Put simply, while the Los Angeles Rams may be in the Super Bowl, they still clearly need help on the offensive line. One such avenue of improvement is through the NFL Draft. Between Andrew Whitworth‘s appreciating age and spotty play across the line-up and down the depth chart, the Rams would be remiss if they didn’t get some ammo this offseason, no matter how the Super Bowl goes. The Rams’ first pick comes in the third round, and the team may just get a shot at Georgia offensive lineman Justin Shaffer. Depending on how the Draft goes and, knowing the team’s tendencies to gamble, the Rams could trade up to get what they hope is the future of the offensive line.
Justin Shaffer: One-on-One with Ian Vanroy
This writer was able to get a few minutes with Shaffer on Wednesday at the Senior Bowl in Mobile, Alabama. Here’s the conversation that took place and a deeper look at the answers, which serves as a nice intro to the player and helps set the stage for where he could fit with the Rams.
Q: A lot of people only watch the NFL, so this is the first time you’ll be kind of introducing yourself to them so what would you say is like the first thing you want them to know about you?
A: I love the game, I’m a baller, I have a blue-collar [work ethic] that I try to go out and play with.
This was a pretty basic answer. The “blue-collar” touch was a nice, succinct way of him saying he’s a hard worker and humble. Basically, he won’t be attempting to be a diva, which is good to hear from any position in the NFL.
Q: Are there any franchises, any preferences for which franchise ultimately [picks] you, or are there any franchises you would be nervous about picking you?
A: Whatever team that drafts me, drafts me. But, [in terms of preferences] a team that likes to run the ball a lot, because I like [run blocking] a lot.
This could be a great fit for Sean McVay, who built his name on running the ball early and often to set up the play-action. Perhaps with Shaffer, McVay would be more willing to run the ball more than in recent years, letting Shaffer get out in space to hit some people. In 2021, most would agree that the run game has been clearly inferior to the passing game. Perhaps with Shaffer, the Rams could get back to running the ball more reliably next season. Granted, injuries factored into this season as much as any in the McVay era, but any downtick in any area needs to be actively addressed.
Q: This first year in the NFL is kind of a developmental year for a lot of people. What is your biggest goal for this year? You could [talk] about a stat or a team accomplishment. What’s your goal?
A: My goal is to try to come in and start day one and just figure out the program, continue to build, and try to win the game.
At first glance, this is a pretty basic answer, but it also shows how Shaffer sees himself and how far ahead he is thinking. He didn’t answer with looking to win a Super Bowl, which would not have been the most pragmatic goal. By choosing to simply aim to start on day one, he set a goal that is not a pie-in-the-sky idea. He set a goal and a deadline. Granted, beyond that, he didn’t seem to have too many plans. Some would say that is good as it helps him focus on one step at a time and has full focus on what he is doing today. Others may say that not having a clear plan farther into the future could have him stumbling into trouble. For instance, if he cuts a developmental corner to start on day one, he could be harming his long-term development. However, in the end, this answer can be taken a number of ways.
Q: Have you heard from the Los Angeles Rams at all and have you heard from any teams more than any other team? Anyone kind of jumping out, basically?
A: We had interviews Tuesday night, and I had two interviews with the Jaguars.
This is pretty straightforward. If the Rams want Shaffer, they may have some competition. Depending on how the Draft goes, the Rams may feel pressured to move up to draft him or they could prepare a solid plan B if Shaffer indeed goes to Jacksonville. That said, the Jaguars seem likely to be as pass-heavy as run-heavy in 2022.
Q: Is there anything you want to talk about, to get off your chest, or that you wanted to let people know about?
A: Just, I’m trying to come in and make a name for myself.
Overall, Shaffer was quick and to the point, keeping his cards close to his vest. If he talks too much, he could say something that hurts his draft stock. The less he says, the more his play does the talking, which plays into his “blue-collar” work ethic.
Will the Rams make a run at Shaffer? With their first pick coming in the third round, they may not get a chance. They seem even lower if the Jaguars are as keen on him as he made it out to be. Of course, with three months until the big day, a lot can change.
The Senior Bowl can be seen on NFL Network on Saturday, Feb. 5 at 1:30 p.m. CT.