LA Rams draft results suddenly bad? Or something more obvious?

Mandatory Credit: Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports
Mandatory Credit: Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports /

The LA Rams draft classes from recent years have become apparently quite ineffective. Or so it seems. The Rams, who have never claimed to be experts in selecting blue chip reinforcements from the NFL Draft class, have been parting ways with less-than-productive young players this season at a record pace. Much of the background for those released comes down to two categories: Oft-injured, unproductive, or both.

The Rams have parted ways with a huge number of players on the roster who were still on their rookie contracts. That is something new for this team and has been interpreted as a bit of a whiff. In many ways, this turn of events has been both disappointing and a contributing factor as to why the team has struggled as the veneer of the starting 22 players has been stripped away from the Rams roster with an unrelenting stream of injuries.

But before the fanbase turns on the personnel department and the scouts and data analytics folks too harshly, consider this:

LA Rams coaching staff turnstile had an impact too

The LA Rams coaching staff, and personnel department, have been ravaged recently by other NFL teams who have been more than happy to lure a positional coach, coordinator, or team executive by offering a promotion. From Director of College Scouting Brad Holmes to Secondary Coach Ejiro Evero, the Rams’ once robust coaching staff and personnel department has been depleted and diluted to the point where the name of the game has changed completely.

The rookie draft class from 2020 was on track to be one of the Rams’ best draft classes: Two late picks appeared to be on track to start side-by-side as safeties for the team in 2021. The Rams appeared to have landed a starting OLB. The team landed a starting RB, WR, a TE2, and even a Day 3 offensive lineman who appeared to have all of the makings of a someday starter. Now, in the 2022 NFL season and four of the nine have been outright released.

The same impact was not limited to rookie prospects. The LA Rams linebacker group is the most obvious example. The LA Rams run a 3-4 defense. But who had roles on the team in 2020 and who remains on this defense today?  OLB Leonard Floyd and ILB Travin Howard are the only two with playing time. ILB Christian Rozeboom remains on the roster, albeit on the practice squad. ILB/DB Jake Gervase has remained on the team thanks to excelling on special teams. Even veteran ILB/OLB Justin Hollins,  an outside linebacker signed to augment the Rams’ defense for Brandon Staley’s system, was waived this year.

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Drafting hit an antiquated mark

Bad drafting? Bad prospects? If you look at who has been released, there is something simpler at play. Three of the four players released by the team were hand selected to flourish in then-defensive coordinator Brandon Staley’s deceptive secondary and defense. They were jack-of-all-trades, players who could morph into a host of defensive back or line of scrimmage roles, depending on what the defense faced on any given play. That all changed with a more traditional secondary style under the new DC Raheem Morris.

And the same can be said of defensive backs, running backs, tight ends, and a host of positional groups. There has been a bit of regression in a number of areas, and the team has responded by moving on from players who no longer seem to fit what this team is trying to do now.

If the skillsets for a position change, it makes sense that the players who fit the former role would no longer fit the newly defined role. The Rams have since emphasized the role of their inside linebackers to stomp rushing offenses, and the pair of ILB Bobby Wagner and Ernest Jones has elevated the LA Rams run defense to a Top-4 in the NFL.

The Rams’ coaching staff has changed considerably over the past three seasons. And it follows suit that the type of players suited to the new coaches would change as well. The personnel department fills the wishlist of coaches as best they can in each draft. As coaches have moved on, so too have the type of players who suit the Rams’ coaching staff.

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