Day 2 draft grade roundup: Rams don’t impress analysts with Atwell and Jones

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Cameron DaSilva
·4 min read
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The Los Angeles Rams joined the fun on Friday night when they made two picks in the 2021 NFL draft, the first of which was at No. 57 overall. They went the unconventional route in Round 2 with speedy wide receiver Tutu Atwell, and then filled a position of need at linebacker with Ernest Jones in Round 3.

We handed out our grades for each pick on Friday night, but what are other analysts and writers saying about the Rams’ selections of Atwell and Jones on Day 2? For the most part, the grades are on the lower side, though analysts are higher on the Jones pick than Atwell.

Here’s a roundup of some notable grades from around the internet.

WR Tutu Atwell, No. 57 overall

Draft Wire: C-

Another team that needed offensive line help more than a wide receiver, the Rams follow the example of their division rivals at the previous pick, opting for an undersized but explosive playmaker for the passing game. Atwell’s small frame brings durability concerns, but he’s a big-play machine. Passing on the offensive linemen available hurts, though.

CBS Sports: B-

A run on blazers? Atwell absolutely flies. He's very, very small. And faster than he is quick and shifty. Will be a fun addition to Rams offense because McVay can scheme him open but definitely a niche type

Pro Football Focus: Below average

The Rams grab the speedster they’ve been coveting in Tutu Atwell, though this is yet another reach on a smaller receiver with some issues. Atwell raised eyebrows by weighing in at the medical combine at 149 pounds, which would make him one of the lightest receivers ever to hit the NFL. His route tree was extremely limited, but there’s no doubting his playmaking ability, and his best PFF grades came against man coverage.

Sporting News: A-

The Rams jumped on the speed, quickness and pure big-play ability of the diminutive-dashing Atwell to better support Matthew Stafford’s big arm. He’s the ideal complement for Robert Woods, Cooper Kupp and Van Jeferson. Sean McVay will have fun designing plays for him all over the field as a receiver and runner.

The Athletic: C-

If Atwell works out, the Rams will have a new version of DeSean Jackson. But they’re betting on the exception here, which is risky for a team with limited resources. Atwell was Brugler’s 95th-ranked prospect.

Bleacher Report: C+

Atwell may be small in stature, but he can get down the field with the best of them. The rookie can learn from veteran DeSean Jackson, and quarterback Matthew Stafford can let it rip by pushing the ball down the field.

LB Ernest Jones, No. 103 overall

Draft Wire: B

A great blend of value and need for the Rams here, landing an impressive athlete who loves to hit in Jones. He’s got the mental and physical tools to quickly develop into a starter, and he can make an immediate impact on special teams.

CBS Sports: B

Super-long, hyperactive linebacker much better against the run than the pass but has the short-area quickness to become a decent coverage linebacker in the NFL. Rarely misses tackles and lays the lumber.

Pro Football Focus: Below average

Jones was a good run defender at South Carolina, but he falls because we don’t know much about him in coverage. He needs to anticipate and react faster if he is to stick at the NFL level. He brings it in the run game, but his change of direction and coverage skills leave a lot to be desired.

Sporting News: C

The Rams needed a strong coverage linebacker to better handle the void left by Cory Littleton in free agency last offseason. Unfortunately, although Jones is a pretty solid run stopper with ideal physical upfield traits, he’s more of what they already have on the second level of their 3-4.

The Athletic: B

Jones (6-foot-2, 230 pounds) had a productive college career. He started 21 games and led South Carolina in tackles in 2019 and 2020. Jones will need to prove himself in coverage to stay on the field, but he’s a nice option for the Rams at this stage of the draft.

Bleacher Report: C+

The 21-year-old Ernest Jones brings “situational and spatial awareness and in-game diagnosis ‘like a GPS,’" according to Rams evaluators, who "didn't see him out of position much" (h/t The Athletic’s Jourdan Rodrigue).

Combined grade

Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

NFL.com: B+

Atwell is a dangerous receiver in space, but at 149 pounds, he carries a little too much risk for such a high selection. Even investing a late second-rounder would've been tough, because the potential for injury is concerning. However, if he proves fast enough to avoid too many direct collisions, he’ll have a lot of fun grabbing deep throws from new Rams quarterback Matthew Stafford. The Rams needed to upgrade their linebacker group and have multiple guys hitting free agency after this season, so selecting the tough-minded and athletic Jones in the third round made sense. GM Les Snead wanted more selections in this draft, so sending the 88th pick to San Francisco for two fourth-rounders was a smooth move.

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