The Los Angeles Rams took a step back last year after their Super Bowl 53 loss to the New England Patriots. Star offensive weapons Todd Gurley and Brandin Cooks are gone, and the team faced a significant challenge to replace those big names and establish a new identity heading in the 2020 NFL Draft. The team went into the draft with no first or fifth-round picks, but they made the most out of their opportunities.
Les Snead, Sean McVay, and the Rams did a great job addressing areas of need both on offense and defense. They were able to scoop up some quality talent that slipped into their laps in the second and third rounds. Below, I will grade the Rams’ draft while also looking at their best and worst selections from this past weekend. Los Angeles certainly got better as a football team, but how much better is a question they will answer in the coming months.
Who did the Los Angeles Rams draft?
Round 2, Pick 52: Cam Akers, RB, Florida State
Round 2, Pick 57: Van Jefferson, WR, Florida
Round 3, Pick 84: Terrell Lewis, EDGE, Alabama
Round 3, Pick 104: Terrell Burgess, S, Utah
Round 4, Pick 136: Brycen Hopkins, TE, Purdue
Round 6, Pick 199: Jordan Fuller, S, Ohio State
Round 7, Pick 234: Clay Johnston, LB, Baylor
Round 7, Pick 248: Sam Sloman, K, Miami (Ohio)
Round 7, Pick 250: Tremayne Anchrum, OG, Clemson
Best Player: Cam Akers
The Rams selected Florida State running back Cam Akers with the 52nd selection, making him the fourth running back off the board and third back drafted in the second round. Akers was a scoring machine for the Seminoles in 2019, carrying the offense behind a suspect offensive line to the tune of 1,144 yards rushing and 14 touchdowns. He also added 30 receptions and four touchdowns through the air.
Talked to the newest @RamsNFL Cam Akers moments after he was drafted to LA.
— Nick Niehaus (@nickniehausWAPT) April 25, 2020
Akers joins a Los Angeles team looking to replace an All-Pro running back in Gurley, and he will face competition from veterans Malcolm Brown and Darrell Henderson. Akers has the talent to earn the starting job in 2020 and the dual-threat prowess to make a massive impact as a rookie. He was one of the more talented runners available in the draft, and the Rams were wise to scoop him up. This choice will undoubtedly help the Rams’ 2020 NFL Draft grade.
Best Value: Terrell Lewis
Los Angeles decided to use the first of their two third-round picks to address the pass rush and the loss of Dante Fowler Jr. to the Atlanta Falcons. They did so by selecting Alabama linebacker and edge rusher Terrell Lewis. Based on pure talent and athletic ability alone, Lewis was a first-round prospect. However, throughout his college career, Lewis dealt with a multitude of serious injuries that appeared to drop his stock heading into the draft.
Lewis fell right into the lap of the pass rush-needy Rams in round three, and the team did well to scoop up the gifted sack artist. Lewis finished with 11.5 tackles for a loss and six sacks for the Crimson Tide this past season. Before the season, I discussed Lewis and his potential to be a potential first-rounder. Despite the injury concerns, the risk was worth it for Los Angeles at this point in the draft. If healthy, Lewis should contribute significant snaps for the Rams in 2020.
Biggest Reach: Van Jefferson
Cooks has been a perennial 1,000-yard receiver since his second NFL season in 2015. He contributed 80 catches for over 1,200 yards for the Rams in their 2018 Super Bowl run. However, a string of scary concussions led to the team’s decision to trade Cooks to the Houston Texans this offseason in exchange for a second-round pick. With Los Angeles’ penchant for throwing the ball in this up-tempo offense, the team needed a replacement heading into the draft.
Therefore, Los Angeles decided to use one of their second-round selections on Florida receiver, Van Jefferson. The former Gator paced the team in receiving this past season with 49 receptions for 657 yards and six touchdowns. Although he may have been the top target for the Gators, those numbers combined with his average athleticism and explosiveness scream reach here in the second round. I do not believe he has the potential to be a number one and should have been taken as a late day two or early day three prospect at best.
Biggest Sleeper: Jordan Fuller
The Rams had some excellent choices for the biggest sleeper of their 2020 class, but the Ohio State safety, Fuller, is my selection here. Fuller was a three-year starter for the Buckeyes, and the Rams got a steal when they chose him here in the sixth round. He was a leader for the Ohio State team this past season, and the team will need that experience and leadership in their secondary next season.
The team drafted two safeties, including the third-rounder Terrell Burgess from Utah. Burgess profiles as a potential nickel replacement for the departed Nickell Robey-Coleman. With the retirement of All-Pro safety Eric Weddle, Fuller could get a chance to compete for the starting free safety role next to Taylor Rapp next season. The choice of Fuller in the sixth round could prove very fruitful sooner than later for the Rams.
Draft Grade: B
The Rams received a passing grade of B, as they found some excellent sleepers and could come away from the 2020 NFL Draft with three or four day-one starters. Akers should be an early candidate for rookie of the year, while Lewis, Burgess, and Fuller could see plenty of time on defense in their rookie seasons. I question the value of Jefferson as well as a backup tight end in the fourth round.
Even without a first-round pick, the team did well to improve their squad moving forward. Los Angeles was also able to add some depth at linebacker and on the offensive line. The Rams will have a younger and fresher look this upcoming season, and they hope that will translate into wins in the NFC as they look to get back to the playoffs once again in 2020.
Scott Gorman is a writer for PFN covering the 2021 NFL Draft. You can follow him at @sgormanPFN on Twitter.