The Los Angeles Rams came into the 2017 NFL Draft with one key: get more weapons around QB Jared Goff. This in no way at all was a surprise approach. It was the route myself, and most of others expected from GM Les Snead and HC Sean McVay all along.
But as is the case with any draft, the vast majority of it’s outcome can’t be predicted. Ultimately, most people should have felt comfortable saying two things would happen during the draft; the first being building around Goff, and the other is Les Snead will make a trade. After that, it becomes a major guessing game.
We knew the holes, but the priority placed on each hole was the real unknown. Well we found out quick, fast, and in a hurry what the Rams valued most, but did the Rams get good value with their picks? Let’s have a look and discuss it...
South Alabama TE Gerald Everett, Pick No. 44 overall (Round 2)
While receiver was the most commonly discussed position to attach first in the help for Goff quest, TE was often discussed in that conversation as well. It was reported that the Rams coveted Ole Miss TE Evan Engram. Considering that tightends were going early and often that has to be factored in to some degree. Engram is basically the faster more experienced version of Everett. Although personally even with TEs flying off the board, I thought this was a bit of a reach. He has major mental lapses at times and it shows with drops on film.
I thought the Rams could have traded back to the last 10 picks of round two and still got him. Also take into consideration that he is likely going to struggle majorly as TE is arguably the hardest position to transition from — outside of quarterback — and add in he's coming from a very small school and there will be a struggle with the jump in competition as well as speed. This pick reminds me a lot of the Brian Quick pick. The upside is there, but the reach hurts the grade. The fact that five TEs went in the first 45 picks helps the grade a lot. But who they passed on in trading down, as well as who was there after the trade down can’t be ignored either.
Eastern Washington WR Cooper Kupp, Pick No. 69 overall (Round 3)
Oh boy! They actually did it; they drafted the way over-hyped Cooper Kupp. It's not that I don't think Kupp is a good player, because he really is. But he's coming from a system that inflates stats. So his number are impressive but they're kind of expected when you start four years in that kind of system. Kupp is a smart player with some decent route running skills. He's solid, but unspectacular. I've heard people compare him to former Rams WR Ricky Proehl. While Proehl did play 17 years, and that’s nothing to shrug at, he finished his career with less than 9000 yards. Over 17 yrs and you can't break 9k and certainly not 10k, then you were nothing special, just respected.
I compared Kupp pre-draft to WR Pierre Garcon. This is an absolute best case scenario. Pierre Garcon is not a feared number one target. But he is a top of the line number two. He makes his living eating teams alive on intermediate routes. This is Kupp's best case scenario, however, I question if he will even be Garcon. His ceiling is extremely low, and we may have already seen the best that we will see from him, meaning he's pretty much already what he's going to be. He does bring the security and reliability that this team lacks which certainly helps the grade. He was also drafted within the range he belonged, I had him as a mid-late third round but thought he might go between picks 70 and 80. However, the Rams likely will still need a go to receiver this time next year. And there were better options with more talent and upside on the board.
Boston College S John Johnson, Pick No. 91 overall (Round 3)
This pick was a head scratcher. The Rams had to bring in at least one player in the secondary, especially in a draft full of secondary depth. But there were so many players on the board with far more talent and production, that fit the scheme. Johnson was a major reach. He has position versatility but so did a lot of other players rated higher. Granted that doesn’t necessarily mean the Rams had those players rated higher, and that’s what makes this tough. However, I can’t ignore the fact that no one talked about him going in this range. Johnson probably should have been a late fourth-round pick, maybe even early fifth. He'll likely be just a special teams player.
Texas A&M WR Josh Reynolds, Pick No. 117 overall (Round 4)
Finally a pick with great value. Reynolds probably should have been gone about 20-25 picks sooner. A solid deep threat who is tougher than he looks and will go over the middle and make the tough catch, Reynolds beings height and jumping ability. He's an instant red-zone threat. Considering he tracks the deep ball as well as anyone, will make tough catches, and is a red-zone threat, don't be surprised if he's getting more third option targets than people might expect. I know it appears to be a foregone conclusion after WRs Tavon Austin and Robert Woods, that Kupp will be the third option, but he's more likely to split those reps than people think. A fiery receiver like Reynolds, who happens to be physically more talented will not lay down without a fight for targets. The fact they traded down and gained a pick helps. His occasional case of drops is all that keeps this from an A.
Eastern Washington OLB Samson Ebukam, Pick No. 125 overall (Round 4)
Well I thought at the time, the Johnson pick was the biggest reach. Then, roughly 15 hours later, this happened. Let's be clear, Ebukam is an athletic freak. His testing numbers are in the 96th percentile for OLBs. He's faster than every OLB that was in the draft, and one of the most explosive players overall. However, he's terribly raw. Admittedly, I didn't even scout him pre-draft. This was part of the reason I am just now posting grades. I had to go back and watch some tape on the kid before I damned the pick to hell. After watching four games, I reached this conclusion, he should have been a sixth round pick, I could maybe be ok with the fifth even, but not the fourth.
There’s a reason anyone didn't watch Eastern Washington football had never heard of him. Most of everyone did not watch EWU but when the January 2017 rolled around everyone knew who Kupp was. Ebukam wasn't a bad player, he was a solid pass rusher. He also has a lot of experience playing with his hand in the dirt and in space as he was truly used as a hybrid DE/LB. The potential is there. But he needs to get a lot stronger. He spent way too much time on the ground getting bullied by offensive linemen often. The linemen are only harder to get by at this level. I like his motor and effort, but this was arguably the biggest reach of the entire draft, especially when you consider they traded up for him.
Tulane DT Tanzel Smart, Pick No. 189 overall (Round 6)
Things are about to get interesting. As far as late round picks go in the Les Snead era, three years from now we might be looking at this draft as his best late round work by far. Smart is a player that actually slipped in the draft due to the depth and his poor testing at the combine. He's a very good pass rusher from the interior and respected NFL analyst Mike Mayock — who has one of the best track records I've ever seen of nailing players before they ever play a down — is on record referring to Smart as a poor man’s Aaron Donald. Even a poor version is some high praise. But when you watch his film you get it.
He penetrates extremely well and has a surprising get off for a man his size (6'1" 296). He doesn’t beat you with speed, but power. His college numbers don’t always reflect the amount of pressure he gets on the QB. He's not in the shape that Donald is in and certainly isn't close to being the same athlete. But Donald is rumored to be his favorite NFL player meaning he'll likely be so fond of him he'll become his hip pocket. Not a bad guy to be glued to. Smart could have been drafted in Ebukam's slot and I don't think anyone would have batted an eyelash. And thats not another knock on Samson, just recognizing where Smart could have gone.
Virginia Tech FB Sam Rogers, Pick No. 206 overall (Round 6)
The late round, it’s the gift that keeps on giving. Make no mistake about it, there is nothing flashy about this pick. But damn its one of more solid and underrated picks in the draft. This is the type of player the Patriots stash then out of nowhere he’s making plays on Sunday's in a variety of ways. Don't be surprised if three of four years from now he's a fan favorite. Rogers is a true football player that does it all on the field. He's a very good run blocker as well as a good pass blocker. This is a two birds one stone pick for both RB Todd Gurley and Goff.
But it gets better. He's a dynamite special teams player. And his greatest attribute is his hands. The boy can catch the ball. Goff got two security blankets in this draft. I guarantee McVay is going to have a lot of fun drawing up plays with him on the field. He's going to be involved in lot of ways. This is not your every day full back. He’s not going to just be throwing blocks, but he’s going to be used as a weapon.
Pitt OLB Ejuan Price, Pick No. 234 overall (Round 7)
How fitting the Rams saved their best pick for their last. There’s two reasons why Price is available at this pick; The first being he's not four inches taller and 20 lbs heavier. The second, a well documented injury history from his first two years of college. However, he's one of the best and most pure pass rushers in the draft. I couldn't careless about his size, I just want him to stay healthy. Because if he does this is going to be a steal that sends chills down the spines of offensive coordinators for years. At this point in the draft, there's zero risk, and zero risk makes this a 100% reward pick if healthy. He was healthy all of his senior year and it appears those problems are behind him. If so, well done Les. DC Wade Phillips has to be loving this pick.
Grade: A +
Overall Draft Grade: B
Key UDFA Signings
UCLA DB Ishmael Adams, Missouri CB Aarion Penton, Washington OG/C Jake Eldrenkamp, and New Mexico St. C Anthony McMeans
So much for McVay not being interested in having players around in his first year who have had run-ins with the law. First he kept DE Ethan Westbrooks on the roster, and now he brings on board two talented DBs in Adams and Penton. Penton has been cited twice for marijuana and a few other minor incidents. But he is a true ball hawk, who despite his size, has the hip fluidity and competitiveness to play inside or out. Adams was kicked off his team for assault and battery after beating up an Uber driver. However, he is a really good return man, that has experience on offense as a receiver and returner, but most of all is a ball hawk on defense that’s an above average tackler. Eldrenkamp and McMeans are key UDFA because the Rams did not address center in the draft and they are likely to be in the battle for the number two job. At least two of these four players has an above average chance to make the roster.