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The immediate reaction to the Los Angeles Rams’ 2021 draft class has been lukewarm, with both analysts and fans questioning some of Les Snead’s picks – primarily his decision not to draft an offensive lineman. But there’s a lot to like about the nine players the Rams drafted this year.
We highlighted one reason to be excited about each player drafted by Los Angeles, whether it’s their fit with the Rams or their performance in college. This is a group with good potential, even if some of them won’t contribute right away as rookies.
WR Tutu Atwell, Louisville (2nd round)
He’s dynamic with the ball in his hands When you’re 5-foot-9 and only 155 pounds, you better be able to make defenders miss in the open field. And Atwell certainly can. According to PFF, Atwell was third among all wide receivers in yards after the catch in the last two seasons. He has 4.32 speed and averaged one touchdown for every seven passes he caught, finding the end zone at a high rate in college. And when he’s facing man coverage, defenders have a really tough time containing him, averaging a 123.4 passer rating when targeted against man. https://twitter.com/PFF_Rams/status/1389024683010322432
LB Ernest Jones, South Carolina (3rd round)
He’s a great tackler Jones might not be the most athletic or rangy linebacker, but he’s smart and always finds the football – especially in the running game. Expect him to be a leader in the middle of the defense relatively early, taking command of the Mike linebacker role. He prides himself on tackling, saying “I've always just had a goal in my mind and nobody can't have more tackles at the end of the game than me because that just doesn't look right for the middle linebacker not to have the most tackles.” According to PFF, he had a tackling grade of 83.0 in 2020, 28th-best among all linebackers. https://twitter.com/PFF_Rams/status/1388338034584604677
DT Bobby Brown III, Texas A&M (4th round)
He led Texas A&M in TFL and sacks as a nose tackle Nose tackles aren’t supposed to do much as pass rushers, but Brown consistently won in the middle of the defense and disrupted opposing offenses. He led the Aggies with 5.5 sacks last season and also tied for the lead with 7.5 tackles for a loss, which were a third of his 22 total tackles. Brown can play nose tackle, defensive tackles (3-technique) or defensive end (5-technique) for the Rams and while he won’t be a dominant pass rusher at the NFL level, he does carry upside in that department thanks to his quickness.
CB Robert Rochell, Central Arkansas (4th round)
He’s a former receiver with excellent ball skills A wide receiver transitioning to cornerback is nothing new, but more often than not, players who do make the switch display great ball skills on defense. Rochell checks that box. He had 10 interceptions and 25 career pass breakups, also forcing two fumbles at Central Arkansas. Eye-popping athleticism allowed him to consistently make plays on the ball, boasting 4.39 speed and a vertical of 43 inches. He’s going to jump off the screen when he earns some playing time.
TE Jacob Harris, UCF (4th round)
He’s 6-foot-5 with 4.39 speed Players that big and that fast don’t come around often, which is part of the reason the Rams took a chance on him in the fourth round despite him only playing two years of meaningful football in college. He’s a former soccer player with rare athleticism, who the Rams ranked among their best special teams players in terms of coverage. In college, he only caught 49 passes, but those receptions went for a total of 987 yards – an average of 20.1 yards per catch with nine touchdowns. His average depth of target last season was 16.6 yards downfield, which would’ve ranked third in the NFL last season. That’s insane for a player projected to play tight end. https://twitter.com/PFF_Rams/status/1388550606151847938
DE Earnest Brown IV, Northwestern (5th round)
He’s versatile like Morgan Fox Brown doesn’t pop off the screen like some of the Rams’ other athletic draft picks do, but he should remind some fans of Morgan Fox. He’ll primarily play defensive end in obvious passing situations like Fox, but he can also play outside linebacker and rush off the edge with his 6-foot-4 frame and long 34.5-inch arms. Les Snead called him “an instinctive football player” after the draft and admitted he didn’t have a great pro day, but says he’s better than that performance showed. Expect Brown to play a similar role to Fox and John Franklin-Myers from a few years ago. Versatility is key.
RB Jake Funk, Maryland (7th round)
He could be one of the Rams’ best special teams players Funk will do anything and everything he can to make the team and he has the skill set to help the Rams in multiple ways. He can take handoffs as a running back, catch passes out of the backfield, line up as a slot receiver and play every phase of special teams, which he did at Maryland. He’s expected to cover kickoffs and punts, and possibly even be a return specialist, priding himself on being a do-it-all player. Though his playing time was limited due to injury in college, he earned a rushing grade of 84.9 last season when he did get the ball. https://twitter.com/PFF_Rams/status/1388613260643995648
WR Ben Skowronek (7th round)
He’s nothing like the Rams’ current receivers When looking at the four receivers expected to play key roles for the Rams this year, Skowronek is nothing like any of them. He’s 6-foot-3 and 220 pounds with 33.25-inch arms, making him the tallest and heaviest receiver on the team. And he uses that frame well, going up and winning contested-catch situations and jump-ball opportunities. Snead said he’s expected to be one of the Rams’ best blockers, too, so he’ll fit right in with the team’s current group. in a year or two, he could be what Los Angeles hoped Josh Reynolds would be.
OLB Chris Garrett, Concordia-St. Paul (7th round)
He dominated and set Division II records Ready for some mind-blowing numbers? In 28 games at the Division II level, Garrett had 36.5 sacks, 48.5 tackles for a loss and forced a D-II record 15 fumbles in his career. He ranks third in Division II history by averaging 1.3 sacks per game and in 2019, his final season, he tied for the most sacks (14) in the country. Obviously, the level of competition was much lower than some prominent players faced at bigger programs, and he’ll have to adapt to the NFL, but he was one of the best players in the country at the Division II level. That shouldn’t be ignored.