3 draft needs for the Los Angeles Rams
The Los Angeles Rams don’t have a first-round pick in 2017, as it was traded away as part of the compensation for the rights to the first overall selection in 2016. As a result of the trade-up for QB Jared Goff the Rams don’t have a selection until pick No. 37 in the 2017 draft.
The Rams need to do a better job of protecting Goff. The free-agent addition of tackle Andrew Whitworth and center John Sullivan will go a long way in helping to keep Goff upright, but both players are on the backend of their careers and the Rams’ offensive line could use some youth. The Rams must also add playmakers at wide receiver and tight end if they want see marked improvement from Goff and their offense in 2017. Here’s some key targets and the key areas of need for Los Angeles in this year’s draft.
Need: Playmakers at wide receiver
The Rams had a thin wide receiver unit in 2016 but then lost their most productive receiver Kenny Britt in free agency. While they added free agent Robert Woods, they still need to add playmakers at wide receiver to go along with Woods and Tavon Austin. Goff had excellent red-zone touch and accuracy at Cal and the Rams would be wise to build to his strengths. The Rams could use a big body to haul in Goff’s passes into the end zone or to haul in third-down passes at the sticks and move the chains for the new Rams’ offense.
Early-round target: JuJu Smith Schuster, WR, USC
Smith-Schuster is a prospect who has shown he can win with strength and size. Although he has been inconsistent over the span of his career he has battled through some injuries and a shifting role in the USC offense. Still he has consistently gained yards after the catch and averaged 6.1 yards after the catch per completion over the last three years. If Smith-Schuster can play with the physical nature that he is capable of he would be an ideal candidate to help out Goff. Our friends at 120 Sports also thought JuJu Smith-Schuster is a good fit for the Rams, and discussed why in this video.
Mid- or late-round target: Jalen Robinette, WR, Air Force
Goff could use a big-bodied red-zone threat who can box his man out and catch touchdown passes. Robinette excelled at that role at Air Force and he could be a target if the Rams don’t add a wide receiver on the second day of the draft. Robinette plays wide receiver like a good rebounding forward in basketball. Robinette also displayed the leaping ability and ball skills to catch the passes that are targeted “helmet or higher” in the red zone so only the wide receiver can catch it. Robinette is also highly productive on downfield play-action passes and caught all 17 of his deep targets (20 or more yards downfield) for 699 yards.
The Rams will likely be running more outside zone runs under head coach Sean McVay in 2017 than they ran in 2016. While newly signed free agent John Sullivan knows McVay’s offense from their time together in Washington, a young athletic center would be a valued addition to the new offense. The opportunity to pair a talented young rookie center with Goff and let them develop together would have to be strongly considered.
Early-round target: Ethan Pocic, C, LSU
Pocic is our top-ranked center in the draft class. Pocic isn’t as athletic as some other centers in the draft but is long and rangy for a center and consistently demonstrated his effectiveness as a reach blocker on outside zone runs. More importantly for the Rams’ offense Pocic has been successful at keeping pass-rushers off his quarterback as he didn’t allow a sack or hit in 2016. Pocic has only allowed 2 sacks, 2 hits, and 27 hurries over the span of the last three seasons and 963 pass-blocking snaps.
Mid- or late-round target: Chase Roullier, OC, Wyoming
Roullier is an incredibly effective run-blocker and one of the most athletic centers in the draft class. Roullier is very good at reaching his man in outside zone run plays and splitting the defense. Roullier would be a great fit for the Rams’ new offensive scheme in 2017 and even if he isn’t selected until the third day of the draft, he would have a strong shot at winning the starting center spot. Roullier did not allow a sack and only gave up 1 hit and 7 hurries on 462 pass-block snaps in 2016.
Just a few seasons ago the Rams secondary was a strength on the team but the depth and talent has been depleted via free agency. Expect the Rams to be playing a healthy dose of man coverage next season under new defensive coordinator Wade Phillips and as a result to be eyeing athletic cornerbacks who can stay with receivers in sticky man coverage. Luckily for the Rams this is a very deep cornerback class and they should be able to find at least one contributor at the position in the draft.
Early-round target: Adoree’ Jackson, CB, USC
Jackson is one of the better athletes in the draft class. He has tremendous catch-up speed and can make touchdown-saving tackles of fast running backs from behind. Jackson is still a bit raw in coverage technique but has tremendous ball skills and has broken up 19 passes and made 6 interceptions over the past three seasons. Jackson’s aforementioned ball skills, speed and his open-field running ability combine to make him a dangerous returner who is a threat to score every time he touches the ball. Jackson could also be used on offense for a few snaps a game to supplement a thin wide receiver group much like the Cardinals did a few years ago with Patrick Peterson.
Mid- or late-round target: Shaquill Griffin, CB, Central Florida
Griffin’s coverage ability and grades improved each of the last three seasons and he finished 2016 with an impressive 87.2 coverage grade. He showed at the combine that he is one of the classes top athletes at the position by finishing in the top five among cornerbacks in the 40-yard dash, vertical jump and broad jump. Furthermore, Griffin showed on film that he has the coverage ability necessary to play outside in Wade Phillips’ defense. Griffin only allowed 39.7 percent of the passes thrown into his coverage to be caught in 2016. Griffin is a talented cornerback who will get pushed down in the draft due to the depth at his position.