The 2021 NFL Draft starts on Thursday, April 29. As a lead-up to the draft, we’ll be giving a team-by-team breakdown for positional needs. For each team, we’ll give an overview of the current depth chart and how big of a need each position in the upcoming draft. You can find the rest of the team needs (as they’re updated) and the rest of our draft content in the 2021 NFL Draft hub.
Los Angeles Rams 2021 DRAFT PICKS OVERVIEW
Round 2 (57)
Round 3 (88)
Round 3 (103)
Round 4 (141)
Round 6 (209)
Round 7 (252)
Los Angeles Rams Offense
By Rich Hribar
The Rams made the first big move of the offseason (well, it was prior to the Super Bowl) in acquiring Matthew Stafford from the Lions in exchange for draft picks and Jared Goff. Stafford still is signed through the 2022 season.
Behind Stafford, the Rams still have John Wolford under contract while both he and Devlin Hodges are exclusive rights free agents after 2021. Bryce Perkins is signed through 2022. With Sean McVay clearly being comfortable with Wolford as a backup after starting him in the playoffs last season, the Rams are set at the position entering the draft.
The Rams used a second-round pick (52nd overall) on Cam Akers a year ago. Through nine games of his rookie season, Akers had managed just 62 touches for 312 yards and two scores. The Rams then turned the offense over to the rookie as Akers amassed 143 touches for 708 yards and three scores over the final six games of the season.
Darrell Henderson was a third-round pick (70th overall) in 2019 and a capable complement and fill-in that made a jump in his second season. After a nearly invisible rookie season with 43 touches for 184 yards (4.3 yards per touch), Henderson jumped up to 154 touches for 783 yards (5.1 Y/T) in 2020 with six touchdowns. For a period of the season early on, Henderson even took over as the feature back for Los Angeles before mid-season injuries and conceding ground to Akers, reaching double-digit touches in just two of his final eight games played of the season.
Even depth players in Xavier Jones and Raymond Calais have multiple seasons remaining on rookie contracts, giving the Rams four backs signed for multiple seasons. I could see the Rams adding a low-leverage veteran post-draft or even another day three back in two weeks, but the Rams do not need to extend themselves for backfield help.
Last offseason, the Rams extended both Robert Woods (through 2025) and Cooper Kupp (through 2023) while adding Van Jefferson in the second round at pick 57 overall. With all three locked up for multiple seasons, the team needed a vertical component to go along with this group after Josh Reynolds departed via free agency.
They did that by adding DeSean Jackson. Jackson will turn 35 years old this December and has not played a full season since 2014 and has appeared in just eight games over the previous two seasons. Although he does come with injury baggage and is not expected to be a major factor in commanding a huge target share, Jackson’s addition does provide a much-needed role to the Rams passing game. The Rams should explore adding another downfield target to replace Jackson down the line (with added insurance if Jackson continues to miss time) to complement their core of intermediate options at the position.
After a late-season breakout in 2019 thrust Higbee up boards entering 2020, he reverted to a timeshare role at the position with Gerald Everett, catching 44-of-60 targets for 521 yards and five touchdowns, three of which came in one game in Week 2. But with Everett leaving for Seattle in free agency, Higbee is back in front as the clear top option at the position. He has shown he is capable of a high ceiling while Higbee is locked up through 2023.
The team selected Brycen Hopkins in the fourth round last season knowing Everett could be walking this offseason. Hopkins found the field for just two snaps as a rookie and is not a downfield asset like Everett was, but coming into the 2020 Draft, Hopkins ranked first in career receptions (130) and receiving yardage (1,945) from that group of prospects.
Reserve Kendall Blanton is signed through 2022 with run-blocker Johnny Mundt an unrestricted agent after this season. The Rams are in a good place to not force a need at the position.
LT: Andrew Whitworth/Joseph Noteboom/Chandler Brewer
LG: David Edwards/Tremayne Anchrum
C: Brian Allen/Coleman Shelton
RG: Austin Corbett/Jamil Demby
RT: Rob Havenstein/Bobby Evans
The Rams ended 2020 ranking seventh in ESPN’s Pass Block Win Rate (70%), but were in the back half of the league with a 70% Run Block Win Rate, which ranked 19th.
The team has both tackle spots locked up through 2022 in Rob Havenstein and Andrew Whitworth. Whitworth will turn 40 years old in December and missed seven games last season, but when on the field, he was still as good as any tackle in the league, grading out as the fourth-highest tackle per Pro Football Focus.
Joseph Noteboom filled in for Whitworth when he missed time last season. Noteboom has experience playing both guard and tackle, but also is a free agent after the season. Backup swing tackle Bobby Evans signed through 2022 as insurance.
On the interior, the Rams could use some help for immediate competition and contractual depth. As noted, Noteboom is only signed for 2021, as is all of Austin Corbett and Brian Allen, while Coleman Shelton and Jamil Demby will be restricted free agents.
The only interior offensive linemen the Rams currently have signed beyond this season are David Edwards and Tremayne Anchrum, who they selected in the seventh round last season. Anchrum logged 51 snaps on special teams, but just three on offense as a rookie.
Austin Blythe took every snap at center for the Rams last season, but left via free agency. Brian Allen started nine games at the position in 2019 before a season-ending knee injury forced him to miss the remainder of that year and the entire 2020 season. Coleman Shelton was a 2020 opt-out that could also fill in as he played center in college at Washington.
Los Angeles Rams Defense
By Dan Pizzuta
Interior Defensive Line
Having Aaron Donald is a pretty cool thing that would help any defensive line. Of course, there is no other Aaron Donald. Donald was first among interior defenders in Pass Rush Win Rate and second in pressure rate. With Donald wrecking the pocket as a pass rusher, the Rams had a dominant run defender next to him in Sebastian Joseph-Day. Joseph-Day ranked fifth in ESPN’s Run Stop Win Rate.
Joseph-Day is likely to get some more snaps in 2020 (he played around 40%) last season as the Rams look to fill the spot vacated by the Michael Brockers trade. Brockers played 60% of the defensive snaps and was a plus pass rusher next to Donald. Donald, of course, does a lot of the heavy lifting and makes things easier for those lined up next to him.
For the past few seasons, the Rams worked the buy-low option on the edge and got production from the position. This offseason, they paid a high price to keep one of those fliers in Leonard Floyd. Floyd only ranked 40th in pressure rate among edge rushers but it resulted in 10.5 sacks. He signed a four-year deal to stay in Los Angeles this offseason.
With Okoronkwo and Lewis, the Rams have athletic upside to put at the other edge spot, but neither played more than 15% of the defensive snaps last season. With much of the edge talent expected to go on Day 2 of the draft, the Rams could add to the depth chart and potentially get a starter with one of their picks in that range.
The Rams cycled through Micah Kiser, Troy Reeder, and Kenny Young at off-ball linebacker to mixed results. None of those three really excelled in coverage and the Rams ranked 15th in DVOA against short passes, according to Football Outsiders. 45.3% of Kiser’s tackles came before a first down, which ranked 33rd among linebackers, but he had no tackles for loss.
Playing between a defensive line that features Donald and a plus secondary, there’s not a whole lot needed from the off-ball linebacker position. There still could be a little more production, though, and it might be a spot the Rams try to improve for coverage later in the draft. It doesn’t appear to be a position the Rams value highly.
Jalen Ramsey moved around the defense more often than he had in previous seasons and that only added to what he brought as an elite outside shutdown cornerback. Ramsey ranked 19th in adjusted yards allowed per coverage snap (which accounts for touchdowns and interceptions) and seventh in completion percentage allowed.
Darious Williams developed into a top outside corner opposite Ramsey. He ranked 16th in adjusted yards allowed per coverage snap with the fifth-lowest completion percentage allowed among 148 corners with at least 100 coverage snaps in 2020.
The Rams will have to figure out what to do in the slot with the loss of Troy Hill. Hill had been one of the league’s best slot corners but he was a free agent and signed with the Cleveland Browns. The corners behind Ramsey and Williams don’t have a ton of experience and slot corners could fall into the sweet spot of where the Rams are scheduled to draft on Day 2.
The loss of John Johnson is going to be the hardest to make up. Johnson played every defensive snap for the Rams last season and had the communication line to the defensive coaches as the on-field playcaller. But, there has also been depth added on at the position.
Jordan Fuller was a hit in the sixth round of last year’s draft and he’s going to play more in his second season and potentially take over Johnson’s role. Taylor Rapp only got into nine games last season and 35% of the defensive snaps, but the 2019 second-round pick should be healthier as has the range and athleticism to be a versatile player in the backend of the secondary. Terrell Burgess, last season’s third-round pick, also had injuries with a broken ankle that cost him the second half of the season.
The Rams played dime or lighter personnel on 25% of their defensive snaps last season, which was the eighth-highest rate in the league last season. That could play out in some three-safety sets with the young trio on the field at the same time.