The LA Rams have a lot of places to focus upon in the 2021 NFL Draft. There are plenty of places to go on offense: offensive linemen, a speedy wide receiver who will force defenses to cover the entire football field, even another tight end to throw into the mix. Then there is the defense, where cornerbacks are definitely short-supplied, a new round of linebackers to help the team out in 2022, edge rushers, and even defensive linemen.
But there is one area the Rams will likely not look to reinforce in this draft. Running back.
And that is very good news for the guy who was red-shirted in 2020, no-longer-rookie running back Xavier Jones. After all, Jones made the Rams 53-man roster in 2020 but wasn’t heard from again. That’s often a sign of buyer’s remorse from an NFL team, a subtle indication of seeing something in the player that wasn’t there.
In the beginning
Well, let’s start from the beginning if you are unfamiliar with the LA Rams ‘other’ running back. Xavier Jones is an outstanding running back from Southern Methodist University (SMU) who held the NCAA scoring title in 2019, averaging nearly 12 points per game. Yet, he was never invited to the 2020 NFL Scouting Combine. Nor did he hear his name called at the 2020 NFL Draft.
The Rams added him. Even though the team had a full complement of running backs, he impressed both head coach Sean McVay and All-Pro defensive lineman, Aaron Donald, enough in two makeshift scrimmage games to earn a spot on the 53-man roster. And then?
But the story doesn’t end here. Rather, it begins here. You see, despite the proclamations that the Rams will run their offense with the legs of running back Cam Akers, the Rams have plans for both Darrell Henderson, Raymond Calais, and ultimately, for Xavier Jones.
Tough to bring down
Jones isn’t a forgotten player, nor is he perceived as a miss. He was simply a rookie at a position thick with veterans. and he was on the bench watching his team compete. He saw his team compete in 16 regular-season games, and then in two playoff games. The entire time, he wanted to get onto the football field.
The 5-foot-11 215-pound running back for the LA Rams is more than just a bench warmer. While not as shifty as Darrell Henderson, as speedy as Raymond Calais, or as elusive as Cam Akers, Jones has plenty of good reason to carry the ball often. First and foremost, if Aaron Donald knows your name at the end of a football game, you either impressed him or pissed him off.
He finds the endzone folks. He just does. I’d love to break it down for you by describing the thrust generated with each stride as he nears the goal line. I’m certain there are scientific ways to describe his route for the score in vectors, angular velocity, projected versus actual trajectory. But why bother? He just scores touchdowns.
He does so by not getting tackled. He stays low to the ground, almost like a mouse hiding among the blades of grass. But he continues to push forward. While under the six feet tall, he is amazingly powerful. And his frame is compact too, ideally suited to making people miss in traffic.
The LA Rams want to score more in 2021, and that is running back Xavier Jones’s superpower. He scores. When asked why I am still bullish on Xavier Jones, a player who was not given a chance to play in 2020, my answer is a simple one. The LA Rams need what Jones can give them on offense.