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The Professor weighs in on the 2019 combine, NFL draft and free agency

Determine your destiny!

NFL Combine - Day 5 Photo by Michael Hickey/Getty Images

“All in”

Last year, the Los Angeles Rams went “all in” to push for a Super Bowl appearance. They didn’t succeed in bringing home that elusive Lombardi trophy, but the offseason strategy worked insofar as it got them to Super Bowl LIII.

TST readers understood that the roster that won the NFC Championship would not be same. But while the Rams couldn’t follow last year’s “all in” strategy, they did splash once again not for what they’re doing, rather for what they’re not doing.

The Rams declined to use the franchise tag. They didn’t pick up the option on C John Sullivan. They released ILB Mark Barron, And LG Rodger Saffold III, S Lamarcus Joyner, DT Ndamukong Suh, OLB Dante Fowler, Jr. and RB C.J. Anderson are set to hit the free agent market.

That’s a load of starting players coming off the 2018 roster. If the Rams’ don’t find replacements, the likelihood of returning to the Super Bowl in 2019 are greatly diminished, especially if RB Todd Gurley’s injury can’t be fixed.

You might be able to pick up a player in free agency to fill the gaps, but the Rams don’t have that much in cap space to fill all their needs.

That’s the problem every team faces when they go “all in.” It’s boom or bust.

Just getting to Super Bowl is a remarkable achievement.

But winning was the goal.

Should Rams fans be concerned?

Understandably, Rams fans should be concerned about the team heading into 2019. This is a natural reaction to the roster turnover.

I’m not as concerned as many of my fellow Rams fans. We didn’t see what Rams coaches did in practice. Younger players like ILB Micah Kiser, C Brian Allen and OL Jamil Demby could surprise. A year under his belt, RB John Kelly could step in and fill the role of C.J. Anderson. DT Michael Brockers into Suh’s position could motivate a young quick DT to play along these two will improve the Rams front line against the run. It will also take pressure off DT Aaron Donald who faced double- and sometimes triple-teaming down the stretch.

At the edge, OLB Samson Ebukam and Jonathan Franklin-Meyers have shown flashes when they were out there, but its not enough to make an informed decision. None of us know what EDGE Ogbonnia Okoronkwo can do as he never even hit the field. If the Rams are that concerned about the edge, then they should definitely make a play to re-sign Fowler and see how these other three players work in the rotation.

When you have a defensive coordinator like Wade Phillips together with the best defensive player in Aaron Donald, it’s a good bet the Rams will be fine on this side of the ball.

As much as I liked Joyner in 2017, he wasn’t that good in 2018 perhaps because he was looking for a long-term deal with the team and got tagged instead. I’m therefore okay with letting him go. With the number of picks in a draft loaded with secondary players, the Rams could use one of their third round picks and find a replacement. All they need is a player who hits like a train wreck while keeping his eye on the receiver who was supposed to be covered by CB Marcus Peters.

Free Agency

It’s still possible the Rams can keep LG Rodger Saffold, but I wouldn’t sign him to a long team deal. He might take a home team discount to stay, but that’s unlikely. The Rams should therefore make a play in free agency for a competent starting guard as offensive lineman as they can come relative cheap in contrast to the markie, big splash players at WR, RB and QB.

For those concerned about chemistry—the Rams revamped their offensive line when head coach Sean McVay was originally hired and they won the NFC West Division. If QB Jared Goff continues to grow, as he has done each year under McVay’s tutelage and with WR Copper Kupp coming back and I will assume Gurley will return to form after offseason rest and rehab, the Rams offense should be fine.

The Draft

Who knows. We can all speculate on where the club will go and it’s fun to guess what the Rams internally are thinking, but no one really knows until the pick is in.

My preference this year since the Rams actually have a first round pick is to choose the best available fast, quick and young defensive tackle to pair with Donald and Brockers and then fill in as needed.

The Combine

You really have to be a football fan to watch this week long show. For me its the most overrated, silly and worthless sporting event on television.

“Yep, that guy’s fast” “Wow, he really knows how to run that cone drill” “Did you see that remarkable throw by the QB from Whattobeaprofootballplayer State University?” How any of that computes to how a player actually play game is beyond me. I get the speed and lifting weightlifting stuff, but that’s about it.

You can’t coach speed.

To me the most important part of the combine are the fifteen minute interviews with players since every team has already got their tape on the how the player performs. I want to hear the right things even though I’m sure they’ve been scripted to give the right answers. I also like smart players so I’m likely to put some stock in the Wonderlink test.

The bottom line is that the player has proven himself in college and the tapes prove it, at a position of need, he’s going to be drafted.

What Will The Rams Look Like In 2019?

My overall evaluation of the Rams heading into 2019 is that they will be fine. I want the team to get younger and quicker, especially on defense.

The only real need is to figure out how to score on the 6-5 Bears Quarters defense. Once McVay gets that sorted out, the Rams will remain a force in the NFC.