As we head into the 2021 NFL Draft and team needs start to become increasingly more clear, things are very optimistic in Los Angeles. Free agents are now mostly signed up to play for their respective teams, big-time blockbuster trades of veteran players are likely long gone, and the biggest moves yet to be made are the drafting of a bunch of 20-24-year-olds. When it comes down to making decisions of this magnitude, everything must be taken into account.
The team has to be very comfortable with the player much more than the position, so the Rams could be thinking much differently than the fans and media alike. If, say, the team sees a left tackle as being the best use of the pick at 57. It may not be in the Rams" “top-three needs", but if they don"t have a player they feel is worthy to be taken at 57 from one of the “positions of need", they may simply pivot to taking the best player available. For now, though, let"s take a look at the Rams" three biggest draft needs, from the least important to the most.
LA Rams 2021 NFL Draft Need Number Three: Linebacker
This position could easily be number one but the Rams have not shown that they want to invest heavily here. All of the current linebackers on the roster were either mid-to-late round picks (Micah Kiser, Travin Howard), undrafted guys (Christian Rozeboom, Troy Reeder), or picked up via trade (Kenny Young). Not to mention they also found Corey Littleton as an undrafted free agent. They clearly believe they can turn this position from coal to diamonds and they show it in the way they draft. Still, they have to consider a more speedy linebacker at some point…right?
Since Littleton left for Las Vegas in free agency two years ago, the position group has been a jumbled mess. First, Kiser went down in 2019 and the team was forced to rely on the youngsters, (mainly Reeder and then at the end of the season they sprinkled in Howard) to play the majority of the linebacker snaps. In 2020. Kiser was back, but the team relied on their linebackers for their lowest percentage of snaps in the McVay era. Is this a trend, or simply because the Rams feel they did not have the speed at linebacker to match up, and would therefore rather play tons of dime coverage?
We will see for sure how they feel after this draft is completed. My guess is they have a linebacker by the time day two is over for the first time since taking Alec Ogletree at the end of round one in 2013.
Names to watch for: LSU linebacker Jabril Cox, North Carolina linebacker Chazz Surratt and Ohio State linebacker Baron Browning.
LA Rams 2021 NFL Draft Need Number Two: Cornerback
This one may surprise some people outside of the organization, considering the Rams currently employ All-Pro corner Jalen Ramsey and have Pro-Bowl snub Darious Williams lined up on the outside for another go-round in horns. What a lot of people do not know is that Troy Hill was actually one of the unsung heroes for the Rams over the past few years. He was able to play both inside and outside and held his own more than adequately in both.
Now, with Hill in Cleveland, the Rams are looking for his replacement. On the roster stands CB David Long, who has impressed coaches enough to the point that they let Hill walk, but never enough to where he was seeing meaningful snaps all year long for LA. Instead, it was rookie Terrell Burgess who was taking up snaps in the Rams" secondary.
Then, as we all know, a freak injury happened which has Burgess coming off of a major ankle injury. If he can get back to being healthy, he provides some major depth for the Rams because of his ability to play both slot corner and safety. Bringing in one more corner to add to the secondary group of Ramsey, Williams, Long, Burgess, Jordan Fuller, Taylor Rapp, Juju Hughes, and Nick Scott will be the cherry on top for what is sure to be one of the best defensive backfields in the NFL.
Names to watch for: Georgia cornerback Eric Stokes, Oregon cornerback Thomas Graham Jr and Wisconsin cornerback Rachad Wildgoose (not even kidding).
LA Rams 2021 NFL Draft Need Number One: Center
Making this position number one is also a tricky proposition to propose because of the Rams" ability to find hidden gems here as well. They know they can reach deep down into the depths of their scouting roots and find unheralded guys like Austin Blythe and Brian Allen. The issue is that Allen is on is coming off of a year where he didn"t play after 2019 knee surgery and Blythe is now in Kansas City. The team has some decent younger options on the team but the lack of added veteran depth in case they fail is telling to me.
It seems to me that the Rams are gearing up to go young on the offensive line right before our very eyes. The hiring of former Stanford offensive line coach Kevin Carberry is yet another signal of that. Carberry has extensive knowledge of many of these young linemen that are in the draft, not only having worked with and against them at Stanford but also having seen their growth through the recruiting and college developmental processes.
Names to watch for: Stanford center Drew Dalman, Oklahoma center Creed Humphrey and Ohio State center Josh Myers.
Thank you for reading my article on the 2021 NFL Draft needs of the LA Rams. For more NFL content follow me @JbellSportsTalk and also follow @OTH_Football.
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