One of the most exciting things for the fans is the finalization of the 53-man roster. You see as NFL teams spend countless hours in between training camp, OTAs and the preseason, then you see the product of all that time spent. In this piece, I take my first stab at a 53-man roster prediction for the Rams. Let’s get started.
Quarterbacks (2): Jared Goff & Blake Bortles
The Rams could easily go with two quarterbacks but I think they are going to fall in love with John Wolford come preseason and keep him on the roster. Jared Goff is the obvious lock as the starting quarterback and Blake Bortles arguably is the most valuable backup quarterback in the league after signing just a $1 million deal. He’s probably one of the best backups in the league with plenty of starting experience. After those two, Brandon Allen and Wolford are the guys left. I think while Allen has spent more time in the Rams organization than Wolford, his age and lack of upside will be his downfall. The Rams would decide to hang onto Wolford due to the fact he made enough of a name for himself in the AAF and that the team doesn’t believe he would clear waivers. Which he won’t when the Rams do in fact make the tough decision to cut him.
Cut: John Wolford, Brandon Allen
Running backs (4): Todd Gurley, Darrell Henderson, Malcolm Brown & Matt Colburn
The big three of Todd Gurley, Darrell Henderson and Malcolm Brown are guarantees to make the squad. After that, you have a serious battle between 2017 undrafted free agent Justin Davis, 2018 sixth-round pick John Kelly and the lone 2019 undrafted rookie running back Matt Colburn. This should be a tough battle for the fourth spot. When you look at Davis, he’s probably the favorite seeing as he’s never missed the roster since entering the league in 2017. Of course, you could make the argument for John Kelly as he’s a sixth-round pick from last year that had a great preseason for the Rams. However, those two guys, in my opinion, aren’t as appealing as Matt Colburn. Colburn is a back out of Wake Forest that really displayed that next level burst that Kelly simply doesn’t have. Not to mention, Colburn showed better ball-carrier vision on film than Davis. At the end of the day, special teams will ultimately decide this last spot, I believe Colburn shocks everyone and nabs that fourth and final spot while Kelly makes it to the Rams practice squad.
Cut: Justin Davis, John Kelly (Practice Squad)
Wide receivers (6): Robert Woods, Brandin Cooks, Cooper Kupp, Josh Reynolds, KhaDarel Hodge & Alex Bachman
Due to the overall depth of the Rams top four receivers, they won’t have to keep more than six receivers on the roster. Robert Woods, Brandin Cooks and Cooper Kupp are starters heading into 2019 while last year’s breath of fresh air Josh Reynolds is a lock even as the fourth guy. Reynolds despite being fourth on the depth chart, should still be a decent part of the offense. After him, you have last year’s undrafted rookie KhaDarel Hodge, who I believe will be making another appearance on the Rams roster again. Hodge brings his special teams prowess to the table as well as his underrated receiving ability. After Hodge, that leaves one spot remaining which many believe will go to return man JoJo Natson.
As far as the last spot goes, it’s between Natson, Mike Thomas, Jalen Greene, Nsimba Webster, Alex Bachman, Austin Proehl and Johnathan Lloyd. Natson offers very little in the receiving game but is a solid returner. I, however, decided to cut it down to Webster and Bachman that offer more in the receiving game and just as much as returners. In the end, I think the Rams take Bachman and send Webster onto their practice squad. Bachman’s addition makes it three Wake Forest former players including Colburn and Wolford on the roster.
Cut: Nsimba Webster (Practice Squad), JoJo Natson, Mike Thomas, Jalen Greene, Austin Proehl, Johnathan Lloyd
Tight ends (3): Gerald Everett, Tyler Higbee & Keenen Brown
Once again, more locks await in the form of Gerald Everett and Tyler Higbee. Everett is expected to take the next step in year three while Higbee’s improvement as a blocker makes it more likely the Rams can keep however they want on the roster. That’s really what opens up the game here, Higbee’s emergence as a blocker means the Rams don’t need to go out and find a blocking specialized tight end. That brings us to the next group of guys that are vying for the final roster spot. In my mind the Rams once again keeping three tight ends so in that sense it’s between Johnny Mundt, Keenen Brown, Romello Brooker and Kendall Blanton.
Three undrafted rookies and Mundt will all be battling for the role. Mundt was a talented but often injured player out of Oregon and was a surprise roster member after winning a job last year. This year, however, all three of the rookies the Rams added are likely more talented and less injury-prone than Mundt. While Mundt has the experience, the upside of someone like Houston’s Romello Brooker or Texas State’s Keenen Brown is more valuable. Blanton has the perfect type of build but struggles mightily as an inline blocking tight end and doesn’t have the athleticism Brown and Brooker possess. That narrows it down to Brooker and Brown for the final spot on the roster. Brown is a former receiver that stands at 6-foot-2 and 250 pounds while Brooker stands at 6-foot-3 and 250 pounds. It’s practically neck and neck but Brown’s ability to run after the catch has me believing that will be the nod over Brooker.
Cut: Romello Brooker (Practice Squad), Kendall Blanton, Johnny Mundt
Offensive tackles (4): Andrew Whitworth, Rob Havenstein, David Edwards, Bobby Evans
Rams have two guaranteed starters once again in Andrew Whitworth and Rob Havenstein. After that, the two draft picks Bobby Evans and David Andrews make up the tackle position. All four of these names are locks and that was especially confirmed when Edwards was spotted taking first-team reps at left tackle. Unfortunately, the two undrafted rookie tackles Matt Kaskey from the Ivy league and Villanova’s Brandon Hitner are just not in ideal positions to break through and beat any of these four out. They will, however, receive opportunities to win a spot inside at guard. If Hitner or Kaskey do well enough they could be on the bubble to receive a spot on the practice squad or they might just stay on “speed dial” until anything comes up or they don’t have a team by the start of the 2020 season.
Cut: Matt Kaskey, Brandon Hitner
Offensive guards (3): Joe Noteboom, Austin Blythe & Jamil Demby
There isn’t much likely to change here. Joe Noteboom and Austin Blythe are the projected left and right guards respectively. Jamil Demby is the next guy in line after he was brought back following his short hiatus with the Detroit Lions. The Rams will have plenty of work for Demby if they suffer any injuries. Demby has reportedly played all five positions in OTAs. That versatility makes him a likely lock as well. That would leave the Rams with seven total offensive linemen on the roster so even with aforementioned Hitner, Kaskey and Chandler Brewer left. There isn’t another spot in my mind remaining at this time. Brewer would, however, receive the practice squad nod.
Cut: Chandler Brewer (Practice Squad), Matt Kaskey, Brandon Hitner
Centers (2): Brian Allen & Jeremiah Kolone
Brian Allen is once again, another lock to make the roster but out of the other two in last year’s camp offensive lineman Jeremiah Kolone and undrafted rookie Vitas Hrynkiewicz, who snags the final spot? What is crazy is that the Rams, if they wanted to, could decide to keep one true center while using former center Austin Blythe and versatile Jamil Demby to fill in if need be. What would you do with Blythe? You have two rookies in Edwards and Evans that could fill that void if needed. It’s not the most ideal idea but it is an idea the Rams could consider.
The way it will likely unfold is with former AAF standout offensive lineman Jeremiah Kolone making the roster of Hrynkiewicz, who would likely head to the practice squad. Kolone’s experience in the AAF is going to be a big factor in him making this roster.
Cut: Vitas Hrynkiewicz (Practice Squad)
Defensive linemen (7): Aaron Donald, Michael Brockers, John Franklin-Myers, Greg Gaines, Morgan Fox, Sebastian Joseph-Day & Boogie Roberts
Aaron Donald is the best player in the NFL, Michael Brockers is loved by the Rams front office, John Franklin-Myers was the Rams rookie of the year last year and Greg Gaines was drafted in the fourth round this year. Those guys will absolutely make the roster. After that, no one is a lock but I’d wager that Morgan Fox, as long as he stays healthy this year will make the roster. After Fox, Sebastian Joseph-Day, Boogie Roberts, Bryant Jones and Marquise Copeland will likely battle for one or maybe two spots. Last year’s seventh-rounder Joseph-Day will likely be next in line and then it becomes a battle between the three undrafted rookies. Boogie Roberts provides a lot more disruption as a pass rusher than the other two and so it’s safe to believe if the Rams keep seven Roberts will get the nod. Tanzel Smart is a former draft pick that just simply hasn’t shown enough to remain on the roster further.
Cut: Marquise Copeland (Practice Squad), Tanzel Smart, Bryant Jones
Outside linebackers (5): Dante Fowler Jr., Clay Matthews, Samson Ebukam, Ogbonnia Okoronkwo, Landis Durham
There are three guys chosen out of this crop that are locks: Dante Fowler Jr., Samson Ebukam and newly-signed Clay Matthews. After those, it’s going to be a dogfight. You have three 2018 draft picks: Ogbonnia Okoronkwo, Trevon Young and Justin Lawler. You also have two 2019 undrafted rookies in Landis Durham, Ketner Kupp and a 2019 free agent signing Josh Carraway.
Among the guys remaining one can expect Okoronkwo, who has the high upside to remain with the Rams. That leaves one more pick which I’ll lean Landis Durham, the UDFA out of Texas A&M. Carraway is an intriguing option seeing as he’s a talented pass rusher who may have just needed a change of scenery. Trevon Young could easily be a practice squad option but Durham gets the surprising nod in this prediction.
Cut: Trevon Young, Josh Carraway, Justin Lawler, Ketner Kupp
Inside linebackers (5): Cory Littleton, Micah Kiser, Bryce Hager, Dakota Allen & Natrez Patrick
The lock at starter Cory Littleton signed a one-year deal with the Rams to remain the team’s starting inside backer. Micah Kiser, a 2018 fifth-round pick is looking to solidify his slot as the starting linebacker next to Littleton. Bryce Hager is a veteran presence that has had a great run with this team, if it ends with the Rams one should doubt Hager’s time would end in the way of a roster cut. Seventh-round pick Dakota Allen is my favorite to capture the starting role next to Littleton and that’s only if he’s given a fair chance to. One of the best stories coming out of the 2019 NFL Draft, Natrez Patrick makes the roster over the likes of fellow undrafted rookie Troy Reeder and last year’s draft pick Travin Howard. Both will likely have an opportunity to make the practice squad.
Cut: Travin Howard (Practice Squad), Troy Reeder
Cornerbacks (5): Marcus Peters, Aqib Talib, Nickell Robey-Coleman, Troy Hill & David Long
This is the easiest unit to predict, unfortunately. The reason being is that Marcus Peters is a lock, Aqib Talib is a lock, Nickell Robey-Coleman is a lock, Troy Hill was just signed to a two-year deal that would give the Rams a decent cap hit if they cut him. Lastly, the third-round pick David Long is a lock. The question remains whether or not the Rams will take six corners into battle and the answer would be a resounding no. While Kevin Peterson might very well be the next best option, Dominique Hatfield might have the experience, Darious Williams might have upside and Donte Deayon might be turning heads in camp. The Rams simply do not have enough spots available to keep six cornerbacks. Darious Williams seems like the most logical fit to go on the practice squad. Unfortunately, for everyone else, this is probably it with the Rams.
Cut: Darious Williams (Practice Squad), Kevin Peterson, Dominique Hatfield, Donte Deayon
Safeties (4): Eric Weddle, John Johnson III, Taylor Rapp, Marqui Christian
The roster really starts to get tough to narrow down once you get to the secondary. You saw how many talented corners had to be bypassed and this position is no different. It includes keeping Eric Weddle, John Johnson III, second-round pick Taylor Rapp and Marqui Christian. However, it also includes letting everyone else go such as seventh-round pick Nick Scott, Steven Parker, Ramon Richards and Jake Gervase.
At the end of the day, the Rams are fine keeping four guys and will probably take two of the guys they cut onto the practice squad. I see those two being a continuation of last year with Parker and Richards getting the nod. You don’t think the Rams would cut their draft pick? It’s happened with Travin Howard and Sam Rogers over the last couple of years. Last round picks don’t always make the cut under the Rams.
Cut: Steven Parker (Practice Squad), Ramon Richards (Practice Squad), Nick Scott, Jake Gervase
Specialists (3): Greg Zuerlein, Johnny Hekker & Jack McQuaide
Arguably the best at each position. There is zero chance any of these three are let go. Especially with zero competition.