Later this week the NHL will have an expansion draft with the Las Vegas Golden Knights joining the league as a new franchise next season. The NFL hasn’t had an expansion draft since 2002 and it doesn’t look like there is going to be one anytime soon.
But, what if the NFL was bringing in a new club next season? Who would the Los Angeles Rams protect?
The rules are simple. The Rams can protect 10 players. First and second year players are excluded. I will be playing the role of Les Snead.
1. DT – Aaron Donald
This is obvious. Aaron Donald is the Rams’ best player on the team. He’s a franchise caliber player that you don’t just let walk. Hopefully an extension gets done soon and Donald will be in Los Angeles long term.
2. LB – Alec Ogletree
Ogletree is the quarterback of the defense and quite honestly a playmaker. The Rams linebacker is athletic, fast, and has a high football IQ. Between Donald and Ogletree the Rams have good players to build around on the defensive side of the ball.
3. CB – Kavyon Webster
I’ve been on the “pump the brakes on Kavyon Webster” train, but what it comes down to is do you protect Trumaine Johnson or Kavyon Webster. Webster comes cheaper, he has more experience in the defense that Wade Phillips will be running, and quite honestly, there may not be that much of a drop off in talent.
4. LT – Andrew Whitworth
It seems odd to be protecting a 35-year old left tackle. Whitworth will be a key piece on the offensive line that will keep Goff upright and hopefully help his development moving forward. The Rams are stuck with Goff here because first and second year players are protected leaving the number one goal being to help him.
5. DT – Michael Brockers
Another defensive player. Four of the first five guys come on the defensive side of the ball which just goes to show how much more talented it is than the offense. If left unprotected, there would be a good chance Brockers would get picked up and quite honestly, the Rams don’t have anybody behind Brockers that could play the nose tackle in the new 3-4 defense.
6. S – Maurice Alexander
Alexander is on the verge of being a top-20 NFL safety. Last year he was the most improved safety according to Pro Football Focus and will be looking to build on that and take the next step. He’s a nice young player to have.
7. P – Johnny Hekker
It really seems odd to want to protect a punter, but let’s face it, Hekker may be the second best player on the Rams. For a defensive team that values field position, a player like Hekker that can flip the field is irreplaceable. The Rams beat the New York Jets last season because of Hekker and you can probably put the Seahawks win on him as well in week one.
8. QB – Sean Mannion
The only thing more valuable than a good starting quarterback is a good backup quarterback. There’s no question that Mannion isn’t a good starting quarterback. However, as a guy to have behind Goff that has the football IQ that Mannion does and have as insurance, it’s not a bad move to protect him. In the same way that you can’t evaluate Goff under Fisher, the same has to be said for Mannion. Word around the league is that he has one of the best football minds, but because of his footwork and slow feet, he’s nothing more than a backup. Even still, he’s a guy to keep around to help Goff and have in the quarterback room.
9. OL – Jamon Brown
In 2014, you would’ve thought the young offensive lineman that you’d want to protect moving forward would be Greg Robinson. With Robinson gone, Brown is the best young offensive lineman that the Rams have and if word out of camp is correct, he has taken serious strides in his game looking more like his rookie self than his sophomore slump. Is Brown a guy you build around on the offensive line? Probably not. But at the very least he’s a young guy that puts you in the right direction.
10. LB – Connor Barwin
This may seem like an odd player to use a protection on over a guy like Robert Quinn, however, like Webster and Johnson, Barwin is cheaper than Quinn, is quite honestly more reliable, and has experience in Wade Phillips’ system.
Notables Left Out
These are notable guys that I left unprotected. It doesn’t mean they are guaranteed to leave, just that I didn’t see it worth to protect them.
1. Todd Gurley
With Gurley the Rams don’t know what they have. The third year running back fell of the cliff significantly and there are rumblings that he may not fit in McVays offense which plays more out of the shotgun and is more of a spread system.
70% chance of being claimed
2. Robert Woods/Tavon Austin
Neither of these guys have done anything notable at wide receiver. If one were to leave it would probably be Austin as he is versatile and has that big play ability, but he is also a guy who could be replaced. It also gets rid of one of the Rams’ worst contracts.
40% chance of being claimed
3. Robert Quinn
Quinn hasn’t stayed healthy or been the same player he was since after he signed his extension. He’s hurt and when he’s on the field he’s been one dimensional as a pass rusher. Again, if mysterious expansion team were to pick him up, it opens up some cap getting rid of a bad contract.
60% chance of being claimed
4. Trumaine Johnson
Already mentioned this above, but I’ll say it again. Webster is cheaper and arguably has just as much talent as Johnson who is not worth his franchise tag. As of now it is also unlikely for Johnson to re-sign with the team.
80% chance of being claimed
5. Mark Barron/LaMarcus Joyner
Joyner is a player one could make the case to protect and I almost put him on the list. He’s a guy you want in the locker-room. What made my decision for me is when I asked, “what has he done”? He’s a nickel cornerback who has yet to take any snaps at safety in a regular season game.
Barron is undersized and really isn’t a great fit to play inside in a 3-4 defense. The Rams need to get bigger here.
25% chance of being claimed