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NFL.com’s Gennaro Filice gives Los Angeles Rams “A-” for 2019 NFL Draft, tabs one pick as the biggest sleeper in NFC West

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Despite the lack of any early selections, the Rams are coming away with praise for their work in the draft.

Memphis Tigers RB Darrell Henderson carries the ball against the Louisiana Monroe Warhawks, Aug. 31, 2017.
Memphis Tigers RB Darrell Henderson carries the ball against the Louisiana Monroe Warhawks, Aug. 31, 2017.
Justin Ford-USA TODAY Sports

Over at NFL.com, Gennaro Filice and Dan Parr are grading teams’ activity in the 2019 NFL Draft and taking a look at each division overall.

Filice drew the NFC West and gives the Los Angeles Rams a fine grade:

Rams: A-

For the third straight draft, the Rams didn’t make a first-round selection. L.A. actually came into Thursday night with the penultimate pick of the first round, but the Rams traded out, kicking off a dizzying game of musical draft slots in which the organization didn’t make a single pick in one of its original spots until late in the fifth round. But it’s hard to argue with the draft class produced by Les Snead’s pick-swapping extravaganza. NFL scouts-turned-NFL.com draftniks Daniel Jeremiah and Bucky Brooks waxed poetic about Rapp throughout the entire pre-draft process, 40 time be damned! Jeremiah had Rapp as his No. 39 overall player, while Brooks ranked the Washington product as the second-best safety in the class. Snead got him near the end of Round 2. That’s a bona fide value pick for the secondary, and it wasn’t the only one! Long produced some eye-popping numbers, both as a player at Michigan and as a physical specimen at the combine. According to Pro Football Focus, the corner logged 595 coverage snaps during his three-year college career, giving up a grand total of 18 catches (on 60 targets) for 130 yards. Then in Indy, Long recorded the top marks in the three-cone drill (6.45) and the 20-yard shuttle (3.97), displaying the kind of next-level agility that comes in quite handy at the cornerback position. Snead got him midway through the third round, after eight other corners had already been picked. In Round 4, the Rams hopped on Gaines, a 312-pound, high-motor plugger who enthusiastically takes on blocks and blows up running lanes. Sounds like a fine running mate for Aaron Donald. On offense, Snead added quality depth in the backfield (Henderson’s the most explosive running back in this entire class) and the offensive line (Evans and Edwards were both three-year starters on stellar college O-lines). Prudent planning, considering Todd Gurley’s health and the offensive line’s offseason attrition (as well as Andrew Whitworth’s age). A center might’ve been nice, though.

Considering I gave the Rams a B+ for the draft, I’m not the right person to look to for disagreement here.

Beyond the grade though, Filice offered his options for the best pick, most surprising pick and biggest sleeper in the division.

For best pick, he went with the Seattle Seahawks’ selection of Ole Miss Rebels WR D.K. Metcalf. I’m in severe disagreement here as I am not high at all on Metcalf as a wideout. He’s incredibly athletic physically, but as a wideout I think he has a TON of work to do. I would put him in the same class initially as former Rams wide receiver Brian Quick. Plenty of potential, but it’s going to take a while to tap even if the Seahawks staff can materialize his development better than the former Rams staff did with Quick.

For most surprising, Filice tabs Iowa St. Cyclones WR Hakeem Butler going to the Arizona Cardinals. I’m not sure what’s going on here since FIlice suggests this nomination is based on Butler falling further than many projected right after tabbing Metcalf the “best” pick...but whatever. Me personally, I might have either gone with the Seahawks taking TCU EDGE L.J. Collier with the 31st overall pick or the San Francisco 49ers taking a punter in the fourth round. Utah Utes P Mitch Wishnowsky is a fine punter...but he’s a punter. The Niners took a punter with the 110th pick. I’d certainly offer that as a more surprising selection than Butler.

As for the biggest sleeper, Filice again offers one I’d disagree with albeit for different reasons. Here, he goes with the Rams’ newest running back in Memphis Tigers RB Darrell Henderson:

How worried are the Rams about Todd Gurley’s balky left knee? Sean McVay, Les Snead and Co. haven’t publicly stated anything alarming about the highest-paid running back in football, but actions speak louder than words. And while L.A.’s decision to match Detroit’s offer sheet for restricted free agent Malcolm Brown back in March was slightly notable, the Rams’ aggressive trade up for Henderson last Friday created a legit stir. Insurance policy or not, Henderson does project as a perfect fit in McVay’s outside-zone running game. This one-cut back is an absolute home run hitter. In 2018, he averaged a whopping 8.9 yards per carry -- for the second consecutive season, by the way -- while piling up 1,909 rushing yards and 22 touchdowns. According to Pro Football Focus, Henderson averaged 6.2 yards per carry after contact(!!), nearly a yard more than any other player in college football averaged last season. Henderson’s film is fun to watch, and McVay will have fun deploying him as a change-of-pace terror (or more?).

Perhaps I’m being biased here, but the sleeper moniker seems a bit strange as it assumes a higher performance baseline than expectations. I don’t know why that would apply to Henderson. Key reasons why not? Filice himself lays them out! Hendo’s a very talented back. He’s a great system fit. The Rams’ high-powered offense is ready-made to make the most out of him as a “change-of-pace terror” (or more!). For a sleeper pick, I might have gone with Arkansas Razorbacks OLB Dre Greenlaw going to the Niners or Oregon Ducks S Ugochukwu Amadi to the Seahawks or even our own fourth-rounder in Washington Huskies DT Greg Gaines. I think all of them have much lower expectations than Henderson which give them a better chance to become a “sleeper” hit.

In the end, it’s just another piece of evidence that it’s not just Rams fans and media feeling good about this draft.

Even impartial arbiters are giving the Rams strong marks.