The 2021 NFL Draft has come to a close. Let’s all take a deep breath.
Ok, now that that is out of the way, let’s take a look at what the Los Angeles Rams did with their picks. On the surface, I know there was a lot of confusion and certainly some head-scratching. But once you peel back the onion, which is what we are going to try and do here, you can see exactly where these players fit and how Sean McVay will want to use them.
So let’s get into it.
Los Angeles Rams 2021 NFL Draft Analysis
Best Pick – Round Four, Pick 117: Bobby Brown, DL, Texas A&M
If you were on Rams Twitter this weekend, you wouldn’t think that the Rams had any good picks in the 2021 draft, but that is far from the truth. Bobby Brown is a tremendous talent that will add depth, or could eventually turn into a starter in the position left in void by Michael Brockers and Morgan Fox.
Brown is a large human being, measuring at 6’4, 321 pounds. His size and skill set point him towards a three-technique or B-gap defensive end in the Rams 3-4 scheme, but he does have the size to play nose/zero-tech if Sebastian Joseph-Day needs a breather (he actually outweighs Joseph-Day by almost 30 pounds).
Brown is extremely explosive and fires off of the line of scrimmage at the snap. For his size, this quickness is what makes this addition so exciting. Aaron Donald is known as one of, if not the, quickest defensive lineman in the game. The fact that Brown has this in his arsenal bodes well for what the Rams need to improve on the defensive line. His size and play style actually reminds me a bit of Michael Brockers. He is not going to rack up sacks, but he has fantastic fundamentals, extremely high motor, and will compete for a starting role right out of the gate. This could end up being one of the steals of the draft.
Brewery-X Sleeper X-Factor Pick – Round Four, Pick 130: Robert Rochell, CB, Central Arkansas
Rochell had a third round grade by a lot of draft analysts and the Rams were able to get him in the fourth. He landed on Bruce Feldman’s “Freak” list due to his out-of-this-world athletic ability. He has 12 career takeaways and is explosive to the point of attack. His athleticism allows him to recover very quickly if he does get beat or make a mistake. This is one knock on him, however. Sometimes he relied on this too often attempting to jump routes but was able to recover. At the NFL level, this will be much more difficult and he will need to enhance his discipline to not give up big plays.
Getting a prospect with this high of a ceiling should absolutely thrill fans. Remember, he will not be asked to come in and cover the opponent’s top WR. The Rams have Jalen Ramsey. He won’t be tasked to cover the number two or forced into the slot. Darious Williams is coming off of a career year. He will be tasked to compete for the third or fourth cornerback spot, or Nickel and Dime corner. The upside here is extremely exciting.
Head Scratcher – Round Two, Pick 57: Tutu Atwell, WR, Louisville
I got on my soapbox a few weeks ago on the LA Football Podcast talking about how we need to do a better job of not being so worried about pick value, but rather looking more at player value. Outside of the first round, it shouldn’t cause a meltdown if a player graded as a 3rd round player was taken in the 2nd round. That being said, for the sake of argument in this analysis, the selection of Tutu Atwell could have been viewed as a slight head-scratcher due to other receivers with similar skill sets still on the board.
Terrace Marshall Jr, the LSU product, finished with 10 touchdowns last season and ran a 4.40 40 with a 6’3, 200-pound frame. That size and speed are polarizing and he was still on the board.
Dyami Brown out of North Carolina finished with nearly 1,100 yards last season and runs a 4.44 40, showing that he could be a speedy deep threat as well. He was on the board.
Demetric Felton doesn’t have the pure breakaway speed, but he is much faster with the ball in his hands and is so dynamic that he can lineup everywhere on the field. Plus he has special teams experience and would be the day 1 return man. He wasn’t drafted until the sixth round.
Alright, now that we have gotten that out of the way, let’s quickly cover why the three players I mentioned may have been better options over Atwell. Atwell is 5’9, 155 pounds, and has very little special teams experience. But Atwell was drafted for one reason, and one reason only. His blazing speed.
Atwell ran a 4.32 40 at his Pro Day, one of the fastest times for any position. This is exactly what the Rams have been missing is why they targeted him so early. Even with other needs present, I had a pretty strong feeling that LA would be adding juice with their first selection in the draft. Head Coach Sean McVay has too much pride to continue to see his offense struggle and with the addition of Matthew Stafford, he needed long-term a piece (Desean Jackson is only on a one-year deal) that could stretch the field.
Not only will Atwell give the Rams a few explosive plays per game, but he will also open things up for Robert Woods and Cooper Kupp underneath. Not to mention, he did have nearly 1,300 yards receiving in 2019.
So while the pick may have been a bit of a “head-scratcher” due to other needs and other WRs on the board, Atwell absolutely adds juice to the Rams offense and will become a fan favorite after his second or third 50-yard touchdown pass.
Garrison Brothers Biggest Need Filled – Round Three, Pick 103: Ernest Jones, ILB, South Carolina
On paper, inside linebacker was the biggest need for the Rams. Micah Kiser played fairly well when healthy, and Troy Reeder played above expectations. Kenny Young also had some good games, but overall, the ILB unit was masked a bit by Brandon Staley’s scheme and the heavy usage of DBs in the box. This was a position that they certainly wanted to add to in this draft.
When the selection was announced, I thought that there were better options on the board, but the more I let the Ernest Jones pick sink in, the more I began to like it.
He is your traditional old-school smash-mouth linebacker. He is not a speed hybrid sideline to sideline backer, but he brings his lunch pale to work everyday day, and he’s a tackling machine. He led the Gamecocks in tackles the past two seasons and had 86 tackles in just nine games last year. At 6’2, 230 pounds he has good size for an inside backer and he has a tremendous nose for the football. He is like a GPS tracking device when tracking down runners between the tackles. He will struggle in pass coverage and will typically come off the field on third downs, but with how often the Rams run nickel and dime, this shouldn’t be considered a concern for their ILBs.
Fans are going to love Jones’s tenacity and tackling ability. This pick definitely filled the biggest need and he will surprise a lot of people in training camp.
Projected Day One Stater – Round Five, Pick 174: Earnest Brown IV, EDGE, Northwestern
This probably would not be an ideal scenario but due to lack of talented depth, Earnest Brown IV may find himself starting alongside Leonard Floyd when the season kicks off. At this point, we just don’t know if Terrell Lewis is going to be healthy, and Ogbonnia Okoronkwo has been largely inconsistent in his young career. So even though Brown is a 5th Round pick, he may be one of the early starters in this rookie class.
Throughout the draft, the Rams passed on higher-rated pass rushers, but Brown does bring a lot of prototypical size to Los Angeles. Originally a 4-Star recruit and the 36th overall rated player coming out of Texas, Brown flashed good pass-rushing ability during his time at Northwestern but did not have the greatest production. He suffered a pectoral injury during his Junior season but started all nine games in 2020.
Draft Analyst, Tony Pauline, has stated that Brown probably fits best as a 4-3 defensive end at the NFL level, but I can see the Rams using him in a number of different ways. He certainly has the size to play with his hand in the dirt on the line, filling that role that Brockers and Fox left, and competing with 4th round pick Bobby Brown, but he has the size and speed to be a stand-up linebacker and rush against tight ends.
He is certainly a bit of a raw prospect and the Rams will be able to use him in a number of different spots (including special teams), so this projection of day one Starter comes more from the stance that there is just uncertainty of who is going to lineup opposite of Leonard Floyd at this point. I expect a rotation to start the season, and Brown should be in that mix.
Round Four, Pick 141: Jacob Harris, TE, UCF
At 6’5, 219, Harris is a freakishly gifted athlete that will have an impact on gamedays. That impact will certainly come on special teams, but he will have a role in the red zone as a jump ball guy for Matthew Stafford. The Rams have been lacking this type of weapon and red-zone threat for quite some time, so I like this pick a lot for what it is. He could end up being a 1-2 target per game type of player, but those targets will most likely come in the end zone.
Round Seven, Pick 233: Jake Funk, RB, Maryland
In the 7th round, the goal is to find special teams players. That’s the goal. If the player ends up contributing on offense or defense, then you have found yourself a steal. Funk has definite injury concern (two torn ACLs on the same knee in 2018 and 2019), but a 7th round flier for a gifted special teams cover man is certainly worth it. He doesn’t flash as a running back, and I wouldn’t expect him to contribute a ton in that department, but at 5’10, 205, he does possess power that could be utilized in goal-line situations.
Round Seven, Pick 249: Ben Skowronek, WR, Notre Dame
This pick was met with a lot of criticism as Skowronek joins a very crowded wide receiver room. But this has special teams player written all over it. At 6’3, 220 he has tremendous size and can develop into a pass catcher at the next level, but his role to start will be with the special teams unit. He finished with 439 yards and five touchdowns in his final year at Notre Dame.
Round Seven, Pick 252: Chris Garrett, EDGE, Concordia St. Paul
This is actually a fascinating pick to me and could end up being a huge steal for the Rams. At 6’2, 230, Garrett is the perfect size for an edge rusher, but he will need to get stronger to compete against the elite pass blockers at the NFL level. In Division II, he broke many records and was best at what he did in his division. In his final season in 2019 (their 2020 was canceled due to COVID), he led the nation in forced fumbles (finished with a career total of 15!), finished the season with 20.5 tackles for loss, and set a single-game record for the season with 5 sacks against MSU Moorehead. He earned first-team All-American honors and was named the NSIC Defensive Player of the Year. He finished his collegiate career with 36.5 sacks, talk about production.
Now, the biggest question is will this skill and production transfer from Division II to the NFL? Why wouldn’t you take a chance with one of the final picks in the draft? He will be a special teams contributor immediately and will be given some time to translate his game over. Love the pick to end the draft for the Rams.
How do you feel about the Rams draft haul? Vote below and comment your thoughts! You can hit me up on Twitter as well, @RyanDyrudLAFB.