The Rams finished their 2020 NFL Draft class on Saturday evening with a bunch of new faces to add to both sides of the football. Both Jake Ellenbogen and Blaine Grisak decided to grade each pick and submit our report card on the newly created draft class.
2nd Round (52nd Overall): Florida State RB Cam Akers
Cam Akers was the first true evaluation I feel I failed on before the draft process. He’s actually taught me a lesson that any potential day two prospect will not get a grade until I can say with confidence I’ve watched more than three games. So, I ended up staying up all night watching Cam Akers film which was about 9 other games. That’s when I realized the player the Rams took. They essentially took a bell cow running back who could have been a first-round pick had he been in a different situation. The only reason this pick is a B+ is the fact the Rams picked a running back at 52nd overall but regardless, Akers is that talented for me that I will ignore the majority of how I feel in regards to the running back selection and just look at how impressive of a player Akers is. The Rams grabbed one of the most explosive players on the offensive side of the ball in the entire draft and someone who hasn’t played his best football yet.
While I have grown to like the player Cam Akers more than I did pre-draft process, I still am not a fan of taking a running back at the 52 spot. I like the player, but not the pick. The Rams were not a team that had the luxury of taking a running back with their first pick in this draft. This is a team that had needs at linebacker, EDGE, cornerback, and wide receiver – all of which should have been prioritized over a running back. The Rams passed on Kristian Fulton, a top-20 talent, and instead took Akers. As mentioned, I like Akers, I just don’t like the value. This is also a year after taking Darrell Henderson in the third round.
2nd Round (57th Overall): Florida WR Van Jefferson
What can you say? Van Jefferson literally can do it all on the field. There is a reason Charles Davis compared him to Robert Woods and his colleague Daniel Jeremiah compared him to Cooper Kupp. Jefferson is a pro’s pro, he does it all on the field. He’s got great size for a starting wideout at 6-foot-1 and 200 pounds. On top of that Jefferson is the best route runner in the 2020 NFL Draft in my mind and he’s maybe one of the fastest receivers in the draft that no one is talking about. At the Senior Bowl, he ran faster than the likes of Devin Duvernay according to the ZEBRA laser time that was taken. Regardless what the Rams do with Cooper Kupp and Josh Reynolds following the season, Jefferson is going to be a big-time player for a long time and he should thrive in this offense.
Jefferson made up for every mishap with the Akers selection just five picks earlier. The Florida prospect is one of the best route-runners in the class and among all of the receivers in this class, he may have made the most sense for Sean McVay. Jefferson does project more in the slot, but with Cooper Kupp on an expiring deal, there is a chance that the second-round pick could be his replacement. Some may have hoped for Denzel Mims, but Jefferson is more refined in his route-running and more pro-ready.
3rd Round (84th Overall): Alabama EDGE Terrell Lewis
I give this pick an A-minus due to the fact it’s great value for a player that at one point felt like a lock to be a second-round pick. However, it’s not an A+ because I felt as though there were players I would have taken on the board before Lewis. Lewis has some injury concerns that pushed him down the board and while it’s certainly benefitting the Rams with where he fell to, it’s also a concern if they invest this pick and Lewis continues to struggle to stay healthy. He’s got the prototypical size you want from a 3-4 outside linebacker and he should fit like a glove in Brandon Staley’s defense.
The Rams got a steal with Terrell Lewis with the 84th overall selection. This is a player that was a first-round talent without injuries and the Rams got him at 84. If healthy, Lewis is going to be a force off of the edge as a pass rusher. He’s raw, but when he puts it all together, it’s scary. The question of course here is the injury, but at 84, that’s not a bad risk to take
3rd Round (104th Overall): Utah S Terrell Burgess
Last year the Rams decided to select Taylor Rapp over the likes of Nasir Adderley (after trading down) and Chauncey Gardner-Johnson. Rapp is a good football player and really does a nice job disrupting plays around the line of scrimmage. However, the Rams truly didn’t have a free safety at the end of last year when John Johnson III got hurt as Eric Weddle had taken a sharp nosedive in production. Now, it’s 2020 and the Rams need to grab a rangy safety if they want to emulate the Vic Fangio scheme they are likely hoping to with his disciple Brandon Staley. Insert Utah standout safety, Terrell Burgess. He has the range and athleticism to be the Eddie Jackson of this defense and be the free safety that the Rams truly lack. In a league that is predicated on throwing the football, we are seeing more and more that teams will use three safeties on the field. The Rams are no exception to the trend and you can expect Rapp to be up in the box, Johnson III to stay back at strong and Burgess to get the most looks at free safety. This was a fantastic pick as this was the last true rangy free safety that was remaining in the draft at this point.
John Johnson III has played some of his best football at strong safety over the past two seasons. Getting a player like Burgess who runs 4.4 speed that can play free safety is huge. The only issue I have with the pick is that the Rams took Taylor Rapp in the second round last season and took Johnson III in the third round two years earlier. Burgess is yet another third-round selection on a safety which seems to make the Rapp pick last year pointless. The Rams get at the very least a rotational player that can play safety and down in nickel, if not a starter.
4th Round (136th Overall): Purdue TE Brycen Hopkins
This is the pick of the draft in my mind. People will complain that it is a tight end and it’s a tight end that has his struggles in the blocking department. Now, that’s totally understandable. However, this was the 52nd overall player on my board and he falls into the fourth round and into the Rams lap even after trading down ten spots. Brycen Hopkins is a great route runner, he uses his size to his advantage and he’s got great speed to really be a factor when he gets out in open space. I spoke to Hopkins at the Senior Bowl and he told me straight up the Rams envisioned him fitting alongside Tyler Higbee. So, I guess in that sense, I was told this in January and it kind of had me lose hope that Gerald Everett was going to be on the Rams come 2020’s regular season. I think for that reason, I like the pick. I think Higbee is your well-rounded tight end, you have Johnny Mundt as a strictly blocking tight end and now you have a red-zone specialist in Brycen Hopkins. He shouldn’t have been there and that is why the pick is magnificent by the Rams.
The Rams have both Tyler Higbee and Gerald Everett. I didn’t see the need at tight end given the holes on the interior of the offensive line, at cornerback, and at linebacker. On top of that, Hopkins has serious drop issues. This is a player that led the 2020 tight end draft class in drops last season with eight. According to Pro Football Focus, the Purdue prospect has 22 drops on 152 career catchable passes. I’m not doubting Hopkins’ ability or his athleticism, but there are serious holes in his game when it comes to simple concentration and blocking.
6th Round (199th Overall): Ohio State S Jordan Fuller
I can’t give a sixth-round pick an F grade but I think a D is fair. I really don’t get this pick to be entirely honest. Having not chosen a linebacker to this point and Evan Weaver is right there for the taken, or someone like Prince Tega Wanogho after you haven’t really addressed the offensive line or even a developmental quarterback with immense upside in Cole McDonald. See, that’s why I don’t like this pick. There were still some really talented football players at this selection that were available. Jordan Fuller is someone that struggles as a tackler, he’s got good size for the safety position but his passive nature as a player concerns me. All I can say is I think they drafted him to be the special teams pick for the new special teams coordinator but I think he could have been had after the draft ended and in UDFA. There were more than 10 players I would have personally taken here and there are players the Rams signed as UDFA’s I would have taken over drafting Fuller. The good thing about Fuller is he is a two-time captain on a bookend football program at Ohio State.
A second safety that plays special teams is about all you can ask for in the sixth round. However, the Rams made a similar pick in Nick Scott from Penn State last season to play the same role. This wasn’t a good pick, but it’s hard to knock a selection in the sixth round.
7th Round (234th Overall): Baylor LB Clay Johnston
Clay Johnston had some really intriguing film for the Baylor Bears and while I had him as more of a priority free agent, I felt like he had the tools to someday start in the NFL. I just felt as though this draft was extremely deep which ultimately pushed him down on my board. He’s a fun player, but there is concern that the Rams once again drafted a player coming off an injury. This is a seventh-round pick so I do not mind it as much except the fact that it’s been with the majority of the players in this class. Regardless, Brett Favre was saying on a live stream that this is the man to watch out for and the potential sleeper of the draft. I think he and his teammate James Lynch were great late-round value and I will say. Don’t be shocked if Clay Johnston is a starter for the Rams sooner than later.
Johnston is another player that can come in a play special teams right away, but do not be surprised if he competes for a starting role early. This is a player that had PFF’s 31st best run defense grade last season in the entire country among all defenders. In the seventh round, you’re essentially just taking flyers on players. Johnston is going to bring energy right away and could surprise some.
7th Round (248th Overall): Miami (OH) K Sam Sloman
I don’t like drafting a kicker. Everyone’s favorite kicker went undrafted from Georgia. Odds are, Sam Sloman probably goes undrafted and so that’s why they took him here with a bevy of late-round picks to ensure they locked him up and didn’t have to bid against twenty other teams or something. My only issue is that the Rams already signed two kickers to the roster, XFL standout Austin MacGinnis and CFL superstar Lirim Hajrullahu. So, why on earth did the Rams feel the need to draft a kicker to add three to the roster? Going with cornerback Parnell Motley out of Oklahoma or AJ Green out of Oklahoma State who ended up being the two most coveted UDFA cornerbacks would have made a ton of sense. This pick did not and if Sam Sloman doesn’t make it, it’s as good as the waste pick the Rams made for Sam Rogers in 2017 when they didn’t keep him on the roster.
The Rams do have a dilemma at kicker, but I am not a fan of addressing the need in the draft. Of the kickers in top-10 in attempts last season, seven went undrafted or were signed by their current team after being cut by the team that drafted them in the 7th. Sloman has a big leg, but the Rams have already signed two kickers as it is. If Sloman doesn’t win the battle in camp, it’s a wasted pick.
7th Round (250th Overall): Clemson OL Tremayne Anchrum
The Clemson right tackle over the last four years falls to the last round and one of the last picks as the Rams scoop him up here. I like the pick and I like it a lot. I think with Anchrum you have experience coming into your offensive line room, it’s a room the Rams have gone out and decided to not really add to besides this pick and despite all of the draft pundits saying they needed to do major overhauls on the offensive line. Look, the fact of the matter is that I agree with what the Rams are doing with the offensive line, you grab one more guy in Anchrum who has right tackle experience and can project as a guard and you leave it at that. The amount of capital that has been applied on the offensive line is noticeable and it’s time for the Rams to develop those players that have been drafted. All drafting more offensive linemen in bulk does is log jam your depth chart and hurt the development of other picks you drafted. Anchrum is quite simply just a solid pick here, doesn’t blow you away but he’s someone that could someday challenge as a spot starter on the Rams. He played important football in college, he played in big games and who knows, he could be a gem here late in the seventh round.
Anchrum makes a lot of sense for the Rams. He’s a high-character player with the ability to play both tackle and guard. He’s garnered a lot of praise from Dabo Swinney, offensive line coaches, as well as scouts. Anchrum played well against Chase Young in the semi-finals of the college football playoff and is the type of player that’s worth a chance with a team’s final pick in the seventh round.
Final Draft Grade
Let’s be honest, this is the best draft the Rams have had in my lifetime. It was already that once day two finished but then for my money once the Rams drafted Brycen Hopkins at 136 it was solidified. They got five legit starting-caliber players in this draft without a first-round pick. On top of that, you can technically add the best cornerback in football to the draft class in Jalen Ramsey because that is who the Rams used their first-round pick to acquire. This draft was incredible. There were other guys at every pick I could have said I wanted but they ended up with a great running back prospect who has a chance to be special in the league, the best route running wideout in the class who can do it all, a starting-caliber edge defender that played in big-time games and would have gone earlier if not for his injury history, a rangy safety that can be the Eddie Jackson equivalent this team needs and the best tight end in the draft Brycen Hopkins. It’s a B+ because the Rams missed on some picks in my opinion later on that don’t totally ruin the draft but keep it out of the range of an A. However, that’s still good for the best draft I’ve seen the Rams ever have. The only pick I truly hated was Sam Sloman, I didn’t really understand the Jordan Fuller pick and everything else was solid or great the rest of the way. This is exactly what I’ve been clamoring to people about, the Rams needed to hit a home run in the draft and I believe they did or at least came close enough to one to feel good about 2020.
The Rams had a very good day two after taking a running back with their first pick. However, day three was up and down. Van Jefferson and Terrell Lewis could be the best selections of the draft while Akers and Hopkins remain head-scratchers.