Joey Ricotta | May 1st, 2020
Without a first-round pick in the 2020 NFL Draft, general manager Les Snead and the Los Angeles Rams seemed to have their work cut out for them. Then, the draft took place, and many first-round worthy selections slipped to the second round, where the Rams had two picks. They wound up with nine picks in total, including two third-round picks and three seventh-rounders. But did they make the right moves? Let’s take a look under the hood at the engine that drives this Rams team and what his thought process was like behind each choice.
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Round 2, Pick 52: Cam Akers, RB, Florida State
Surely, a running back selection was coming at some point in the draft, after the Rams released Todd Gurley. I wasn’t expecting it to be their first pick. On the list of priorities, I don’t think it falls in the top four. Akers profiles as a very solid back at the next level, however, in my honest opinion, he’s a tier beneath J.K. Dobbins, who was still on the board.
Not to mention, there were two or three players still on the board who received first-round grades from me and they were all positions of need for the Rams. Akers should wind up being a good pick. Keep in mind, he ran behind an awful offensive line at Florida State. Yet, he was still able to put up decent numbers, rushing for over 1,000 yards two of his three years there. I like the player, I didn’t like the pick, and for that reason, he gets the grade that follows.
Round 2, Pick 57: Van Jefferson, WR, Florida
Brandin Cooks is gone as he was traded to the Houston Texans along with a 2022 fourth-round pick for this second-round pick. With the pick, the Rams elected to select his potential replacement. Once again, I don’t believe this was the best player available, and not only just for the receiver position. If this had been the other Jefferson, Justin, I would’ve been all for it. However, “movin’ on up” with Van, he’s the son of former NFL wide receiver and current New York Jets wide receiver coach Shawn Jefferson. So, the background and football passion are there. He’s a terrific route runner, who should be able to step in and make his presence felt immediately, being 24-years old.
Round 3, Pick 84: Terrell Lewis, EDGE, Alabama
Lewis is a solid pick here. Injuries really derailed his college career. He was held to only four games in 2017 and didn’t play at all in 2018. On a positive note, Lewis seemed to return to his former speed and showed why he’s regarded so highly. A lot of good names were still on the board, but clearly, they didn’t want to wait too long for an edge rusher.
With Brandon Staley taking over as defensive coordinator for the Rams, the scheme should remain somewhat similar to Wade Phillips’. I like the fit for Lewis. A 3-4 style defense is the perfect place for him to be, it’ll allow him to flourish as an outside linebacker and edge-rushing specialist. Plus, Staley has helped coach elite pass-rushers like Khalil Mack and Von Miller. He knows a thing or two about what it takes to get the most from that position. Lewis has good first-step quickness and a good repertoire of moves. As long as he stays healthy, I think the Rams found a good replacement for Dante Fowler Jr. and Clay Matthews‘ 19.5 combined sacks last season. Even if it’s only rotational for the first season.
Round 3, Pick 104: Terrell Burgess, SAF, Utah
The Utah Utes’ football program has been producing a ton of NFL products recently, under head coach Kyle Whittingham. Burgess joins this year’s class of seven Utah players drafted, of which, six of them were defensive players. Burgess didn’t get a whole lot of playing time leading up to 2019, but he stood out when he did. He’s a nice tackler with decent form, who isn’t scared of bigger body ball carriers. He goes right at them and wraps nicely.
From the tape I watched, he plays very well in coverage, man-to-man especially. Burgess is a strong safety by label but he was used as a nickel corner quite a bit as well. Selecting someone with the versatility Burgess possesses, has to be looked at as a win. I had Burgess graded as an early third-round talent, the Rams did well getting him towards the end. I think his floor in the NFL is a solid nickel corner.
Round 4, Pick 136: Brycen Hopkins, TE, Purdue
Hopkins has physical traits and enough route running ability that could help him become an asset in the receiving game. Hopkins has struggled to hang onto the ball at times, with too many drops and poor catch fundamentals. Be that as it may, he seems like a good fit in the Rams offense and a similar player to what they have with Gerald Everett and Tyler Higbee. However, Everett and Higbee don’t struggle much with drops and can actually block. So, no, I don’t like the pick all that much. However, Everett is an unrestricted free agent after 2020, so Hopkins could ensure the team retains two solid tight ends moving forward.
Round 6, Pick 199: Jordan Fuller, SAF, Ohio State
The most notable trait for Fuller is his height, ranking in the 90th percentile for defensive backs, standing 6’2″. Honestly, Fuller is going to need to make his bones on special teams. Neither his coverage nor his tackling is anything to write home about. He has a tendency to get overzealous and take bad angles. Ohio State mostly used him as a single-high safety where he could read the play in the front of him and work his forward or across. That’s fine for their defense, but it doesn’t take a whole lot of skill and looks less impressive on tape. If he’s asked to do more than that at the NFL level, he could get exposed.
Round 7, Pick 234: Clay Johnston, LB, Baylor
Johnston figures to compete to fill the inside linebacker void left by Cory Littleton. This is a tough round to get a starter out of, especially right away. Johnston would not have been my first pick given his history with injuries. Additionally, he lacks the speed to cover a lot of ground or speedy receiving weapons. However, the instincts, reaction time, and tackling ability are legit. He should be able to carve out a decent role as a special teamer if nothing more.
Don’t go toe-to-toe with him, he’ll put a lick on you. Brett Favre picked him to be his sleeper pick because all the kid cares about is football, he can cover a back out of the backfield, and he’ll stick you. Take it with a grain of salt, because his Dad Kent Johnson, was a strength coach with the Green Bay Packers during Favre’s time there, and was also the best man at his wedding. But I do see him being a productive backup, with low-end starter upside.
Round 7, Pick 248: Sam Sloman, K, Miami Ohio
Well, something about “Hot Rod” Rodrigo Blankenship scared teams away. It’s a little baffling looking at it from the outside, that my number one ranked kicker, going into the draft, wound up going undrafted. Nonetheless, the Rams took a stab with an accurate kicker out of Miami Ohio, who went 26 for 30 (86.7%) in field goal attempts in 2019. The Rams don’t have a solidified replacement for Greg Zuerlein, so this can’t be looked at as a terrible move.
However, at this point in the draft, they probably could’ve gotten away with him sliding to the UDFA list and making him an offer. They already have former XFL kicker Austin MacGinnis and former CFL kicker Liram Hajrullahu signed. Certainly, the pick didn’t have to be spent on Sloman if they believed strongly in one of those. The competition should be in full force during training camp. With that said, these are all dart throws at this point, and maybe they’ve found a long-term solution.
Round 7, Pick 250: Tremayne Anchrum, OL, Clemson
Anchrum was a pillar on the Clemson offensive line. He’s a good run blocker and acceptable in pass protection. He profiles better as a guard because of his lesser size and length. But he mostly played tackle in college and should be able to do it out of necessity at the pro level. Edge rushers can manipulate him at times and set him up after he overextends. I have no problem with this pick because Anchrum has some upside to him as a starting guard, albeit coming into the league with some rawness to his game. The Rams didn’t address the line other than this pick, so it was about time.
The Rams added a lot of pieces. Whether or not these pieces will be difference makers, remains to be seen. They’ve brought in a couple of players who can help now, and some that are more of fliers, with special teams realistic expectations and upside for more. Akers and Jefferson were sort of unnecessary, but they aren’t bad players. The Rams failed to address cornerback unless Burgess winds up playing there. They barely addressed the offensive line, but Anchrum could be solid in the future. I really like the Terrell Burgess pick as a whole, no matter where he plays. If Lewis stays healthy, he could be a star.
Final Grade: B
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