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2017 Team Report: Los Angeles Rams

Offensive Philosophy

With an inefficient running game and an inexperienced quarterback, the Rams ran the second-fewest offensive plays in the league last year. Sean McVay was brought in to turn around those stalled drives and try to develop Jared Goff. In Washington, McVay helped turn Kirk Cousins into a pro bowler with an aggressive downfield passing offense. While his former team didn't rely much on its running backs, the presence of Todd Gurley suggests McVay will lean a bit more towards the run in 2017.


Starter: Jared Goff
Backup(s): Sean Mannion, Brandon Allen

Starting QB: After aggressively moving up to No.1 overall for Jared Goff, his rookie year mirrored the Rams overall struggles. Goff played in eight games, looking overwhelmed a vast majority of the time. He completed 54% of his passes with more interceptions than touchdowns and just 5.3 yards-per-attempt. While rookie quarterbacks are historically slow starters, Goff was well below baseline for the average long-term success at the position. The complete overhaul of the Rams coaching staff offers potential optimism as Sean McVay logged three successful seasons as Washington's offensive coordinator, including their ranks in the top-3 of a myriad of offensive categories with Kirk Cousins under the center. McVay as the head coach offers experience with Matt LaFleur in his first year as offensive coordinator after working with Matt Ryan in Atlanta as the quarterbacks coach for two seasons. McVay and LaFleur are the biggest reasons for optimism with Goff in Year 2 as well as the Rams' aggressive reconstruction of Goff's weaponry, trading for Sammy Watkins and adding multiple receivers, plus a tight end, in the NFL Draft.

Backup QB: Sean Mannion represents one of the lower-level primary backup quarterbacks in the NFL. The former third round pick two years ago has thrown 13 career passes to-date. Mannion's evaluation exiting Oregon State as a prospect centered around being a complimentary quarterback in a run-oriented and play-action-centric NFL offense. The Rams run game turning around would offer Mannion an opportunity for success if pushing into action.

Running Backs

Starter: Todd Gurley
Backup(s): Malcolm Brown, Justin Davis [R]

Starting RB: After a promising rookie season in 2015, averaging 4.8 yards-per-carry and 10 touchdowns over 13 games, Todd Gurley's sophomore season was a trainwreck in 2016. Gurley posted a single game of more than 80 yards rushing on the season and just one game above 4.0 yards-per-rush. Goal line opportunities were few and far between and Gurley consistently was met in the backfield and did not take advantage of his few open field chances with long runs. The Rams' offensive line added to Gurley's struggles as one of the worst run-blocking units in the NFL. On the positive side, Gurley had 58 targets, a hearty total as he averaged more than 20 yards-per-game through the air. The combination of line play and not seeing the few holes present from week-to-week, Gurley's 2016 season can be summed up as a lost year. The addition of Andrew Whitworth at tackle through free agency and improved health from tackle Rob Havenstein (played through a foot injury) will go a long way towards the Rams offensive line helping, instead of hurting, Gurley's chances for a bounce-back season.

Backup RBs: With Lance Dunbar out definitely, Malcolm Brown is key reserve for the Rams running back depth chart. Malcolm Brown was an 18-year-old phenom (and elite recruit) at University of Texas and has been a marginal player since. Brown has prototypical size and quality movement skills, pointing to potential upside. Brown has shown well in previous preseasons with the Rams, but yet to see notable work during the regular season. With the Rams rail-thin behind Todd Gurley, Brown is projected for a steady relief role.


Wide Receivers

Starters: Sammy Watkins, Tavon Austin, Robert Woods
Backups: Pharoh Cooper, Cooper Kupp [R], Josh Reynolds [R], Mike Thomas (susp)

Starting WRs: Kenny Britt left in free agency, a glaring hole as the lead perimeter receiver for the Rams in 2017. Sammy Watkins was the surprise addition with an August trade with the Bills. Watkins' health has been the most significant stumbling block early in his career. Watkins offers a vertical element the Rams sorely lacked in 2016. With a healthy stretch, Watkins projects as a field-stretcher to aid not only a developing Jared Goff, but also a rebound effort for Todd Gurley and the Rams running game. Tavon Austin signed a big-money contract to stay with the Rams, a questionable investment considering Austin's role to-date on offense. Austin is an unquestionable impact athlete, with explosion, long speed, and lateral agility to rival any playmaker in the league. However, his usage downfield and as more than a situational offensive weapon, has been fleeting. After 104 offensive touches in 2015, Austin simmered back to 86 touches and four touchdowns last season, including a career-low 5.7 yards-per-carry. Robert Woods was the major free agent addition of the offseason. The former Buffalo receiver and second round pick played second fiddle to Sammy Watkins for most of his time with the Bills, occasionally with cameo lead receiver time when Watkins was out of the lineup. Woods fits the possession role for an NFL receiver prototype well with average size and lagging athleticism for his build. His technical skills as a route runner are his best trait, offering consistency on short to intermediate routes, a welcome sight for a young quarterback in Jared Goff.

Backup WRs: Pharoh Cooper offers a similar profile to Robert Woods - an average-sized receiver with strong collegiate production but lagging athletic traits for his build. Averaging just 7.6 yards-per-reception as a rookie, Cooper projects in the No.3 role on a limited passing offense. This combination does not possess a high historical ceiling. Cooper Kupp was one of the most productive college receivers in the 2017 class, showing well at the Senior Bowl and ultimately being drafted on Day 2 by the Rams. Kupp offers return ability in addition to strong route-running on the perimeter and in the slot. Kupp has nuanced positional skills of a mid-career receiver entering the NFL. Josh Reynolds offers more high-pointing ball skills than Kupp with his large catching radius and deep target penchant. While his hands are inconsistent at times, Reynolds offers the most jump ball potential on the depth chart with the departure of Kenny Britt to free agency. Bradley Marquez was a role player in Tampa Bay and sports above-average change-of-direction.

Tight Ends

Starters: Tyler Higbee
Backups: Gerald Everett, Derek Carrier, Temarrick Hemingway (inj)

With long-time incumbent Lance Kendricks gone to Green Bay in free agency, 2016 rookie tight end Tyler Higbee moves up to the projected starting spot for the Rams. Higbee has quality size and a strong production track record from Western Kentucky, but his athletic profile is limited. His rookie stat line parallels his prospect profile, averaging just 7.7 yards-per-catch in 2016. While the wide receiver corps of limited upside points to an opportunity for strong tight end production, historically the equation mandates high-level quarterback play to achieve top-shelf status. Higbee is the favorite to be the Week 1 starter with his upside hingeing on progression from Jared Goff. Gerald Everett is a classic move tight end in profile and highly productive fueling a Round 2 selection this offseason. Everett offers early-route separation more than Higbee and was one of the most athletic tight ends in the 2017 draft class. Derek Carrier was acquired in a low-level trade in early September from the deep tight end depth chart of the Washington Redskins. Carrier is a metric marvel in his former NFL Draft profile and moves from TE4 on Washington to TE3 in the pecking order for the Rams. Temarrick Hemingway is also entering his second NFL season. Hemingway offers athletic potential from his prospect profile, but produced little at South Carolina State, making him a boom-bust projection with low odds to turn his physical attributes into sustainable NFL production.

Place Kicker

Greg Zuerlein: Greg "the leg" Zuerlein's stats were brought down with the rest of the Rams offense in 2016, but that didn't stop the team from signing him to a three-year deal this offseason. He got 2.375 million guaranteed, so he would have to implode to lose the job. Zuerlein made 19 of 22 field goal attempts last year, but only had eight attempts from over 40 yards, making five of them. The Rams offense is still unlikely to support a fantasy kicker to relevance even in deep leagues, so despite the job security, Zuerlein should be off of your draft board.

Kick and Punt Returners

Kick Returners: Pharoh Cooper

Despite Tavon Austin's reputation as a return specialist, he hasn't regularly returned kickoffs since his rookie year, and for good reason- of the 71 players with at least 20 returns since 2013, Austin ranks last in yards per return.

Punt Returners: Tavon Austin

The Rams' highly-drafted, highly-paid receiver has frequently disappointed on offense, but he's been a fixture on special teams his entire career and likely has the punt return job locked down for a while to come.

Offensive Line

Projected Starters: LT Andrew Whitworth, LG Rodger Saffold, C John Sullivan, RG Rob Havenstein, RT Jamon Brown
Key Backups: Andrew Donnal, Austin Blythe, JJ Dielman, Aaron Neary, Darrell Williams

The Rams' offensive line improved greatly when it signed left tackle Andrew Whitworth in free agency. Whitworth is a current Pro Bowl performer and will play next to Rodger Saffold at left guard. Saffold has been a rock for this unit and while that left side doesn't have a ton of future upside, it could be excellent this year. Rob Havenstein is moving in from right tackle to right guard and he has the potential to be an impact blocker but struggles with durability. The team also signed veteran John Sullivan to start at center. It is not clear if Sullivan is still a starter, and Demetrius Rheney could win this job again this preseason. Jamon Brown, Andrew Donnal and Pace Murphy played well enough this offseason that the team felt comfortable trading Greg Robinson to the Lions. Brown should be the starter but the team also likes Donnal. On paper this is a much improved and certainly more experienced unit but these players have not played together and some have not even played these positions before. The uncertainty holds the grade down and until these positions become less volatile, the Rams grade out as a mid or possibly low tier line.

Team Defense

Not all that long ago, the Rams D/ST was a premium unit with the potential to go off and win a week for you when you needed it the most. 2016 saw a massive dropoff to the bottom ten as the franchise languished under the weight of yet another subpar offense and the loss of Robert Quinn for half of the season. After losing Janoris Jenkins last year, the team kept Trumaine Johnson with the franchise tag, and added Kayvon Webster to compete to start on the other side. The best hope for a defensive resurgence came in the form of Wade Phillips, who was hired to stoke the aggressiveness of this unit in his 3-4 attacking scheme. Aaron Donald is still a marquee playmaker up front, but the team needs Quinn to regain form to justify the ADP putting them in the 10-15 range. Tavon Austin's return abilities help make the case for this team, but in a transition year, temper your expectations.

Defensive Line

Starters: Aaron Donald DE, Michael Brockers NT, Ethan Westbrooks DE
Backups: Tanzel Smart DT [R], Quinton Jefferson DE, Morgan Fox DE, Tyrunn Walker DL

Starting DL: Donald is clearly the best of the bunch on the defensive line, but the Rams need to get him into camp as he is holding out for a new deal. Brockers will man the nose in Wade Phillips new 3-4 defense, and since the scheme allows for some gap-shooting and penetration, his unique combination of size and athleticism should fit. Westbrooks is pushed into being the third starter with the season-ending injury to Dominique Easley.

Backup DL: The injury to Easley has stretched thin a defensive line depth chart that was already unimpressive before his injury. Fox was a UDFA in 2016 who has some experience from his rookie year, but he could also fit at outside linebacker. Bryant along with Jefferson and Smart might be battling for one roster spot, although the injury to Easley could force the team's hand into keeping more depth. Trinca-Pasat has an edge to make the final roster as one of the only other veterans on the defensive line on the depth chart.


Starters: Alec Ogletree ILB, Mark Barron ILB, Robert Quinn OLB, Connor Barwin OLB
Backups: Bryce Hager ILB, Samson Ebukam OLB [R], Ejuan Price OLB [R], Cory Littleton OLB, Matt Longacre LB

Starting LBs: Ogletree and Barron should be strong IDP options as inside linebackers who can seek and destroy in the running game and cover sideline-to-sideline in the passing game. Quinn has nosedived in effectiveness due to injuries in the last few years, but he has a chance to bounce back after suffering various injuries last year, ending the season on injured reserve, and probably never being 100% after offseason back surgery. Barwin is an experienced and productive OLB/DE tweener who the team picked up in the offseason to help man the transition to the new defense.

Backup LBs: Hager and Forrest and young third-day picks the team has been developing as depth and now will transition to new roles in the 3-4 defense. Forrest suffered a torn ACL last year and the new regime might not be attached to him. Hager was a special teams standout and that should ensure that he makes the team. Ekuban and Price were hand-picked by the new regime to develop at outside linebacker, which should make them favorites for roster spots. Littleton could return to his college position of 3-4 edge linebacker, which should enhance his chances of making the team. He was the team's rookie of the year last year as an inside linebacker.

Defensive Backs

Starters: Trumaine Johnson CB, Kayvon Webster CB, Lamarcus Joyner FS/CB, Maurice Alexander SS
Backups: Nickell Robey-Coleman CB, John Johnson FS [R], DB Marqui Christian, CB Troy Hill (susp), CB Dominique Hatfield, DB Blake Countess, DB Cody Davis

Starting DBs: Johnson will play under the franchise tag again and is in possibly his last season with the team. He will be team's #1 corner. Webster has followed his old defensive coordinator to Los Angeles and should be the #2 corner. Alexander is back in his natural box safety role and should be a good IDP sleeper this year. Joyner has earned his way out of a nickel back role into a full-time free safety role and his versatility and play-making abilities will be on display.

Backup DBs: Robey-Coleman is basically a starter as a nickel back specialist. Gaines will be one of the top outside corner backups. Two of the team's safeties can also play corner, so they might not have to carry an excessive number of corners. If they carry a fifth, Hill could be the man after he returns from his two-game suspension. While he has starting experience, his play last year wasn't stellar. Jordan is another candidate after the UDFA was called up late last year and improved with each game. He can help on special teams, too. Christian can play safety or corner but needs to show more to make the team despite his versatility. Johnson was high draft pick will likely be the top backup at one or both safety positions. Davis is the best bet to be the #4 safety and direct backup to one of the starting safeties.

Last modified: 2017-09-05 12:40:56