Rams Rookies in Review: Grading Cam Akers and the 2020 rookie class

Los Angeles Rams Cam Akers

Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

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Despite not having a first round pick, the Los Angeles Rams made the most of their 2020 rookie class. The Rams started by hitting on Cam Akers and then made a strong pick late by taking Jordan Fuller in the sixth round. That doesn’t even mention the players in between and after.

They say that it takes three years to actually grade a rookie class, but with that said let’s grade Rams running backs Cam Akers and the rest of the rookie class based on their rookie seasons.

RB Cam Akers

It’s hard to find a Rams rookie that performed much better than Rams running back Cam Akers. He ranked fifth among rookies in rushing yards and showed up when it mattered most down the stretch. The Rams featured Cam Akers against the New England Patriots and he tallied 171 yards – the most for a Rams rookie in franchise history. It was also Akers against the Seahawks who came up with a big play in the passing game.

However, with how little value the running back position has, there should still be questions about whether or not it was the correct pick. Being the correct pick and a good pick are two different things. Akers was a good pick, but was it the correct one?

Center Tyler Biadasz went in the 4th round but ended up on PFF’s all rookie team. The same can be said for inside linebacker Mykal Walker. Meanwhile, running back James Robinson was an undrafted free agent and was arguably the best of the group this season.

Grade: B

WR Van Jefferson

Five picks later, the Rams took wide receiver Van Jefferson out of Florida. Jefferson had just 19 receptions for 220 yards. That’s only eight more receptions that Josh Reynolds had his rookie year. His 220 yards ranked sixth on the team behind Cooper Kupp, Robert Woods, Josh Reynolds, Tyler Higbee, and Gerald Everett.

The Rams drafted Jefferson with the thinking that either Woods or Kupp wouldn’t sign extensions. As it turns out, they both did.

There were questions about how Jefferson would produce at the NFL level. Denzel Mims went shortly after Jefferson and is exactly the type of receiver that the Rams are looking for this offseason –  a big player that can stretch the field. Jefferson ranked sixth among rookie wide receivers according to PFF’s grades, but there is no doubt that the Rams wish they could have gotten more production from him as a rookie.

Grade: C-

EDGE Terrell Lewis

The Rams took a risk by drafting Terrell Lewis in the third round. This was a first-round talent that dropped to the third round because of injuries. Unfortunately, Lewis dealt with injuries throughout his rookie season. He totaled just two sacks, played in eight games, and made zero starts.

Alex Highsmith went later in the third round and was arguably the best rookie edge rusher outside of Chase Young last season. Sometimes you gamble in the draft on players that have high upside. Lewis had that upside and it didn’t work out as a rookie. There’s a chance however that he could bounce back in year two.

Grade: C

S Terrell Burgess

Burgess only played 49 snaps on defense and spent most of the year hurt. When he did play, he showed some flashes, but nothing that says he could start in place of John Johnson III this season. According to Pro Football Focus, Burgess recorded a 49.7 grade in coverage as a rookie which was the fourth-lowest among rookie safeties.

However, according to Pro Football Reference, Burgess allowed just four receptions for a 57.1% completion percentage. He also allowed just 4.3 yards per target and a 67.6 quarterback rating. The jury is still out on Burgess, and he’ll be put in a larger role going into year two.

Grade: C

TE Byrcen Hopkins

It’s hard to grade Hopkins based on what he did as a rookie because he played a total of two offensive snaps. Year two is when we; llm presumably get a better look at Hopkins as he takes over for Gerald Everett.

However, when you look at who was taken after Hopkins, you have center Tyler Biadasz and L’Jarius Sneed had a good year with the Chiefs at cornerback. There are questions about Hopkins given how little he was active as a fourth round selection, but those questions will be answered this season.

Grade: C-

S Jordan Fuller

Was there a better pick in the entire draft than safety Jordan Fuller? No, Fuller didn’t have as good of a year as Antoine Winfield Jr. or even Jeremy Chinn. However, to find a solid starter in the sixth round at pick 199 is very good scouting. The Rams hit this selection out of the ball park.

Fuller spent some time injured, but when he was healthy, he made a lot of plays. His two interceptions against the Buccaneers helped clinch the win on Monday Night Football. There’s no doubt he’ll be a solid contributor moving forward.

Grade: A+

LB Clay Johnston

Clay Johnston dealt with injuries at Baylor and fell to the seventh round. However, despite being featured on hard knocks, the Rams cut him and he signed with the Carolina Panthers. Seventh round picks don’t have a lot of expectations, but typically you like to see them at least make the roster.

Grade: F

K Samuel Sloman

The Rams had one job in the seventh round of the NFL Draft and that was to find a kicker. After letting Greg Zuerlein walk in free agency, the Rams needed to find a replacement. They went with Sam Sloman out of the Miami (OH). Sloman could never find depth on his returns and missed a field goal or extra point in six out of seven games with the Rams.

Meanwhile, arguably the best kicker in the draft, Rodrigo Blankenship went undrafted and signed with the Colts. Blankenship went on to converted 43 out of 45 extra point attempts and made 32 out of 37 field goal tries, with a long of 53 yards. It’s pretty obvious that the Rams got this one wrong.

Sloman slightly redeemed himself in Tennessee where he snuck a game winning field goal inside the right upright to beat the Texans and win the AFC South as time expired.

Grade: F

 

OL Tremayne Anchrum

Anchrum played three offensive snaps and 51 on special teams. As a seventh round pick, unless the Rams deal with a lot of injuries, he won’t be a starter on the offensive line. He’s not the heir to Andrew Whitworth by any means. However, he did contribute on special teams and hung around all season.

Grade: C

Undrafted Free Agents

Safety JuJu Hughes provided good depth on defense. He’ll have a chance to develop into a solid contributor. The Rams liked what they saw out of quarterback Bryce Perkins. It wouldnt be surprising to see some sub-packages with him moving forward. Christian Rozeboom is also someone to keep an eye on at linebacker heading into year two.

Overall Grade: B-

Overall the Rams found potential stars in Cam Akers and Jordan Fuller and found contributors in Terrell Lewis and Terrell Burgess. That’s about as good as you can ask for out of any rookie class, let alone one without a first round pick. it wasn’t perfect by any means, but overall, Les Snead did a nice job finding talent.

The exciting part about this class is that it has potential to be even better. If Lewis plays to hit potential, he’s another star player while Brycen Hopkins and Van Jefferson could turn into solid offensive contributors. For them, we’ll have to reevaluate in three years.

 

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