Los Angeles Rams: John Franklin-Myers Flying Under the Radar in 2019

Jason Braverman

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The Los Angeles Rams drafted a kid from Stephen F. Austin in the fourth round of the 2018 NFL Draft. His name is John Franklin-Myers and you probably refer to him by his nickname “JFM”. That should tell you he’s already made a name for himself in the NFL.

The former 2018 draft pick joined us on our Downtown Rams podcast and he compared himself to Michael Bennett formerly of the Seattle Seahawks. Here’s an excerpt of the last feature piece I wrote on JFM during the off-season last year:

“When Franklin-Myers came onto The Downtown Rams Podcast to guest host it with me he mentioned that he saw himself as a Michael Bennett type of player. The Rams rookie played at almost 300 pounds and slimmed down to the 280-pound range. He has a chance to be one of the more powerful 3-4 defensive ends in the league. He displayed plenty of quickness and sheer power on his college tape and that’s sure to translate and then some with the Rams moving forward.

Every draft we find a few “diamonds in the rough” so to speak. I believe that when you look at John Franklin-Myers he embodies just that. Coming from a small school, not being heavily recruited because he played for an 0-40 high school football team and was not invited to the Senior Bowl. He tested well at the combine and put on some explosive tape but he didn’t play across from any true NFL talent. These are the same things you see when you look back at a guy’s career and wonder how teams missed on him. Franklin-Myers sets off that same kind of vibe.”

To go back to the point of why we are talking about Franklin-Myers, this is a sophomore player that is expected to start now after making some noise last year in his rookie year. Once considered “raw” and “unpolished” Franklin-Myers filled the role of fourth-man to perfection. JFM finished last season with a Pro Football Focus pass rushing productivity grade of 6.7 which put him 17th among all interior defensive lineman. It was also a much higher grade than starter Ndamukong Suh who finished with a 5.0. The talented rookie Franklin-Myers finished tied for fourth in team sacks, fifth in team quarterback hits and fourth in team quarterback hurries. Let’s take a look at Franklin-Myers production in comparison to the starters not named Aaron Donald.

Rams Defensive Front Starters w/o Aaron Donald vs. John Franklin-Myers

PlayersPass Rush SnapsSacksQB HitsQB HurriesPass Rush Productivity
DL John Franklin-Myers21624216.7
DL Ndamukong Suh526511325.8
DL Michael Brockers34612162.9
OLB Samson Ebukam28533245.8
OLB Dante Fowler Jr.23925165.2

As you can see from the table provided, Franklin-Myers value was underrated by many. He wasn’t talked about anywhere near as much as the likes of Suh and Brockers, but he finished with the second-highest productivity grade on the roster out of all pass rushers.

Franklin-Myers clearly could have been used more last year and this table proves that if he was, the production would have likely increased. The fourth-round pick was extremely efficient and that’s apparent when looking at the Samson Ebukam stat line.

Someone that had 285 pass rushing snaps off the edge finished with just one more sack, one less quarterback hit, and only three more hurries than Franklin-Meyers. These stats aren’t to knock Ebukam or the rest of the Rams starters, but to simply shed light on the fact that Franklin-Meyers is being slept on heading into 2019.

Franklin-Meyers is going to have a larger role this year with the departure of free agent defensive lineman Ndamukong Suh, but these statistics should make fans, analysts and coaches alike feel comfortable about his future.

 

The Vikings Game-Sealing Strip Sack

Here’s a matchup between two playoff favorites early in the season and when Franlin-Meyers first burst onto the scene. The Minnesota Vikings were marching down the field to attempt to tie the game and send it to overtime.

This play on 1st-and-10 is looking bleak for a Rams fan. While the Rams had the lead in this stage, the Vikings looked primed to score and tie it up. That, however, was not to be as Franklin-Myers lined up on the edge on this snap, exploded past the left tackle and was able to swat the ball out of quarterback Kirk Cousins‘ hand.

This is the defining moment of the young pass rusher’s season and it comes within the first quarter of the season. This is Week 4 and the Rams are fighting to go 4-0. The 22-year old rookie comes through with a game-sealing strip sack.

The play gave the Rams confidence early on in the rookie, but more so provided the confidence for Franklin-Myers himself. It also says a lot that the Rams already had Franklin-Myers playing these big-time meaningful snaps early in the season. Normally that comes later for a rookie, but the “raw” pass rusher was not going to be denied.

The Turning Point 

This play has nothing to do with Franklin-Myers as a pass rusher or run stopper but it does say a lot about his field awareness. As you can see, Aaron Donald strip sacks Patrick Mahomes on this play. Keep in mind, this is a turning point here with the Chiefs in field goal range and threatening to take the lead early in the third quarter.

Donald gets the sack and the ball goes flying out. Several Rams and Chiefs attempt to grab the ball but it squirts lose until Franklin-Myers tracks it down and covers it up. This was a huge play because it not only displays Franklin-Myers athleticism to get up to speed and jump on the ball, but it also displays his motor.

Sure, Franklin-Myers turns down the motor a little bit when he sees how far the ball is, but you see him turn on the jets and recover the important fumble at that moment. This is a big-time play, especially when you win a game 54-51.

Forcing Tom Brady to fumble in the Super Bowl

This last play is in the Super Bowl late in the first quarter with no score and the Patriots just past midfield. The Rams had already forced a turnover earlier but now they would be in the driver’s seat to do that again with Franklin-Myers.

Tom Brady is one of the most difficult quarterbacks to sack due to his quick release and wherewithal. Brady’s release time of 2.61 seconds ranked fourth in the league last season among quarterbacks with more than 400 attempts.

For Franklin-Myers, it wasn’t easy, but he was able to fight through his assignment and force a strip sack on Brady. The unfortunate part of this was seeing Franklin-Myers fight that hard to force the fumble only to watch the Patriots get it back.

This was the flashiest play of the season for the rookie due to the fact he did it in the Super Bowl, but this wasn’t a fluke. Franklin-Myers proved in flashes last year that he can be a starter in this league and make an impact. When you watch him play, it’s not hard to see a comparison between himself and Michael Bennett.

Despite being a starter on a team coming off a Super Bowl appearance, Franklin-Meyers is still somehow flying under the radar. Maybe it’s because he went to a small school, maybe it’s because not being a household name, or maybe it’s because he was stuck behind a dominant name duo of Suh and Donald.

However, with Suh gone, it’s Franklin-Meyers’ time to shine. Last season, he won the Rams team Rookie of the Year award – the same award that the likes of Cooper Kupp, Aaron Donald and Cory Littleton have won. Franklin-Meyers is going to have an opportunity to build on that this year.

Franklin-Meyers had a stellar rookie season, but there is still room for improvement. In order to become more than a rotational pass rusher, Franklin-Meyers still needs to improve on his run defense production.

His 57.6 run defense grade on Pro Football Focus ranked 97th among qualifying edge players. It’s not really his fault as he was only asked to be a part of just 64 run defensive snaps.

That should tell you that the Rams know Franklin-Meyers has a legitimate strength as a pass rusher and may not be as strong as a run stopper. Of course, it’s worth mentioning he’s only 22-years old and can definitely improve in that area.

The Rams will be fine, however, as it looks as though they will go with Donald, Brockers, and Franklin-Myers on the defensive line. Fourth-round selection Greg Gaines will likely fill in for Franklin-Meyers in run defensive situations.

Adding to that depth, the Rams still have the likes of Morgan Fox who played 60-plus snaps in the Atlanta Falcons playoff game in 2017 but missed last season due to an ACL tear during camp.

The bottom line is: Franklin-Myers has a lot going for him. He has a true defensive coordinator like Wade Phillips that knows what he’s doing and is going to have the opportunity to break out this season in a very quiet way with the number of big names there are around him. At the end of the day, don’t be surprised if Franklin-Meyers records up to as many as 10 sacks this season.

The 22-year old has been sacking the quarterback for a long time and he just got his first opportunity to do it at the NFL level. He showed off what his potential in a limited role last season and is ready to take the next step. Year two for Franklin-Meyers could set the table at the defensive line position regarding the team’s long-term vision at the position.

 

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