Is it time for the LA Rams to invest in a new center?
By Bret Stuter
The LA Rams have been a team that has for the most part carried itself with a certain swagger, a bit of penache, and has come out on top of many NFL games over the past six seasons. But the 2022 NFL season was a bit of a wake up call, a cold slap in the face to a team that was too busy racing around the track each season to notice their dials and gauges where going haywire.
Well, that all came to a head in 2022 when the team suffered huge numbers of injuries to the starters, and then began to rifle through the remaining players on the roster. Some of the reserves were quickly injured as well. Others were simply not up to the challenge of starting cold in an NFL game. That may be water under the bridge for now, but lessons unlearned will only come back to haunt the team.
One of the areas of the LA Rams roster that has been a series of patchwork is the offensive center position. Like many positions on the Rams roster, the offensive center position has not been a high priority for the LA Rams front office, and as such has not generated much interest in addressing with a valuable draft pick. But perhaps the time to rethink that strategy has come to pass.
Land a starting center in 2023?
The LA Rams hold the 36th overall pick in the 2023 NFL Draft, and from that vantage point the Rams front office will be unlikely to land a Top 3 prospect at outside linebacker, offensive tackle, wide receiver, quarterback, or defensive lineman.
But the Rams could emerge with a Top-3 interior offensive lineman, and that is a great foundation piece to add to this Rams roster if the objective is to lay the groundwork this year to have all of the pieces in place for an NFL Playoff push in 2024.
I love the depth of offensive center in the 2023 NFL Draft and believe that as many as five prospects have starter qualities that could result in a 2023 starter for the right prospect on the LA Rams roster. If the Rams opt to select an offensive center early, the benefits to the overall offense could be quite impressive. How so?
Domino effect for Rams offense
By selecting a high quality center, not only do the Rams get a keystone for their future offensive line, but the team creates a stabilizing force in the heart of the offensive line where the team needs their best protection. That rookie starting as the Rams center allows the team to keep oft-injured Brian Allen as a quite capable backup, allows the team to redeploy both Coleman Shelton, Tremayne Anchrum, and or Joe Noteboom to compete for offensive guard roles, and allows the team to bookend the offensive line with Alaric Jackson and Rob Havenstein.
Better still, a competent and healthy offensive center should amplify the effectiveness of the Rams rushing attack, an aspect of the offense that has been allowed to wilt due to a lack of attention since 2018. A strong offensive line paired with a stronger running game also unlocks the full offensive playbook for a Rams offense desperate to put points on the scoreboard once more.
Can one rookie do all that? It's tough to point to facts, as this is a bold strategy that the LA Rams have never tried since head coach Sean McVay assumed the head coaching role for the team. But the Rams' offensive line has not been a focus so far. It only makes sense that if the team is trying to restock the foundation to build something bigger and better, a wise choice would be for the Rams' front office to invest in the offensive line.
Who might the LA Rams target?
Of NFL Draft Buzz's offensive center rankings, I believe that five prospects could start for the Rams as a rookie. They are:
- John Michael Schmitz OC Minnesota
- Steve Avila OC TCU
- Luke Wypier OC Ohio State
- Joe Tippmann OC Wisconsin
- Olusegun Oluwatimi OC Michigan
While I am admittedly not an NFL general manager, I do have enough life experience to know that if the goal is to field a contender in 2024, the LA Rams will need to focus their efforts on reinforcing the backbone and framework of the team. In refurbishing an older home, that can mean taking the house down to or beyond the studs, and starting with new lumber.
That same strategy should work for the LA Rams roster reset as well. Rather than add flourishes like wide receivers or running backs, the best place to shore up the roster is to reinforce the backbone of the team. That is, investing in an athletic and talented offensive center can deliver unforeseen benefits to the LA Rams roster.
If the goal is to build a better team, then landing a top center in the 2023 NFL Draft is a wise first step.