LA Rams: Did data driven draft analytics uncover future superstar?

(Photo by Butch Dill/Getty Images)
(Photo by Butch Dill/Getty Images) /

The LA Rams have migrated from analog draft analytics to digital data draft analytics. The process began during the 2020 NFL Scouting Combine and has accelerated due to the limits imposed either by the risk of contracting COVID-19 or the safety measure imposed by the NFL/NFLPA to prevent contracting or spreading the highly contagious disease.

In English? The LA Rams are converting their draft assessment process to rely more heavily upon data-driven analytics. Why? Well, for two reasons. First of all, the logistics of placing scouts in a college football stadium with binoculars and a notepad is imprecise and difficult to replicate. In short, two scouts at the same game sitting in different spots could emerge from a football game with two completely different scouting reports. Convert that to video footage, and the differences magnify.

Second of all, traditional scouting methods and analysis are not self-correcting. Huh? That means that a scouting report that was incorrect has no channel of overlaying that player’s NFL performance to improve the accuracy of future scouting reports.

Data-driven draft delivers more accurate results

With data-driven analytics as part of the draft assessment process, both scenarios are not only improved but can be replicated over and over.  That consistency allows programmers to tweak the algorithms of data and outcomes to get closer and closer to achieving the ultimate goal: Finding the best prospects to draft to the Rams roster.

While we touched on the LA Rams migration to drafting with a data-driven perspective, we are not alone in picking up on the Rams’ latest trend. In her latest article Inside Rams’ scouting of Robert Rochell, The Athletic’s Jourdan Rodrigue spins a masterful narrative about how the Rams blend on-site scouting with the data needed to feature a manageable number of hot college prospects. (Subscription required)

So what data set off the alarms and whistles?

Roll the video

Well in the article, Jourdan Rodrigue lists the specific criteria in her article, and that alone is worth the price of subscribing. But for the budget-conscious, we can share that there are four such players who met those conditions: LA Rams All-Pro defensive back Jalen Ramsey, free-agent safety Obi Melifonwu, LA Chargers safety Derwin James, and LA Rams rookie Robert Rochell.

And if you check out this video, you can hone in some of the data points that made this young man jump off the page for the Rams draft team.

At the 1:58 minute mark, Data and Analytic Manager Jake Temme cites how Rochell stood out to his analytics process:

"“From a measures perspective, this guy is off the charts. You’re talking 43 on vert(ical jump), 133 (inches) on the broad (jump), really long arms, 32 1/2 (inch) arms, 79-inch wing(span)- Jake Temme describing Robert Rochell’s measurables"

Keep in mind that the LA Rams have not abandoned scouts in their process. Rather, they simply have begun to add more emphasis to the data components used to assess and evaluate prospects in the days leading up to the draft.

The Rams have, in their opinion, added one of the most naturally gifted defensive backs available in the 2021 NFL draft. And they have elite expertise to ensure he is coached up to his full potential with Secondary Coach Ejiro Evero and teammate Jalen Ramsey. How will it turn out? Keep in mind that Coach Evero helped to optimize the play of both Jordan Fuller and Terrell Burgess in the abbreviated no-preseason training camp in 2020. He simply needs to work a similar bit of magic over Rochell, and he’ll have much more time and contact to do so.

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Rochell is not the only 2021 NFL rookie who was selected by the Rams thanks to his outstanding data profile. But he may be the easiest to track this year. If he pans out, the Rams could emphasize data analytics even further in the 2022 NFL Draft.