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2020 NFL Draft Grades – Los Angeles Rams

The stats bear it out – the Rams added the most explosive running back and pass rusher in the 2020 NFL draft – and they did it without a single pick among the top 50.
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Given the months and months of build-up to the annual NFL draft, the rush to summarize a team’s rookie draft class in a few sentences and stamp a letter grade on it has never quite made much sense to me.

In the past, I’ve compared this process to patrons at a restaurant complimenting (or complaining to) the chef based on the menu, rather than waiting to actually taste the food.

In much this same way, it obviously takes time to properly evaluate a draft. Given all of the complexities of the 2020 NFL draft, specifically, this is especially true.

So, while we cannot skip years ahead to know for certain which players will ultimately exceed or fail to live up to expectations in the NFL, we can provide a much deeper dive into each team’s rookie class.

Therefore, in a 32-part series, will be providing a detailed breakdown of each of the NFL teams’ rookie hauls, following the original draft order. Each team will be evaluated on the quality, quantity and relative safety of their draft classes (including undrafted free agents), with specific players recognized as Best Player, Best Value and Best Project, culminating in one “final” grade.

Today’s team: Los Angeles Rams

Head Coach: Sean McVay

General Manager: Les Snead

Players selected in 2020:

Round 2, Pick 52 overall: RB Cam Akers, Florida State

Round 2, Pick 57 overall: WR Van Jefferson, Florida

Round 3, Pick 84 overall: DE/OLB Terrell Lewis, Alabama

Round 3, Pick 104 overall: S Terrell Burgess, Utah

Round 4, Pick 136 overall: TE Brycen Hopkins, Purdue

Round 6, Pick 199 overall: S Jordan Fuller, Ohio State

Round 7, Pick 234 overall: LB Clay Johnston, Baylor

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Round 7, Pick 248 overall: K Sam Sloman, Miami (Ohio)

Round 7, Pick 250 overall: OG Tremayne Anchrum, Clemson

Key Undrafted Free Agents:

QB Bryce Perkins, Virginia

OL Cohl Cabral, Arizona State

WR Trishton Jackson, Syracuse

WR Easop Winston, Washington State

CB Dayan Lake, BYU

Overview of the Rams’ 2020 draft: Fans of the 2020 Los Angeles Rams may need a program given all of the turnover on the roster. Some of the iconic Rams of recent years, like Todd Gurley, Cory Littleton, Brandin Cooks and Greg Zuerlein are all playing elsewhere now, along with several other recognizable names like Clay Matthews, Jr., Dante Fowler, Jr., and Eric Weddle. As such, much of general manager Les Snead’s focus in the 2020 draft was filling holes in the roster at these positions with younger, cheaper options. That process began last season when Snead shipped the club’s 2020 and 2021 first round picks to Jacksonville to nab Pro Bowl cornerback Jalen Ramsey. Interestingly enough, they then chose another former standout Florida State Seminole in running back Cam Akers, who should immediately challenge as the Rams’ lead runner. The ultra-polished Van Jefferson was a bit of a surprise just a few picks later given that receiver is a relative strength on this roster and that the former Gator has a similar gliding style as current Rams’ standouts Robert Woods and Cooper Kupp than the elite straight-line speed that left along with Brandin Cooks. The most important pick for the Rams this year may have been Terrell Lewis in the third round, a first round talent whose struggles with durability made him one of this year’s biggest boom or bust prospects. Day Three safeties Terrell Burgess and Jordan Fuller were important additions for depth behind solid young starters John Johnson III and Taylor Rapp, as was tight end Brycen Hopkins, who could find playing time hard to find given the flashes shown by Tyler Higbee and Gerald Everett. Of the Rams’ Day Three picks, it may very well be field goal kicker Sam Sloman who makes the most significant impact as a rookie.

Best Player of the Rams’ 2020 Draft: RB Cam Akers

It goes without saying that replacing Gurley is not going to be easy. Even last season, when it was obvious that he was not the same caliber of player he was just a few years earlier when named the NFL’s Offensive Player of the Year, the Rams still rode their workhorse. Gurley’s rushing attempts (223 for 857 yards) and receptions (31 for 207 yards) greatly surpassed LA’s top backups Malcom Brown (69-255, 2-16) and Darrell Henderson (39-147 and 4-37), a celebrated third round pick a year ago. With all due respect to Brown and Henderson, Akers is the superior talent whose experience carrying the load and production (2,874 yards and 27 TDs as a three-year starter) against elite competition suggests that he could step into Gurley’s role and become an instant star. Akers signed with FSU as one of the elite prep talents in the country, regardless of position. Once there, however, it didn’t take long for opponents to realize that the Seminoles are no longer a juggernaut and they crowded the box, limiting Akers’ effectiveness. With his burst to and through the hole and excellent lateral agility to elude, the rocked-up 5-10, 217 pound Akers has the juice of a much smaller back. He not only clocked in at a very impressive 4.47 seconds in the 40-yard dash, his 10-yard split was a full tenth of a second faster (1.47) than any other back who ran at this year’s Combine. With defenses spread out wide to slow down the Rams’ aerial assault, don’t be surprised if Akers takes full advantage of the increased spaces, running acres and dramatically boosting LA’s 26-ranked rushing attack as a rookie.

Best Value of the Rams’ 2020 Draft: K Sam Sloman

There are some who believe no specialist is ever worthy of an NFL draft pick, citing the Rams and their four-time All-Pro punter Johnny Hekker (a former undrafted free agent out of Oregon State) as a prime example of why teams can wait. It is hard to argue that Zuerlein, the 171 pick back in 2012, did not provide the Rams great value over his eight seasons, however. Still, up against the salary cap, the Rams allowed “Greg The Leg” to walk when Dallas offered a three-year deal for $7.5 million on the heels of the least accurate 16-game season of his career (72.7% FG accuracy rate). Zuerlein’s accuracy has declined each of the past three years, in fact, which is the exact opposite of the three-year improvement Sloman showed with the Redhawks, converting 75% of his field goal attempts (12/16) in his first season as a starter, 77% (10/13) in 2018 and capping his career with 26/30 (86.7%) as a senior, including 4 of 5 from 50+ yards. Sloman had previously struggled with long distance kicks, a Zuerlein specialty, but his improved accuracy as a senior and success as a kickoff specialist earlier in his career suggest that the leg strength and work ethic is there to project him as a quality NFL starter. If that indeed occurs, Sloman certainly would have provided the Rams terrific value given that only seven other players were selected after him in the 2020 draft.

Best Project of the Rams’ 2020 Draft: DE/OLB Terrell Lewis

It is perhaps appropriate that Los Angeles drafted Lewis as he has the 6-5, 262-pound frame and Alabama pedigree straight out of a Hollywood casting call. A five-star recruit out of Washington D.C., Lewis flashed throughout his time in Nick Saban’s football factory but could not stay healthy, missing most of the 2017 season due to a right elbow injury and all of 2018 with a torn right ACL. Mostly healthy in 2019, Lewis showed off his disruptive potential, exploding for 11.5 tackles for loss and 6.5 sacks to earn Second Team All-SEC honors despite starting just three games for the Tide. He did miss a game (Southern Miss) due to a bone bruise in the right leg and, predictably, some teams flagged Lewis’ medical at the Combine despite a solid showing at the Senior Bowl. Lewis did not run or participate in many of the on-field drills in Indianapolis but did post an eye-popping 37” vertical jump, the best of anyone this year over 250 pounds. The vertical is an illustration of Lewis’ unique explosiveness for a man of his size. He can beat tackles upfield with just his initial burst and has impressive core flexibility for his muscled-up frame, showing the ability to win with quick spins back inside, as well as loops, making him a potentially lethal combination with Aaron Donald.

Overall Grade for the Rams’ 2020 Draft: B+

Previous 2020 NFL Draft Report Cards: Cincinnati Bengals |Washington Redskins | Detroit Lions | New York Giants | Miami Dolphins | Los Angeles Chargers | Carolina Panthers | Arizona Cardinals | Jacksonville Jaguars | Cleveland Browns | New York Jets | Las Vegas Raiders | Indianapolis Colts | Tampa Bay Buccaneers | Denver Broncos | Atlanta Falcons | Dallas Cowboys | Pittsburgh Steelers | Chicago Bears | Los Angeles Rams | Philadelphia Eagles | Buffalo Bills | New England Patriots | New Orleans Saints | Houston Texans | Minnesota Vikings | Seattle Seahawks | Baltimore Ravens | Green Bay Packers | Tennessee Titans | San Francisco 49ers | Kansas City Chiefs