There is no question the Rams had a great draft last year picking up Michael Brockers, Janoris Jenkins, Chris Givens, Brian Quick, Trumaine Johnson, Daryl Richardson, and Isaiah Pead. All of these rookies except for Pead and Richardson were major reasons for the Rams’ success last season. After this year’s draft, fans can only hope that this year’s rookies will contribute just as much.
This past draft the Rams selected Tavon Austin, Alec Ogletree, T.J. McDonald, Stedman Bailey, Brandon McGee, Barrett Jones, and Zac Stacey. The thing with the Rams rookies is that most of them are going to be thrown into starting roles, therefore their development is key to the Rams’ success once again. They must contribute, learn the game fast, and mature in order for the team to succeed.
Tavon Austin is explosive and will no doubt make plays for the Rams this year. Austin is by far the most electrifying player in the draft and the Rams moved up to get him. Austin will play in the slot and take over Danny Amendola’s role on the team. Austin is filling some pretty big shoes, Amendola was Bradford’s security blanket underneath and you have to bet Austin will be forced to provide much the same. The thing that separated last year’s rookies is that they excelled in every position they were thrown in. This class needs to be able to do the same.
Alec Ogletree’s development will be important as well as the Rams play in a division where the read-option is used a significant amount. The importance of having outside linebackers that can get to the outside fast and tackle can not be said enough. The Rams shut down the read-option for the most part last season, but if Ogletree can stay out of trouble and show his potential on the field, the Rams will be able to completely stop it and make the read-option irrelevant.
T.J. McDonald was probably the hardest hitting safety in the draft. He has some questions concerning his coverage skills, but for the most part McDonald will be a nice addition to the defense. McDonald doesn’t have to cover like Darrel Revis, but he cant be a liability in coverage. The Rams other third round pick Stedman Bailey will be another nice addition to the offense as he is reliable like Amendola and Gibson were. He runs solid routes and has great hands. He has a similar game to Greg Jennings. Brandon McGee and Barrett Jones will both be used as depth players, but don’t be surprised if Jones assumes a starting position by the end of the season. McGee will provide depth at the cornerback position.
The thing about last year’s class was that when they got their opportunities they shined. Givens earned his spot as the number one receiver and Daryl Richardson worked his way up the depth chart and provided enough to allow the coaches to let Steven Jackson and give them confidence that he can carry the load. Every time Janoris Jenkins touched the ball, it seemed like he was in the end zone two seconds later. Trumaine Johnson gave the coaches enough to give him the role as the third corner position that previously belonged to Brandon Fletcher.
The coaches are expecting a lot from this year’s rookies as well. The Rams let Amendola and Gibson walk and replaced them with Austin and Bailey. Both these players will be expected to come in day one and make plays for the offense. Austin could really be the Janoris Jenkins of the offense in the sense that every time he touches the ball something special is going to happen. Bailey is going to have to make a lot of plays because the coverage in the defense will be more focused on Austin and Givens. It is important that Bailey is able to win his one on one matchups. The coaches have put a lot of faith in Ogletree taking him in the first round with the amount of off the field issues he has. There is no doubt he is a first round talent, but can he stay out of trouble? The coaches are trusting that McDonald can be a difference maker on defense and not a liability.
Like last year’s rookies, the coaches and front office have a lot of faith in their rookies, and the success of this team is going to depend on them. If these rookies come out like they are supposed to and like the coaches expect, this year’s and last year’s draft classes will be the foundation of the team for many year’s to come. Sorry everybody, but this is not the same old Rams.