April is fast approaching, which is to say the 2016 NFL Draft is just around the corner. Teams in the NFL take different roads to navigate the offseason. Ultimately you have to get your team constructed and ready for the upcoming season. The Los Angeles Rams have a few extra items on their calendar.
It’s been well documented here and elsewhere the extra task Jeff Fisher has on his to-do list. Finding suitable locations for OTA’s, camp and in-season operations while they play at the Coliseum are all on the list. Enough. Time to look at actual football activity.
As 2016 unfolds the Rams are showing the same type of fiscal restraint that consistently successful teams follow. LA had a tough list of players hitting free agency this year. You can’t sign everyone. They made the touch choices, signed who they had to and moved on. Now the first waves of high priced free agents has passed leaving options and draft requirements more defined.
The Rams had to pick and choose in the defensive backfield. Janoris Jenkins made it clear he wanted max money. They tagged Trumaine Johnson, the better of the two. You can’t blame Jenkins for wanting to get paid and you can’t blame LA for realizing there is a limit if you want to field a competitive team.
James Laurinaitis walks, Mark Barron signs. Barron played well once the coaches figured out how to use him. Letting Laurinaitis walk was unpopular with the fan base but fully understandable from a scheme perspective. Alec Ogletree should now move inside giving the Rams two dynamic playmakers on the field for three downs. Laurinaitis is a two down LB at this point in his career. He will be missed in the locker room.
Speaking of the locker room the re-signing of DE William Hayes was a good move for that reason as well as his continuing presence on the strong side. William and Aaron Donald play extremely well together. You don’t break that up. Re-signing Eugene Sims to back up the weak side was solid as well. Letting Chris Long walk was good for the Rams and gives him a chance to get going again.
Ouch time. The big dent. Some years you get an influx of talent and things are looking up. Other years you lose talent and it leaves a hole in your scheme. The loss of Free Safety Rodney McLeod is just that. He got a bit over paid by Philadelphia. That’s what happens in free agency. McLeod wasn’t the best in the NFL at his position. He was damn good. A quietly effective player that kept the cap on the defense more often than not.
Fisher hasn’t just set on his hands in regards to non-Rams players. DE Quinton Coples and CB Coty Sensabaugh are the high upside, cost effective signings the Patriots or Steelers make. The compensation they received is in line with their current production. But after falling short of expectations after being drafted they are now both coming to an environment that on paper at least looks to be a better fit for their skill sets. Well done.
QB is an issue. Fisher and company are soft selling it in interviews as is standard this time of year. It’s a problem. Is RGIII the salve for that itch? Perhaps. Griffin is currently doing a dance with the Browns however Fisher has admitted it would be foolish for the Rams not to consider him. I agree. Yet I also believe they should look in this draft for a signal caller, RGIII on board or not.
Other than RGIII the talent level left in the free agency pool is quite depleted at this point. A few guys to fill out the rotation will be signed at bargain prices, but ultimately you don’t really want them to make the squad when you break camp.
So as all eyes turn to the draft where are the Rams looking? We know it’s not RB.
QB – Even though they lost more talent in the defensive backfield the quarterback position is still the biggest area of need. If they want to guarantee one of the top two they have the ammunition (dual second round selections) to trade up and nab Goff or Wentz. Or they can sit right where they are. One of the top guys can drop and there is still excellent talent available after that. This is an itch the Rams can and should scratch this draft.
Jared Goff, Carson Wentz or Paxton Lynch in the first. After that Connor Cook, Christian Hackenberg, Cardale Jones in the middle rounds and Kevin Hoga, Brandon Allen, Nate Sudfeld and Jeff Driskel late are all guys who can play Jeff Fisher style ball. Big guys who can toss the deep ball. A few even have decent speed.
DE – Robert Quin should have a bounce back year but pressure in today’s NFL is a rotational gig. The Rams need depth here. The 2016 draft is not deep in edge rushers. Regardless there are a few project guys that can be had in the mid rounds the Rams would do well to consider.
Carl Nassib, Charles Tapper, Matt Judon are all intriguing selections that should be available after the first round.
WR – I primarily list it as a need here because without a real QB it’s so hard to gauge how good this group could be. Quick is back on a prove it deal. There are some excellent slot guys available this year that might get the nod on draft day.
Sterling Shepard is the skills version while Will Fuller can blow the doors off any defense. Both should be available in the second or third rounds.
DB – Losing a talent like Jenkins is felt, but the Rams had depth here and should be ok. In today’s pass-happy NFL you wan’t to keep the DB cupboard full. A developmental prospect would make sense. So would one of the Richard Sherman types in the mid rounds. The future of free safety needs to be addressed.
Eli Apple, William Jackson III in late first to mid second. D.J. White, Harlan Miller in the mid rounds. Deiondre’ Hall in late mid or third day could be the answer at FS.
Offensive line is always a possibility depending on how things play out. Yet the upcoming draft for Jeff Fisher and the Rams will be graded early on one thing. Did you get a signal caller? The rest is all window dressing.
What say you Sports Nation?
Another Left Coast Sports Post: on Twitter – Steven Van Over