With no first-round pick in the 2020 NFL Draft, the Los Angeles Rams had to get creative in finding a replacement for Todd Gurley. Los Angeles didn’t waste any time in selecting Gurley’s successor, drafting Cam Akers with its first pick in the second round (No. 52 overall).
The Rams didn’t have a shot at getting the premier running backs in the class (Jonathan Taylor and D’Andre Swift), but acted quickly in making sure they got an excellent talent in Akers — who should be in line to emerge as the No. 1 running back in 2020. In Sean McVay’s offense, Akers should thrive with his natural running ability and strength of catching passes as an underneath option for quarterback Jared Goff.
Los Angeles used the second-round pick it acquired from the Brandin Cooks trade (No. 57 overall) on Van Jefferson, another pass-catching wideout for Goff. Jefferson should emerge in the slot, even though he can play all three positions. He’ll be a nice compliment with Cooper Kupp, Robert Woods and Josh Reynolds as Los Angeles doesn’t have to rely on him to produce immediately. With Los Angeles tight in cap space, Jefferson is a nice find for a team that will have to pay its young cast of talented wideouts over the next couple years.
The Rams did an excellent job at adding more offensive weapons for Goff, but here are a few things Los Angeles failed to do with nine draft picks it had.
1. Not a single offensive tackle selected
Somehow the Rams didn’t select any offensive tackles in this draft, a major mistake for a franchise that needs to find a replacement for Andrew Whitworth — who will be 39 this season. Who is going to succeed Whitworth at the position? Bobby Evans and Joseph Noteboom haven’t progressed like the Rams hoped, but they appear to be the best options.
Cohl Cabral was a strong undrafted free agent signing, but he’s better suited on the inside at guard. Perhaps the Rams see something in Chandler Brewer, an undrafted free agent signing in 2019 who elevated from the practice squad to the active roster and played in seven games. Still, it’s hard to justify Brewer being the top option if Whitworth goes down, but that’s the bed the Rams decided to lie in.
There were plenty of tackle options on Day 3 of the draft. The Rams passed on taking any of them.
2. Still no reliable backup QB option
The Rams are going into the season with John Wolford as their backup quarterback. With nine draft picks (including five on Day 3), it was surprising for Los Angeles to pass on a developmental quarterback behind Goff. What if Goff goes down?
Los Angeles should invest in a backup signal caller, but the Rams don’t exactly have the cap space to spend a lot of money there. There are some affordable options like Trevor Siemian and Mike Glennon, but the Rams are currently $5,349,165 over the salary cap (per Over the Cap). There isn’t much Los Angeles can do to improve the position unless they move on from a veteran with a large cap hit.
3. Linebacker still a problem
The Rams’ drafted only one linebacker, using a seventh-round pick on Clay Johnston. While Johnston is expected to play inside, can he beat out any of the top five inside linebackers on the depth chart? If Johnston can become a contributor on special teams in Year One, that’s a win for L.A.
So where do the Rams need help? Samson Ebukam was excellent in a reserve role and is projected to start on the outside again while third-round pick Terrell Lewis adds to the pass rush — but the Rams may line him up on the edge. If Lewis fills that Clay Matthews role, they may be covered there. Adding a veteran on a one-year deal (Nigel Bradham, Pernell McPhee) could solve a lot of the questions the Rams have on the outside.
There are a lot of “ifs” for Los Angeles at linebacker. It’s a solid group, but they can definitely improve.