The LA Rams made a number of interesting, if not downright shocking, moves in the 2021 NFL Draft when the team, facing a number of free-agent losses in 2022, instead focused their draft picks upon the one place that was bursting with depth and talent. The interesting part is that the draft picks seemed to imply that the Rams were unhappy with returning veterans from the 2020 roster. The shocking part is that few of the rookies selected were projected to be much of an impact in 2021.
There were positions of need where rookies would have been more impactful. There is the LA Rams offensive line, currently with five players on the last year of their contract, and with one more player likely contemplating retirement. There are the linebacker positions, where the inside linebackers are on the last year of their contract, and where two of the four outside linebackers have serious durability questions.
There is the dilemma of the Rams’ running back position. It was originally intended to fall upon second-year running back Cam Akers, but now three season-ending injuries later, the burden now falls to Darrell Henderson (questionable with a rib injury), Sony Michel (acquired late in training camp via trade), and rookie RB Jake Funk (the 233rd pick in the 2021 NFL Draft). A day two running back would look awfully good on the roster right now, wouldn’t it?
Drafting for a rainy day
The Rams drafted WR Tutu Atwell and touted his speed as vital to the passing offense as well as special teams as a return specialist. The Rams drafted WR/TE Jacob Harris, whose size and speed suggest a very high NFL ceiling, but who is simply too raw to be sent onto the football field. Finally, the LA Rams drafted WR Ben Skowronek, but he suffered a fractured forearm and has been inactive in the first two games.
So we are heading into Week 3, and the class of 2021 has been strangely silent.
If you were expecting there to be a but….. here, sorry folks. I don’t see much happening in the near term future unless necessary. After Week 3, the LA Rams face two consecutive games against NFC West rivals. First, the team hosts the Arizona Cardinals, followed by a road trip to take on the Seattle Seahawks.
Tomorrow is no place to park your better days – Dave Matthews
I just cannot see the LA Rams putting any untested rookies onto the football field in those circumstances. The Rams close out the month of October with a road game to face the New York Giants, hosting the Detroit Lions, and then traveling to take on the Houston Texans. Perhaps the Rams will audition one of the rookie skill players against the Lions or the Texans? And then again, perhaps not.
We know that tight end Brycen Hopkins, drafted in 2020, has yet to contribute to the LA Rams offense. We know that wide receiver Trishton Jackson, signed with the Minnesota Vikings practice squad after the LA Rams waived him from the roster.
It’s very difficult for skilled players to earn playing time in the LA Rams offense. Perhaps that is because the offense is already at such a high level? Or perhaps it’s simply because rookies don’t play until they’ve mastered catching, running, and blocking.
The Rams may hear from rookie Tutu Atwell on punt returns. The team may see some production out of Jake Funk on kick returns. And the team may see feel some production from others on coverage units. But as to whether any rookies will be contributing to the LA Rams offense anytime soon? That’s doubtful.
To be honest that is the reason so many questioned the Rams’ obsession with adding so many skilled players to the roster from the 2021 NFL Draft in the first place.