Los Angeles Rams 2020 NFL Draft Grade
The 2020 draft will forever and always be remembered as the first (and hopefully last) virtual draft. Sure, it brought in huge ratings and we learned a lot (maybe too much) about coaches and GM’s around the league, but no one wants this to be the new normal. Covid induced effects aside, this draft offered plenty of picks that will shape the NFL landscape in the good old fashioned way; with great football players.
Since the Rams didn’t have a first-round pick they didn’t get a shot at some of the clear-cut game wreckers and playmakers. But I don’t have to remind anyone of the myriad of stars and Hall of Famers that have come from days 2 and 3 of the draft. Every draft class runs the gamut.
Les Snead has had some USDA grade A certified choice drafts. Let’s take a look at how his 2020 effort stacks up.
Best Pick – Round 3, pick 104: Terrell Burgess, S, Utah
Burgess earns this distinction because one; he is a very good safety and two; the Rams desperately need a safety behind Rapp and Johnson. Burgess falling to 104 was not where he was expected to go and several teams picked lesser safeties ahead of him. So the Rams got a double whammy, filled a need with a mid-round pick.
He will have an immediate impact in the Rams secondary. Burgess has the cerebral part of the game down pat. He is well studied and a quick learner. Utes’ defensive coordinator Morgan Scalley said, “That and he is one of the smartest football players that scouts will interview. He knows the front play. He knows the back end..”
All that preparation pays off on the field. He reads play development and awareness at a pro-level. He also has the potential to switch positions. At Utah, he played cornerback, nickel back, free safety, strong safety, and on all special teams units.
All this begs the question, why did he drop? He’s on the stocky side for a safety. He’s 5’11” 202lbs. The lack of length will pose a problem, but he has good speed. He ran the 40 in 4.46, fifth among safeties at the combine.
Sleeper Pick – Round 2, pick 57: Van Jefferson, WR, Florida
This one was runner up for the head-scratcher of the Rams draft, especially since Denzel Mims was still on the board. With the departure of Brandin Cooks, adding a receiver was expected, but why this guy over Mims? The answer; receiver fundamentals. Jefferson runs tight and focused routes and he has some of the best hands in the business. In addition to that he does all the little things right. He probably got it from his father, Shawn Jefferson, former NFL wide receiver and NFL receivers coach. Calvin Johnson called Shawn “the best receivers coach in the league.” Having Megatron’s receivers coach as your dad might give you a leg up on learning the building blocks of doing the job.
Not only does he bring fundamentals, but Jefferson also plays with a fire in his belly. While he is cool and collected running routes, he is wildly competitive and hates to lose. Playing with a chip on your shoulder is hard to quantify, but you know it’s a good thing when it looks like Van Jefferson.
Jefferson gives the Rams offense a consistent and reliable pass catcher. He may never light up the highlight reel or compile huge statistics, but adding this kind of depth gives the Rams some very exciting options for McVay’s famed 11 man personnel package. Jefferson will find room out there while defenses are distracted with Robert Woods and Cooper Kupp. He will be especially useful in short-yardage and goal-line situations.
Head Scratcher – Round 4, pick 136: Brycen Hopkins, TE, Purdue
Les Snead called this a luxury pick. Looking at the list of things the Rams need proves they are in no position to be grabbing a TE in the 4th round. The Rams have two tight ends currently on the roster and they seem to be happy with Gerald Everett and Tyler Higbee. Last season, the pair was targeted a total of 149 times, second-most among any tight end combo in the league.
Hopkins isn’t a bad pick, per se. He’s big, fast, athletic, and is willing and able to block.
Snead went on to say that Hopkins will be used in “exotic personnel packages.” This sounds fun, but again, the Rams have some serious depth issues to address, specifically at the offensive line.
When the Rams traded back from 126 to 136, linemen Charlie Heck and Jack Driscol were still on the board. Taking one of those guys would have begun to address the lack of depth. The Rams won’t likely see as many injuries on the line as they did last year, but the team should have a plan if one or more injuries occur. Currently, they don’t.
The safe pick isn’t always the right pick, but this one does leave one pondering and hoping this pick is worth it.
Biggest Need Filled – Round 2, pick 52: Cam Akers, RB, Florida State
The Rams needed a pass-catching back that can block and push the pile. Boom, they got just that with Cam Akers. Akers flew under the radar at Florida State playing behind a sub-par offensive line, but still managed to put up two, 1000+ yard seasons.
Akers frame and playing style are being compared to Aaron Jones. At 5’10”, 217lbs, Akers is a stout bulldozer, but despite that, he is agile and athletic. He doesn’t mind contact at all but is deft and nimble when avoiding it, regularly spinning or hurdling to do so. Playing behind a bad line has become a part of his identity, 79 percent of his yards came after contact.
He will have to solve his ball security issues, but Akers is ready to compete in the NFL. He was underutilized at FSU and will flourish once his best abilities are put to use within Sean McVay’s offense. It will be fun and interesting to see just how they do that.
Projected Day One Starter – Round 7, pick 248: Sam Sloman, K, Miami (OH)
Terrell Burgess belongs in this category, as well, but it’s time to talk about the Rams kicker pickle. The pickle being, they don’t have a kicker. The currently rostered kickers are Lirim Hajrullahu, Austin MacGinnis, Sam Sloman. Never heard of them? You aren’t alone, none of them have kicked a football for an NFL team, ever. What that means is that Sloman has just as much a shot at earning the starting job as these other two guys.
I’ll leave the identity of the other two up to you, but just who is Sam Sloman? Sloman is 5’8,” 205 lbs. He missed one extra point attempt in his college career. In 2019, he hit 86.7% of his field goals, including going 10-14 over 40 yards and he never had a kick blocked. He has a propensity to shank kickoffs out of bounds but has the boot to kick it out of the back of the end zone regularly. He will need to shorten his run-up on field goals, but he has improved year over year while at Miami.
Round 3, pick 84: Terrell Lewis, Edge, Alabama
Lewis has had some bad luck with injuries so far, which explains his third-round status, but he has the build and raw talent to develop into an eventual starter. Of course, that is dependent on him staying healthy. He played only four games in 2017 due to an elbow injury and missed all of the 2018 season with an ACL tear. In 2019, he missed two games and elected not to play in Alabama’s bowl game.
Lewis is a specimen. He’s 6’5” 262lbs but lacks the fine-tuning because of missed playing time. He has a very high ceiling, however.
Round 6, pick 199: Jordan Fuller, S, Ohio State
Fuller is a good addition to the safety depth but lacks the instincts to play either safety position. OSU used him as a high safety to mitigate chunk plays. He can match up and cover tight ends, but won’t be much help in coverage elsewhere. He was a captain for the Buckeyes and showed strong leadership traits.
Certainly not a starter as a safety, but could be used on special teams.
Round 7, pick 234: Clay Johnston, LB, Baylor
Johnston has limited athleticism, is undersized, and suffered a season-ending knee surgery in October. The upside is he plays smart and hard on every down. He has above-average instincts and has a nose for the ball. He may see some playing time due to a lack of depth at linebacker.
Round 7, pick 50: Tremayne Anchrum, G, Clemson
Finally! An offensive lineman! Perhaps the biggest area the Rams need to improve on and they wait till the seventh round to address it.
Anchrum is a rock stuck in cement and certainly will be competing for a starting job. He is 6’2” 314lbs. Which, in the land of giants that is the NFL offensive line, is short. He will lose some battles due to his lack of length. While he has some aspects of blocking down, he has plenty of techniques to develop before he can truly move into that starting role. How fast that happens and how much the other guards have improved will be the true determining factor for his elevation to start.
The Rams filled most of the spots left vacant after free agency. Not having a first-round pick does take away from excitement, but you go to war with the troops you have. They did themselves a huge favor by adding several late-round picks and they got a lot out of those selections. Not addressing the offensive line more is the most confounding decision, but Les Snead and Sean McVay deserve the benefit of the doubt when it comes to the draft.
Overall Grade: B-
How do you think the Rams did?