Every year at ESPN, Pro Football Focus ranks every NFL roster broken down by their individual ratings for each player. And every year since they started, it has been a painful process for Los Angeles/St. Louis Rams fans.
Here’s how things looked the last four years:
#toonegative. Every year, things didn’t look very good on paper, and ultimately things didn’t look very good on the field. Until last year. The free agent signings clicked. QB Jared Goff clicked. And yes, Head Coach Sean McVay absolutely clicked.
The Rams turned things around on the field, so how does PFF see the roster this year after the Rams turned the corner in 2017?
9. Los Angeles Rams
Biggest strength: Interior defender Aaron Donald was the best player in the NFL in 2016 and still somehow managed to get better the following season, leading to his placement at No. 1 in our top-50 list for the second consecutive year. Donald led all players at his position in total pressures (71) despite playing in just 14 games in 2017.
Biggest weakness: Brought in as a third-round pick out of Louisville in 2015, Rams guard Jamon Brown underwhelmed in his first two years as a depth player and carried his poor play as the starter in 2017. He earned a 51.2 overall grade across 1,097 snaps last season, allowing 38 total pressures (30 hurries, 7 hits, 1 sack) in the process.
By the numbers: Overshadowed by Donald, Rams star running back Todd Gurley earned a career-high 92.0 grade as the focal point of Sean McVay’s offensive attack. He ranked inside the top 15 in yards after contact per attempt (2.81) and forced missed tackles on the ground (38) in addition to his fifth-ranked yards per route run (2.14).
It’s worth bearing in mind these grades are for 2017. So just like with Goff last year, we could see some of the lower-rated players take a big step forward (looking at you, TE Gerald Everett).
Offensively, the real risk area is the offensive line. PFF doesn’t grade them highly aside from starting LG Rodger Saffold, and with age concerns for LT Andrew Whitworth and C John Sullivan, there’s certainly reason to be apprehensive up front. Of course, the new picks from the 2018 NFL Draft at least give us a better Plan B than existed last season. Aside from the line, things look good at the skill positions especially given how well the Rams’ offense cranked last year.
Defensively, the linebacker hole is obvious, but perhaps equally obvious is the strength of the roster around it. Every member of the defensive line and secondary is either rated “Good/High Quality” or “Elite”.
Everything has changed in a year’s time. And now with bigger expectations for the Rams than in any time in the last 15 years, the 2018 season is shaping up to be a memorable one...however it plays out.