The Los Angeles Rams completed the NFL Draft with eight selections on Saturday. The team was one of the NFL’s winners on day two after no selections in the first round and then had an up and down day three. Below is who I believe is the Rams’ best pick, worst pick, sleeper, who I can’t believe they passed on, and who is an underrated undrafted signing.
Best Pick: WR Van Jefferson, Florida
The Rams needed a wide receiver to replace Brandin Cooks. While Jefferson isn’t a burner on the outside, if there was one receiver that made the most sense for the Rams and Sean McVay in this draft, it was Jefferson. The Florida wide receiver was one of the best route runners in the class and lit it up at the senior bowl. He’s reminiscent of Cooper Kupp in both of those aspects.
It’ll be interesting where the Rams play Jefferson as he projects to be better from the slot where Kupp currently plays. However, with Kupp on the last year of his deal, there’s a chance that Jefferson could be Kupp’s eventual replacement. As mentioned, he’s a great route-runner that thrives in the slot and also has fantastic contested-catch ability.
While some may have hoped for Denzel Mims, the Baylor wide receiver was very raw in key aspects of his game, including his route tree. Jefferson is the more pro-ready player and will contribute from day one.
Worst Pick: TE Brycen Hopkins, Purdue
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. A player like Thaddeus Moss later in the draft, who brings a true blocking ability made sense, but a third receiving tight end was questionable.
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. Rams fans have lived through Jared Cook once, they don’t need to again.
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. Add that to having Higbee and Everett on the roster, a tight end in the fourth round was a head-scratcher.
Sleeper Pick: LB Clay Johnston, Baylor
The Rams finally addressed the linebacker position in the seventh round and there is some serious potential here. This is a team that is focusing on improving against the run and the Johnston pick exemplifies that. This is a player that graded 90.2 against the run last season according to PFF which ranked 31st among all defenders in the nation last season.
Johnston plays fast and is a good blitzer. He should be a good fit in Brandon Staley’s new scheme. He may not start right away, but he’ll be a name to watch with serious opportunity at linebacker.
Wish We Could Have Gotten: EDGE Joshua Uche Michigan
The Rams needed to address the edge position and while they did that in Terrell Lewis and got a good player with high upside, there is injury concern. Uche had the second-highest pass-rush win rate behind only Chase Young last season in this draft class and seemed to be a good fit in this defense. It’s disappointing that the Rams passed on Uche in the 2nd round at 52 and opted instead to take a running back.
Can’t Believe We Passed On: LB Akeem Davis-Gaither, Appalachian State
This one is surprising. After letting Cory Littleton walk in free agency, there is a lot of uncertainty at inside linebacker. That’s not to say that a player like Micah Kiser can’t get the job done, but like the offensive line situation last season, there are ust a lot of unproven players.
Davis-Gaither is also unproven, but he would have brought a difference-maker to the position as well as a lot of speed. The Rams passed on Gaither in the third and fourth rounds and with the need at inside linebacker it didn’t’ make sense to take a tight end in the fourth over a player like Davis-Gaither.
UDFA To Watch: CB Levonta Taylor, Florida State
Taylor played five different defensive positions in FSU’s 4-2-5 defense. He’s a versatile player that can bring the thump. He doesn’t have good ball skills, but his versatility and ability to play safety and down in nickel is what makes him intriguing. If he can prove to be valuable on special teams, it would not be surprising if he makes the team.
Draft Grade: B-
The Rams killed day two of the NFL Draft. I have grown to like Cam Akers, but still don’t like the idea of taking a running back at 52 given the team’s other needs. Terrell Lewis was a first-round talent without injuries, Van Jefferson was an underrated player throughout the process, and Terrell Burgess will be a great addition on the back end.
However, the picks of Akers and Hopkins leave me scratching my head as well as not drafting an interior offensive lineman or linebacker earlier. The Rams left value on the board in some spots which is why I have to give them a B-. They did what they could without a first-round pick and did well on day two, but day three was up and down.