The perception that NFL talent is most often found on Day 1 and Day 2 of the NFL Draft has more to do with the effectiveness of how the NFL has marketed the NFL Draft in modern times, and less to do with the actual results of players who hear their names called on Day 1, Day 2, Day 3, or not at all during an NFL Draft event.
While the odds of landing a solid starter are better with early rounds, there is some dispute about whether that is truly from the player performing better, or simply the team, having invested such a valuable pick for the player that requires the team to exhaust every opportunity for that offensive lineman to perform well.
But we know that the LA Rams have not had a first-round draft pick to use since the team merged GM Les Snead with HC Sean McVay. Rather, those picks have been used to acquire game-changers, elite talented players whose performance ranks among the best at their respective positions.
Because offensive linemen work as a unit, landing elite offensive linemen is less important than building a cohesive offensive line. Defenses have mastered the ability to attack the weakest link at the line of scrimmage, so some NFL teams have learned that the best offensive line does not necessarily need players chosen from Day 1. In fact, many successful NFL linemen were not chosen early in the draft.
What about the offensive line?
Still, the Rams must roster quality players on the offensive line. The way the LA Rams manage to keep their offensive line stable is to draft or sign players who have all of the raw talent and characteristics of a solid NFL offensive lineman but may be a bit raw in terms of technique. Then, after joining the team, the coaching staff works with those players until they are every bit as NFL-ready as the top-ranked prospects who enter the NFL on Day 1 or Day 2 of the NFL Draft.
Of course, that process takes time to refine raw players. The rapid and repeated injuries to the Rams’ offensive line in the first six games of the 2022 NFL season have overwhelmed the team’s reserves. With three players lost for the season, and with starting offensive tackle Joe Noteboom among them, the Rams roster has been pushed hard.
One more injury. Can the Rams ever catch a break?
Alaric Jackson is (going to be) good
But the Rams have a knack for finding quality offensive linemen from the most unusual places. So who will pick up the slack? Well, the LA Rams have an answer this time. The Rams are moving 6-foot-7 330-pound Alaric Jackson from the right guard position out to the left tackle spot. The team backfilled the right guard role with veteran interior offensive lineman Oday Aboushi.
And that patchwork offensive line held up very well against a pretty good Carolina Panthers defensive front. The Rams ran better than they had all season. And Rams quarterback Matthew Stafford had one of his better games this season. After the game, Coach McVay was pleased with Alaric Jackson’s performance.
The perception right now is that the Rams’ offensive line is bad. But which version? The Rams have never had the same five guys playing in consecutive weeks. The LA Rams will likely start Alaric Jackson, Bobby Evans, Brian Allen, Oday Aboushi, and Rob Havenstein against the San Francisco 49ers, and this may be the best offensive line configuration so far in the 2022 NFL season.
We know that Joe Noteboom struggled at left tackle before his injury. With Alaric Jackson protecting Matthew Stafford’s blind side, there is hope that Stafford will have time to find receivers deep downfield.
I think Alaric Jackson will be good, very good, for the LA Rams. I’m not alone in thinking so, either. LA Rams head coach Sean McVay said it best: ‘What a stud Alaric Jackson was.’