Los Angeles Rams: Short and Long Term Exceptions For the 2020 Draft Class

by Blaine Grisak
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It’s unclear when the Los Angeles Rams’ rookies will join their teammates on the field because of the COVID-19 pandemic. But the team is certain that when they do, a few Week 1 contributors will quickly emerge. With that in mind, here is a pick-by-pick look at the Rams’ draft class.

RB Cam Akers

Round 2, Pick 52

Where he fits in 2020: Cam Akers will have a great chance to be the star of this Rams backfield in this coming season. A former five-star recruit, Akers ran behind one of the worst offensive lines in college football at Florida State. The Seminoles running back faced contact at or behind the line of scrimmage at the highest rate of any FBS running back in the country. Had he played at Georgia or Alabama, we might have been talking about Akers as the best running back in the draft.

Akers fits more of the mold of what McVay looks for in a running back and given that the position is wide open for the taking, the opportunity is there. Sure, he will split some reps with Henderson and even Malcolm Brown, but when all is said and done, there is a good chance that Akers leads this team in carries.

Where he fits long-term: Akers’ fit short-term and long-term are generally the same. In two or three years, he should be the standout, feature-back on the Rams offense. Henderson will have the same opportunity, but he hasn’t shown an ability to carry the load and with his smaller size, having a bruiser like Akers will give the Rams some variety at the position.

After cutting Todd Gurley this past offseason, this should be Akers’ job to lose right now and in the future.

WR Van Jefferson

Round 2, Pick 57

Where he fits in 2020: The Rams took Jefferson 57th overall, but unlike Akers, it may take some time for Jefferson to find a full-time role. This is an offense with Cooper Kupp and Robert Woods as the top two guys with Josh Reynolds hanging behind them as depth.

While Jefferson is the better receiver than Reynolds, the Rams aren’t going to simply give up on the development of the former fourth-round pick. Reynolds has come into his own over the last year and has earned an opportunity as the third wide receiver. On top of that, if the Rams move to more 12 personnel, that limits the Rams to just two wide receivers on the field.

With all of that said, don’t be surprised if Jefferson is out-snapping Reynolds after the halfway point of the season.

Where he fits long-term: The Rams are going to run into some tough decisions next offseason. Cooper Kupp is a free agent and Robert Woods could ask for an extension with just one year left on his deal which has been one of the best bargains in the NFL.

Jefferson is nearly a carbon-copy of Kupp and Woods. He can play outside and he can play in the slot. Jefferson has reliable hands and is a crisp route-runner. All of which are qualities that Sean McVay seems to value at the wide receiver position. It’s going to be seen as a risk at the time and probably won’t go over well with fans, but don’t be surprised if the Rams allow Kupp to walk next offseason with the plan to have Jefferson step in and replace him in 2021.

EDGE Terrell Lewis

Round 3, Pick 84

Where he fits in 2020: Much like Akers, Terrell Lewis will have one of the quickest paths to a starting role. After losing Dante Fowler and Clay Matthews in free agency (Matthews was cut), the Rams don’t have either of their starting outside linebackers returning from a season ago. That leaves the team with Leonard Floyd, Samson Ebukam, and Ogbonnia Okoronkwo.

Had Lewis not dealt with injuries, there is a decent chance that he was a first-round pick in the draft. However, the Rams end up getting a steal in the third round with a player that can jump in a start right away. The opportunity is there for the taking, but Lewis also has the ability.

Where he fits long-term: If he stays healthy, Lewis should be the Rams’ premier pass-rusher on the edge. That is the question though, this is a player that just hasn’t been able to stay healthy. He played just four games in 2017 before red-shirting in 2018. He then played only 11 games in 2019 while accumulating six sacks and 11.5 tackles for loss.

Health is the biggest question mark here, but Lewis should slot in as a starter on the edge right away and develop into a threat that offenses have to game plan around in years two and three.

S Terrell Burgess

Round 3, Pick 104

Where he fits in 2020: Burgess is an intriguing player that the Rams were able to select in the third round. The third-round selection played in one of the best secondaries in the country and brings a ton of versatility to the position. This is a player than can play free safety up top and has the ball-hawking range, but he also has the ability to slip down and play nickel cornerback.

With the addition of Burgess, it leaves the Rams with three safeties all with different skillsets. It would not be shocking to see the Rams utilize and rotate all three. This is a team that cut Nickell Robey-Coleman and is now without a slot cornerback, therefore, Burgess could be used there a lot. However, I also expect Burgess to play up-high on passing downs and then if a team does line up with three wide receivers, he could line up at the line of scrimmage as the nickel.

Where he fits long-term: Burgess is reminiscent of Malcolm Jenkins in a sense. As mentioned, this is a player that can pretty much do it all in the secondary, having the ability to play up-high and in nickel packages. The Rams currently have John Johnson III and Taylor Rapp at safety, but with Rapp’s deficiencies in coverage, it would not be surprising to see Burgess as this team’s future free safety that lines up across from Johnson.

However, with that said, Johnson is playing on the last year of his deal and this is a team that historically has not paid their defensive backs. Burgess could very well be Johnson’s replacement after this season at free safety with Rapp lining up across from him as the team transitions to Brandon Staley’s defense.

TE Brycen Hopkins

Round 4, Pick 136

Where he fits in 2020: The Rams shocked some fans when they selected the Purdue tight end in the fourth round. This is a team that saw Tyler Higbee break out at the end of last season and drafted Gerald Everett in the second round back in 2017. The tight end position on this roster is cluttered and it’s hard to see an immediate fit.

With Higbee and Everett already in the fold, unless Everett is traded, it’s hard to see Hopkins getting a lot of immediate playing time. Everett hasn’t produced at the level that many would like, but he hasn’t played poorly enough to warrant a spot on the bench. The same can be said about Higbee who had one of the most historic runs for a tight end in NFL history.

Hopkins won’t be on the bench all season, but he could play in a much-lesser, more rotational role right out of the gates.

Where he fits long-term: By selecting Hopkins, it’s pretty clear that the Rams don’t see a future with Everett on this team. The Rams gave Higbee an extension last offseason and have now selected Hopkins with an early day three selection. Everett’s contract is up at the end of the year, and it would be shocking to see the team renew it.

After this year, Hopkins will replace the role that Everett had and join Higbee as a 1-2 duo at the tight end position. The two players will complement each other well as Hopkins is much more of a receiving tight end that can line-up out wide while Higbee has improved his blocking and is more of the prototypical in-line tight end.

S Jordan Fuller

Round 4, Pick 199

Where he fits in 2020: The Rams lost safety depth in Marqui Christian this offseason. Fuller brings depth to the position and will also be a contributor on special teams. With the current top-three at safety as well as his draft position, it’s hard to see Fuller seeing a lot of action on the field even with injury as Nick Scott will be in year two.

Where he fits long-term: As a sixth-round selection, it’s hard to see a path to even an eventual starting role for Fuller. The best-case scenario is he fills the void left by Christian and becomes a depth piece that the Rams can rely on if an injury does occur.

LB Clay Johnston

Round 7, Pick 234

Where he fits in 2020: The linebacker position is an interesting one for the Rams. Like EDGE, neither Bryce Hager or Cory Littleton are back in 2020. That leaves the inside linebacker spot wide open for the taking. Players like Micah Kiser, Kenny Young, and Troy Reeder will all compete for the spot, but don’t just write off Johnston. He has the ability to start or even play in a rotational role.

He is still a seventh-round pick, which means that expectations should be tempered. On top of that, this is a player that has dealt with injuries in the past. Johnston should be a contributor on special teams at the very least this season.

Where he fits long-term: The Rams have gotten production out of late-round linebackers in the past. Johnston could be the latest of those players. The Baylor linebacker brings an energy that is unmatched at the position. As a seventh-round pick, it’s hard to set the expectation as a future starter, but with Johnson, it just seems like a realistic possibility. A best-case scenario is that he ends up as this team’s starting inside linebacker given the opportunity at the position. However. at the very least, he remains a solid special teams contributor and rotational player on defense.

K Sam Sloman

Round 7, Pick 248

Where he fits in 2020: The Rams are going to have a kicking competition on their hands. This is a team that signed arguably the best kickers in the CFL and XFL and drafted who some considered to be the best kicker in college football. If he wins the starting kicker job, he will be kicking field goals for the Rams and hopefully, they’ll be through the uprights.

However, with that said, don’t expect there not be bumps in his rookie season if he does win the starting role. Even Zuerlein had struggled in year one as he made just 74.2% of his field goals. In 2012, the former Rams kicker went 2-for-5 against the Miami Dolphins which ended in a 17-14 loss. The Rams also tied against the 49ers in a game that Zuerlein missed from 58.

Where he fits long-term: Hopefully Sloman develops into what the Rams had in Greg Zuerlein. Zuerlein was a reliable kicker that could be counted on from deep range and made many kicks. It would not be surprising to see Sloman struggle as a rookie and then become that reliable kicker as Zuerlein did.

G Tremayne Anchrum

Round 7, Pick 250 

Where he fits in 2020: Many thought that the Rams should address the offensive line position earlier in the draft. However, it wasn’t until their final pick in the seventh round that they finally drafted an offensive lineman. Anchrum has good intangibles and fits the blocking-scheme that the Rams run. However, the Rams have a lot of depth on the offensive line, meaning that Anchrum will not only have to compete for a roster spot, but even if he ends up on the final roster, he’ll be a depth piece.

Where he fits long-term: Typically players drafted this late don’t stay on the roster for more than two or three years and are often cut the very next offseason. That very well could be the case for Anchrum. However, the best-case scenario is that he ends up as a sort of ‘sixth-man’ on the offensive line that can come in and play guard or tackle if someone were to go down with injury.

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