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NFC West

2020 Draft Analysis: LA Rams

On April 25 the NFL released their “quick-snap grades” for the 32 teams that participated in the 2020 draft. The box beneath the Rams displayed a proud A. Granted, these grades rarely predict the immediate future, but across reputable sports and news websites, including ESPN and the NY Post, the Rams received no lower than a C. 

The Rams entered the draft with a weakened RB section after they released Todd Gurley. It was no surprise their first move was drafting Cam Akers. This rookie confidently skipped his senior year at Florida State to enroll in the draft, and it paid off. The Rams’ draft significantly strengthened their RB group by creating a promising RB trio of Akers, Darrell Henderson, and Malcolm Brown. Henderson is still full of potential since he was drafted in 2019. Brown, at 25 years old, has been playing for the Rams since 2015. There is no doubt that his experience will allow him to mentor Akers and guide the RB trio to success.

Fans may be looking at Akers to be “the next Gurley” due to his impressive statistics. During his collegiate career Akers demonstrated his ability to evade tackles, rushing for 1,144 yards and 14 touchdowns in 21 carries in his junior year season. For now I expect to see strong and successful teamwork from the RB trio rather than a singular player filling Gurley’s shoes.

Drafting Terrell Lewis was one of the Rams’ wisest moves of the draft. Lewis went into the draft as a wildcard due to injuries that prevented him from playing most of his collegiate career. Despite having to endure these injuries – including a torn ACL – Lewis held a large presence when he was on the field. His athleticism allowed Alabama to play him as an edge rusher and multiple other positions with equal success. This versatility and his impressive stature give Lewis great potential barring any future injuries.

A potential mistake of the Rams’ was passing on Prince Tega Wanogho in the sixth round. Wanagho started in 32 games during his collegiate career and he will now be an asset for the Eagles as he stands at 6-foot-five and 308 pounds. He was also affected greatly by an injury – fluid in his knee. The uncertainty caused by his injury was likely a factor in the Rams’ decision, but it will be interesting to see if they let Wanagho’s potential slip right through their fingers.

Another intriguing aspect of the Rams’ draft strategy is what they prioritized. A no-brainer first pick would be an ILB to patch the holes in their run defense. However, in early rounds the Rams’ chose to draft highly-ranked players who displayed talent and potential, not necessarily based on what position they play. The team did not draft an ILB until they picked up Clay Johnston in round 7.

Johnston has also suffered recent injuries including a torn ACL, but since his position is in such high demand for the Rams he will surely have the opportunity to start once he has recovered.

Kickers are often overlooked, and this was no different in the 2020 draft. Sam Sloman was drafted in round seven, but he is used to being an underdog. In a game there is often a powerful moment when the stadium of fans is on their feet, holding their breath in anticipation as the ball soars toward the field goal. An entire game – an entire season even – can be defined by one kick. And that’s when Sloman, with his reliability and record of improvement, comes into play. During both his senior season in high school and in college he made about 87% of his field goal attempts. The difference is that in college this meant making 26 out of thirty field goals. If he can get on the roster after training camp, fans will be expecting great things from the kicker who consistently improves over time.

The Rams’ star quarterback, Jared Goff,  impressed the Rams so much over the years that in 2019 the team decided to apply a four year extension to his contract. Goff’s strengths lie in throwing the ball which ties him closely to the WR’s and RB’s on the team. In 2019 he passed for 4,638 yards and only rushed 40 yards. The Rams’ WR’s and RB’s have played a crucial role in receiving those passes and rushing the ball. 

With Gurley gone, Goff has a new face to pass to: Van Jefferson, WR. Jefferson was born into the world of football, as his father Shawn Jefferson was an NFL receiver for 13 years and he currently coaches for the New York Jets. Despite his impressive lineage, Jefferson’s impeccable skill and hard work clearly determined his success thus far. He started for all 13 games during his senior year at Florida. This WR will be an important asset to Goff’s traditional plays and to the team as a whole.

All in all, the Rams succeeded in coming out of the 2020 draft as a much stronger team with more depth. Holes in the team lineup that were created by releasing and trading players are now filled with nine fresh Rams who are hungry for competition.

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