Three weeks from tomorrow, the 2016 college football season kicks off with Los Angeles Rams QB Jared Goff’s alma mater, Cal, taking on Hawaii in Australia. (Seriously though, that’s a fire lede.)
And as I was reading ESPN’s top 100 college football players series yesterday, I felt a bit uneasy about thinking through an initial big board for the Rams as I hadn’t even really considered what might be the Rams’ biggest needs next spring.
Let’s fix that.
Here’s each position with the chances it becomes a top tier need for the Rams (while acknowledging that the Jared Goff trade has left the Rams with just one pick*, a second-rounder, in the first three rounds of the 2017 NFL Draft):
* - If the Rams receive a third-round compensatory pick for Janoris Jenkins’ departure in free agency, the Titans will get that pick and the Rams will hold on to their natural third-rounder. (h/t Toramto)
I know. Jared Goff. Fine.
I’m giving a slight edge here to the idea that the Rams could have a new head coach in 2017 who may not evaluate Jared Goff the way this front office did and could come in and immediately dedicate his capital to a new QB.
Even slimmer. (Don’t think this would stop Jeff Fisher though)
Here are your WRs drafted since Jeff Fisher was hired by the Rams in 2012 prior to the 2016 NFL Draft and their stats averaged per game while with the Rams:
Brian Quick, 2012 NFL Draft (33rd overall): 51 games played, 1.25 receptions per game, 18.3 receiving yards per game, 0.1 receiving TDs per game
Chris Givens, 2012 NFL Draft (96th overall): 48 games played, 1.8 receptions per game, 29.9 receiving yards per game, 0.1 receiving TDs per game
Tavon Austin, 2013 NFL Draft (8th overall): 44 games played, 2.8 receptions per game, 25.8 receiving yards per game, 0.2 receiving TDs per game
Stedman Bailey, 2013 NFL Draft (92nd overall): 38 games played, 1.6 receptions per game, 14.3 receiving yards per game, 0.1 receiving TDs per game
Bud Sasser, 2015 NFL Draft (201st overall): 0 games played, 0 receptions per game, 0 receiving yards per game, 0 receiving TDs per game
If you’re trying to convince me that a pair of day 3 picks from the 2016 NFL Draft will fix the WR corps while nodding at this draft history, you’re wasting your time.
Lance Kendricks is under contract, and the Rams have a pair of rookies to groom. The situation is perhaps similar to WR, but the position value is much lower as is the depth chart size. Priorities should trump this from being in consideration.
This is all down to Greg Robinson. If he finally puts it together, there’s reason to make this a position you can plug in as a BPA option on Day 3. If he struggles yet again in Year 3, you have to worry about protecting franchise QB Jared Goff’s blindside.
Jamon Brown coming back off injury in just his second year + Rodger Saffold injury risk = enough uncertainty to warrant elevating this above the midway mark.
Tim Barnes. Demetrius Rhaney. Both were in a three-way battle that included Barrett Jones a year ago. The uncertainty that bred wasn’t fixed by Barnes’ 2015 season.
This assumes the Rams find a way to keep Michael Brockers. If not, it probably bumps to a 5 or so, though you could likely find an acceptable play in free agency alongside Aaron Donald if the 2016 free agency additions don’t pan out.
William Hayes is 31. Robert Quinn is coming off of serious surgical repair. Eugene Sims is Eugene Sims. If Quinton Coples doesn’t have a surprise season, this could be a prime position for upgrade considering the position value.
The Rams are locked in with Alec Ogletree and Mark Barron for better or for worse. There’s room to add to that duo with Akeem Ayers’ limited impact in 2015.
Too many variables here. Trumaine Johnson is on the franchise tag, LaMarcus Joyner has yet to step forward as a dependable full-time option, and E.J. Gaines is still not 100% after last year’s preseason injury. If it doesn’t all come together this season (and on the contract front into next spring), this might jump to the fore.
You’ve got a lot riding on the Rams getting it right alongside T.J. McDonald here, but giving the issues at premium positions the Rams are facing, this still isn’t up to Tier 1 status.
Greg Zuerlein is kicking for his NFL life this season, but let’s not act like the positions above aren’t entirely more important.
What would you predict will be the Rams’ top needs heading into the 2017 NFL Draft as it stands today?