The 2021 NFL Draft is coming up in April and despite having limited picks, the Los Angeles Rams will have their fair share of needs that they’ll need to fill. One of those needs is adding a vertical threat to their receiving corps. There is no question that after trading away Brandin Cooks, this was an aspect that the Rams offense sorely missed. After trading for Matthew Stafford, this is an area that the Rams will need to address.
While the team could look to free agency and add someone like Marvin Jones, the draft could also be an option. Here are the top vertical threat options for the Rams in the 2021 NFL Draft:
WR D’Wayne Eskridge – Western Michigan
D’Wayne Eskridge fits the exact mold of wide receiver that the Rams typically like. He’s a polished route-runner and puts in a strong effort in the run game as a blocker. Like Robert Woods, Cooper Kupp, and Van Jefferson, he can also lineup anywhere on the field; whether that’s inside in the slot or outside on the perimeter.
What makes Eskridge special is that not only is he a vertical threat, but he can also have a role on special teams as a punt returner and kick returner. Last season, the Rams played musical chairs with their return man and seemed to still constantly get mistakes.
D'Wayne Eskridge's release >>>
Now here's a guy who has my attention (Cris Collinsworth voice). Quick off the line and on his breaks. pic.twitter.com/yDWgjgNhug
— Daniel Valente (@StatsGuyDaniel) February 5, 2021
The Rams don’t necessarily need someone to take over a full-time role in Week 1 in the 2021 NFL Draft. And Eskridge isn’t going to. However, he can return punts and play special teams on day one as well as be a role player in the offense. I do have concerns about his size at only 5’9, but it’s not as big of an issue as he also weights almost 190-lbs.
Projected Round: 3rd
WR Demetric Felton – UCLA
Demetric Felton is a weird evaluation because he can play anywhere on the field. His experience comes at running back, but he enters the draft as a wide receiver. He took reps at both during the Senior Bowl and excelled at both. The main point with Felton is – get the ball in his hands and watch him do the rest.
Felton is someone that is going to need to be in the right place to start his NFL career. He’s going to need an offensive mind that can design special packages for him while he develops. He’s going to need the jet sweeps, screen plays, and other special packages just for him. If he develops on that path and more as a receiver, I have little doubt that he can be what Percy Harvin was, what the Rams wanted Tavon Austin to be, or what Cordarrelle Patterson is in Chicago.
Just your daily, “I need Demetric Felton in a Rams uniform” tweet. pic.twitter.com/G4QaYs4KID
— BGrisakDTR💭 (@bgrisakDTR) February 1, 2021
The former UCLA running back is a willing blocker as he was excellent in pass protection, can be a return-man on punts and kickoffs, and he has the speed to get deep. Like Eskridge, he’s small as he’s listed at 5’8.5, but he makes up for it with 189-lbs of muscle.
Projected Round: 3rd-4th
WR Dazz Newsome – North Carolina
Dazz Newsome îs someone that is flying under the radar in a loaded wide receiver class. At North Carolina, he constantly made big plays and impressive catches. Unlike Eskridge who can lineup anywhere, Newsome did most of his work from the slot in college and projects best there in the NFL.
Sam Howell and Dazz Newsome
— Tom Downey (@WhatGoingDowney) January 3, 2021
However, every other area he fits what the Rams like. He’s a good route-runner and reliable pass-catcher. He also brings value as a punt returner which is something that the Rams will be looking for if they end up drafting a wide receiver. Unlike the rest of the guys on this list, Newsome also isn’t small as he stands at 5’11 and 190-lbs.
Projected Round: 4th
WR Amari Rodgers – Clemson
If the Rams go wide receiver early and with their 57th overall selection, Rodgers will probably be the guy. Any later and he simply won’t be available. Rodgers is physical, explosive, and great after the catch. The Clemson wide receiver played in the Senior Bowl and was one of the more impressive wide receivers in Mobile.
— Steve Frederick (@_SteveFrederick) January 27, 2021
Rodgers was the go-to guy for Trevor Lawrence in the Clemson offense, but will need to develop more in the NFL. He doesn’t have great size at 5-9, but weighing in at 211-lbs, he plays physical and has no issues going up and getting the football. As an added bonus he also has the ability to return punts.
Projected Round: 2nd-3rd
Outside of those five, there are a few others that I like as well. Nico Collins from Michigan is an interesting option as well as Dyami Brown. Both of these players will probably be day two guys in the draft. Anthony Schwartz is EXTREMELY fast and is someone that you just need to get the ball in his hands.
Auburn WR Anthony Schwartz is a speed freak 👀 pic.twitter.com/Bmrg6xJFN2
— Bobby Football (@Rob__Paul) September 21, 2019
Players later in the draft that In like are Jaelon Darden out of North Texas. He’s a small school guy, but is exactly what the Rams need at wide receiver in the vertical and return game. Ihmir Smith-Marsette has the potential to be a huge steal in the NFL Draft. Iowa quarterbacks did him no favors whatsoever. The last player that I’ll point out is Marquez Stevenson. Stevenson has dealt with injuries, but he can take the top off of defenses. He had a solid Senior Bowl week that will hopefully boost his draft stock.
TD No. 1️⃣7️⃣ for Jaelon Darden 😱pic.twitter.com/X0pYft63f2
— PFF Draft (@PFF_College) December 12, 2020