2021 NFL draft grades: Experts not high on Rams’ class

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Cameron DaSilva
·6 min read
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As is often the case with Les Snead and the Los Angeles Rams, they prioritized value over need in the 2021 NFL draft. They didn’t reach for players at a position of need, instead taking the top prospects on their board.

It’s a good strategy, but only if you take the right players. Looking at the Rams’ class, there are quite a few picks where not only did they fail to fill a need, but they felt like a reach for a player who was expected to go later.

Unsurprisingly, experts aren’t high on the Rams’ haul when looking at draft grades around the internet. We rounded up some prominent ones and also handed out our own grade for L.A.’s 2021 class.

Our grade: C

It's hard to get behind this class with any high level of conviction. Yes, the Rams addressed some of their needs by taking Ernest Jones, Earnest Brown, Bobby Brown and Robert Rochell, but I still can't agree with the selection of Atwell in the second round. In the fourth or fifth? Sure. But in the second round with the team's first pick? No thanks. Perhaps it would've been better if they didn't already have DeSean Jackson on the roster, too – and yes, I'm well aware that he's injury-prone and on a one-year deal. Rochell was my favorite pick in the class thanks to his high ceiling and ball skills, but I would've gone in a different direction at a lot of these spots. There's an alternate universe where the Rams take Creed Humphrey, Ifeatu Melifonwu, Jabril Cox and Ihmir Smith-Marsette with their first four picks without trading down. There are some picks to like, such as Rochell, Bobby Brown III and Earnest Brown IV, but did they really need three pass-catchers and a running back over offensive line help?

Draft Wire: D

Luke Easterling is not high on the Rams' class whatsoever, handing out the lowest grade of any expert on this list. He's not necessarily wrong, either. Atwell was a risk, Harris is a raw prospect and there was no offensive lineman drafted.

I just don’t get this one at all. Tutu Atwell is explosive, but might be the lightest player in NFL history, which makes him quite the risky second-rounder (especially when you don’t have a first-rounder). Ernest Jones was a solid value that filled a need, and Jacob Harris is as intriguing as any prospect in this draft, but not much else makes sense. Hopefully, Robert Rochell can play safety.

Touchdown Wire: C

Doug Farrar and Mark Schofield also graded the Rams' class lower. They pointed out the lack of offensive line help and also called Atwell an "interesting gadget player" with no easy way to add mass to his 5-foot-9 frame. They called Ernest Jones more of a box guy and said Bobby Brown has "a ton of variance between his best snaps and his worst."

The Rams took a ton of developmental players in this draft with immediate needs at pressing positions, which may indicate a schism in the front office between where this franchise is (playoff contender with a better quarterback that it had last year) and where this franchise thinks it is (Super Bowl contender?).

NFL.com: A

Chad Reuter was almost too kind to each team’s class. The lowest grade he handed out was a C for the Texans, and the next-lowest was a B- for the Saints. Every other team earned at least a B, including the Rams, who were shockingly given an A. The Rams’ grade was helped by the fact that Jalen Ramsey effectively served as the team’s first-round pick, so Reuter factored that into his analysis. He liked the picks of Bobby Brown and Earnest Brown as potential replacements for Michael Brockers. He also called Atwell “an explosive player whose extremely small frame (5-9, 155) is a bit worrisome.”

The Ringer: C+

Danny Kelly echoed the feelings of most other analysts. He sees the explosiveness in Atwell and applauded them for adding speed to their offense, but his lack of blocking ability could limit his role in McVay’s scheme, Kelly says.

Among L.A.’s later picks, Jones, Brown, and Rochell could all play situational or rotational roles in 2021, and I’m intrigued to see what the team can get out of Harris, a hybrid pass-catcher with rare athletic traits.

Pro Football Focus: C

PFF called the Rams’ selection of Atwell “yet another reach on a smaller receiver with some issues,” saying his route tree is “extremely limited.” But the writer notes that his best work came against man coverage, where he feasted on the competition. While most are relatively high on the Robert Rochell pick, PFF isn't as sold. They see his floor as being extremely low due to his poor technique, relying on his raw athleticism too often.

Rochell epitomizes a Day 3 flier with an incredibly high ceiling but an extremely low floor. The ceiling is all thanks to his physical tools. Rochell’s all-around athleticism landed him a spot on Bruce Feldman’s “Freaks” list. His makeup speed, wingspan and explosiveness are precisely what the NFL wants at cornerback. His technique, on the other hand, is virtually nonexistent. Those issues showed up on his handful of reps at the Senior Bowl and throughout his time at Central Arkansas.

Sporting News: C

Vinnie Iyer called the Rams’ draft class disappointing despite the initial excitement that selecting Atwell brought on the second night. He says Les Snead and Sean McVay might have gotten “too cute at times with some superfluous reaches.”

The Rams also entered the draft late with no first-rounders and overall, despite the initial excitement over Atwell being a speedy and quick in Sean McVay’s offense, this was disappointing. McVay and GM Les Snead may have gotten too cute at times with some superfluous reaches as Brown was by far their best pick with a real need in mind. A fancy Malibu drafting house wasn’t matched with the picks made from it.

The Draft Network: C

Count Ryan Fowler among those who question the selection of 155-pound Atwell in the second round when most analysts had him as a Day 3 prospect. It looks especially bad in a wide receiver class that featured quality depth, as evidenced by Amon-Ra St. Brown and Simi Fehoko going as late as they did.

I know head coach Sean McVay has a type, but Tutu Atwell in the second round? At 153 pounds? In a deep receiver class? There were better players there. Otherwise, I like the selections of Robert Rochelle and Jake Funk, who could develop into a fan favorite.

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