments.
Pros: Aggressive, attacks ball carriers, takes good angles, great closing burst, able to go sideline-to-sideline, instinctive and able to diagnose the action, effective in coverage.
Cons: Struggles shedding blocks, not strong against the run, sometimes slowed at point of attack. Doesn’t play as well in dirty areas, plays better in clean lanes. A little small to play inside.
Pros: Intelligent, able to quickly diagnose plays, disciplined, rarely out of position, nose for the ball, strong in forward run game support, takes good angles.
Cons: Struggles to cut off corner against quicker ball carriers, not strong in pursuit, doesn’t play fast.
Pros: Instinctive smart disciplined and tough, does not fall for ball fakes easily, good speed in pursuit and flows well into action, solid run defender, doesn’t give up much yards after contact, fast up field, good edge speed, some ability to rush the passer, always shows effort.
Cons: Struggled with injury last year, struggles taking on blocks, thin and tall build makes it easier for opponents to take his legs out. Projects better in 3-4 defensive alignments.
Pros: Fires through gaps into backfield, explosive first step and pass rush, uses hands well, gets good leverage, can play outside the box, excellent balance and body control.
Cons: Can get taken out by single blocker, disappears at times, not a high effort guy, questionable in run support. Inconsistent play, not a 3-down player, situational pass rusher at best.
This year’s draft is generally regarded as being historically shallow. Bills’ media analyst Chris Brown recently pointed out that this is the smallest draft pool in modern NFL history with only 657 draft-eligible players. To put that number in perspective, last year’s draft class had 1,932 draft-eligible players which means many of the players drafted late in this year’s class wouldn’t normally be picked in any other year.
The deepest positions in this year’s class is at offensive tackle and cornerback while the draft is especially thin at safety. Offensive tackle isn’t a position of immediate need as the Rams return both starting tackles from the league’s 3rd rated offensive line in Andrew Whitworth and Rob Havenstein. In addition, the Rams also roster several quality backups in Joseph Noteboom, Bobby Evans, and David Edwards.
Of course, one could point out that this might be Whitworth’s last season, but the Rams drafted Noteboom in 2018 specifically to replace him and when given the chance to play an extended period filling in for an injured Whitworth last season, Noteboom was able to keep the train on the tracks and did not derail the Rams’ playoff hopes. That said, if a quality offensive tackle is available when the Rams find themselves on the clock, it would still be something they’d have to consider. Especially, if a quality projected LEFT tackle fell to them which would open some options in 2022 should Whitworth decide this to be his last campaign.
Safety isn’t a position of need either, as the Rams spent plenty of draft capital over the last two years picking three pretty good safeties in Jordan Fuller, Terrell Burgess, and Taylor Rapp. And with most teams in the league already set at center, many of this year’s top-rated centers might still be available when both the Rams’ third-round picks come rolling around.
With only 6 picks in this year’s draft, look for the Rams to make at least one trade back and possibly more starting with their first pick at 57 and to acquire an additional 3rd or 4th round pick by doing so.
Clearing out my draft notebook, here are a few additional thoughts for Rams fans who just can’t get enough pre-draft information…
A couple of “Bonus” names to possibly listen for when the Rams are on the clock:
|3||79||168||OT||Walker Little||6’7”||313||33 ¾”||Stanford|
Pros: Gets good leverage, fundamentally sound, keeps feet moving, nasty attitude, violent hand punch.
Cons: Not overpowering run blocker, lazy and late with hands.
Pros: Tall, athletic, good footwork, intelligent, good hands. Opted out in 2020 and was considered a possible first-round pick prior to being injured in 2019. Projects as a left tackle in NFL.
Cons: Run blocking needs improvement, more finesse than overpowering.
Note: With the Rams recently hiring former Stanford Offensive Line Coach Kevin Carberry, look for the team to possibly take Little with one of their first three picks.
Still want more? Don’t you guys ever get enough? Ok, here’s the last of my breadcrumbs for 2021:
In my opinion, if the Rams can start this year’s draft with the following players, they’d be pitching a perfect game going into the 6th (Note: the team does not currently have a 5th round pick)…
|2||58||55||CB||Asante Samuel||5’10”||184||–||Florida St.|
|3||88||119||C||Quinn Meinerz||6’3 ¾“||320||33”||Wisconsin-Whitewater|
|3||79||168||OT||Walker Little||6’7”||313||33 ¾“||Stanford|
|4||160||161||OLB||Charles Snowden||6’6 ¼”||232||34”||Virginia|
… and in next week’s companion piece, I’ll be breaking down the Rams actual draft so make sure to keep an eye out for it.
So, who do you think the Rams will take in this year’s draft?
Sound off below and let me hear what you’ve got to say and check out Fan to Fan Network for more draft coverage.