Analyzing the Rams Roster After the NFL Draft: Are They Better Than in 2019?

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The Los Angeles Rams were in the Super Bowl 15 months ago and after the moves made last offseason, it was thought that they would be in good shape to make another run. Instead, one 9-7 season later and the Rams are simply just trying to get back to the playoffs.

Les Snead completed his ninth draft with the team and his third straight without a first-round selection. When all was said and done, the Rams came away with eight new players.

Are the Rams ready for a Super Bowl?

To be determined.

But are they better than they were a year ago?

Let’s take a look.

Quarterback

Projected starter: Jared Goff
Notable backups: John Wolford, Bryce Perkins, Josh Love

Additions: Bryce Perkins, Josh Love
Notable subtractions: Blake Bortles

Better, worse, or about the same: Worse

It’s kind of shocking that the Rams didn’t sign another backup or at least draft a quarterback on day three of the NFL Draft. After all, the only quarterback with experience in the offense is former AAF star, John Wolford. Wolford had a good preseason last year and is now the presumed guy to backup Goff.

Goff has remained healthy throughout his career, but the lack of experience behind him is concerning if something were to happen.

Let’s just clear this up. The Rams are not worse at this position because of Goff. If anything, putting Shane Waldron back at quarterback coach and hiring Kevin O’Connell as the offensive coordinator will help Goff. However, the backup quarterback position is arguably one of the more important positions on the roster and as of right now, it would be hard to have faith in the guys behind Goff if he did go down.

Running back

Projected starter: Cam Akers
Notable backups: Darrell Henderson, Malcolm Brown

Additions: Akers
Notable subtractions: Todd Gurley

Better, worse, or about the same: Worse

Whenever you lose one of the best offensive players in the NFL since they’ve been in the league, it’s hard to say you got better. It’s understandable why the Rams cut ties with Gurley. However, that doesn’t mean they’ll be better this season on the field for it.

The Rams are very unproven here. Akers is a rookie who played behind an abysmal offensive line at Florida State. It’s hard to say what he could have done had he played on a better team. Henderson was my top running back coming out last season, but he hasn’t carried the load and admittedly he does have question marks. The Rams drafted him in the third round last season and then came back and drafted Akers at 52 overall. Meanwhile, Brown has always been that rotational back. This will continue to be a position to keep an eye on throughout training camp and the preseason.

Wide Receiver

Projected starters: Robert Woods, Cooper Kupp, Josh Reynolds
Notable backups: Van Jefferson, Greg Dortch, Nsimba Webster

Additions: Jefferson
Notable subtractions: Brandin Cooks, Mike Thomas

Better, worse, or about the same: Worse

Similarly to Gurley, it’s hard to say that the Rams got better at wide receiver when they lost one of the best deep threats in the NFL. Cooks had his concussion issues, but when he was on the field, he opened things up dramatically.

There’s a big difference of having a player run a go-route and then having someone with the ability of Cooks running a go-route. Cooks will demand the respect of a defensive coordinator as well as 1-2 defensive backs on the field. Jefferson and Reynolds just don’t have that speed or deep-ball ability.

Reynolds will get his shot in the offense and Jefferson is almost a carbon copy of Robert Woods and Cooper Kupp. However, neither are the same player as Cooks.

Tight End

Projected starters: Tyler Higbee, Gerald Everett
Notable backups: Byrcen Hopkins

Additions: Hopkins
Notable subtractions: N/A

Better, worse, or about the same: About the same

Hopkins was a good pick and will bring a nice receiving tight end to the offense. However, rookie tight ends typically don’t produce in the NFL. Higbee and Everett should remain the duo here with Hopkins taking over for Everett next season when he hits free agency.

The issue I have here is that the Rams drafted Everett for the same reason that they’re drafting Everett and they simply haven’t been able to consistently get Everett involved in the offense. Hopkins will bring that same receiving threat, but is reminiscent of Jared Cook in the sense that he doesn’t have good hands. The Purdue tight end had 22 drops on 152 career catchable passes (6.9%) at with the Boilermakers.

Hopkins will have an impact down the line, it’s just difficult to see his impact in 2020.

Offensive Line

Projected starters: Andrew Whitworth, Joe Noteboom, Austin Blythe, David Edwards, Rob Havenstein
Notable backups: Austin Corbett, Bobby Evans, Brian Allen

Additions: Tremayne Anchrum
Notable subtractions: N/A

Better, worse, or about the same: About the same

It’s hard to say that the Rams got better on the offensive line considering they are rolling out with just a different rotation than they started with last year. Blythe will be an improvement over Allen and Edwards showed flashes at guard last season. However, the Rams are relying on a year of experience as well as cohesion leading to this group playing better and that’s a difficult thing to quantify.

They didn’t go out and sign a pro bowl guard. They didn’t draft a player on day two of the NFL Draft. The only moves they made were re-signing both Whitworth and Blythe who were obviously on the roster last season. When you don’t make any moves, it’s hard to say you got significantly better.

This is a group that played well down the stretch in 2019, but hopefully not adding anybody for a second straight year doesn’t come back and bite this team up front.

Defensive Line

Projected starters: Aaron Donald, Michael Brockers, A’Shawn Robinson
Notable backups: Sebastian Joseph-Day, Morgan Fox, Tanzel Smart

Additions: Robinson
Notable subtractions: N/A

Better, worse, or about the same: Better

The Rams almost lost Michael Brockers in free agency, but a failed physical kept Brockers in Los Angeles. Being able to do that was signifcant. Brockers doesn’t make flashy players, but he is the glue to the defensive line.

Adding Robinson was a big move as well. While the initial plan may have been more him to take over for Brockers, he should be able to line up at the one-technique (1T – nose tackle) and eat space on the inside. Since the Rams have moved to a 3-4, this is an area that they have been severely lacking.

This is a solid three with a good rotation behind them.

EDGE

Projected starters: Leonard Floyd, Terrell Lewis
Notable backups: Samson Ebukam, Ogbonnia Okoronkwo

Additions: Floyd, Lewis
Notable subtractions: Fowler, Matthews

Better, worse, or about the same: Worse

Back in 2018, the same year that Donald nearly broke the NFL sack record, players outside of Aaron Donald didn’t exceed more than five sacks. In fact, Ebukam led the edge group with three sacks.

Last season, Fowler tallied 12 sacks and became the first player not named Aaron Donald to exceed double-digit sacks since Robert Quinn in 2014. Donald definitely creates opportunities for players, but those same players didn’t take advantage in 2018 when Donald was having an all-time great season.

On top of that, Clay Matthews was having a very good season last year before breaking his jaw.

The Rams added Floyd, but he’s not so much a pass-rusher as much as he is a run-stopper. Lewis, who the team added in the draft, is a rookie and has had his share of injuries throughout his career.

Okoronkwo could have an impact if he gets an opportunity and Ebukam simply hasn’t shown that he can be a consistent threat off of the edge.

Inside Linebacker

Projected starters: Micah Kiser, Kenny Young
Notable backups: Travin Howard, Troy Reeder, Clay Johnston

Additions: Johnston
Notable subtractions: Cory Littleton, Bryce Hager

Better, worse, or about the same: Worse

Again, the Rams lost one of the best players at their position in free agency. Littleton worked his way up from an undrafted free agent to impact starter and cashed out with the Raiders.

Taking his spot will be Kiser, who got hurt before the season started in 2019 and Kenny Young who the team traded for. You could combine the talent of both players and they may not be as good as Littleton.

The Rams didn’t go out and sign anybody and they addressed the position in the draft with their second to last pick. It’s hard to say the Rams got better here as much as they are just stuck with what they have.

Cornerbacks 

Projected starters: Jalen Ramsey, Troy Hill, David Long
Notable backups: Darious Williams, Adonis Alexander, Dante Deayon

Additions: N/A
Notable subtractions: Nickel Robey-Coleman

Better, worse, or about the same: Slightly worse

The Rams lose Robey-Coleman which hurts, and they’ll try and replace him with David Long or potentially rookie safety Terrell Burgess. However, Robey-Coleman was one of the best slot cornerbacks in the NFL in a league in which three wide receivers on the field has become the norm.

Because of the loss, I do think the Rams got worse there, but it’s not significant. The Rams still have their top-two guys on the outside in Ramsey and Hill and this is a team that likes their depth on the roster in Williams, Alexander, and Deayon. Losing Robey-Coleman hurts, but I don’t think it’s not something that this team can’t overcome.

Safeties

Projected starters: John Johnson III, Taylor Rapp, Terrell Burgess
Notable backups: N/A

AdditionsBurgess
Notable subtractions: Eric Weddle

Better, worse, or about the same: Better

With the trio of Johnson, Rapp, and Burgess, the Rams arguable have the most versatile trio of safeties in the NFL. Johnson came play wherever he’s needed on the back end of the defense whether it’s free or strong safety. Rapp is fantastic in the box where he plays his best football, and Burgess can be the ball-hawking free safety or come down and play in the slot.

When you are able to do that with three safeties, it opens up a lot on defense. The Rams will be able to rotate their safeties or even have all three on the field in big nickel packages. This is a position that’s going to be fun to watch in 2020.

Special Teams

Projected starters: Johnny Hekker (P), Sam Sloman (K), Greg Dortch (KR), Nsimba Webster (PR)
Notable backups: N/A

AdditionsSloman, Lirim Hajrullahu
Notable subtractions: Greg Zuerlein

Better, worse, or about the same: Worse

Zuerlein became inconsistent last season and had been dealing with injuries. However, Zuerlein was still a top-10 or top-15 kicker in the NFL. The Rams now have a lot of uncertainty surrounding a position that can become very important. When the Chicago Bears decided to allow Robbie Gould to leave, it was thought that they’d easily be able to replace him. Since then, there isn’t a team that has dealt with more kicking drama.

When it comes to the kicker position, it’s probably better to side with the sure thing. Zuerlein missed some kicks last season, notably one that would have beaten the Seattle Seahawks, however, he had made a lot of big kicks in the past, notably against the Saints to win the NFC Championship game.

Outside of kicker, the Rams also have uncertainty surrounding both return spot. Plus they lost John Fassell, one of the best special teams coordinators in the NFL. Everyone forgets about special teams until you need them and they fail you. Right now, it looks like the Rams are forgetting about special teams.

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