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 five years:
These are more retrospective than prospective as they’re grades from the previous season and not projected grades for the season ahead. That can lead to some weird imbalances in the roster overall like say TE Gerald Everett. PFF graded him very low after his rookie season at 46.3; after last year, they’ve got him at a 82.5. Or take former Rams S Lamarcus Joyner. His successful 2017 season had him graded out at 90.3 heading into 2018 as one of the Rams’ highest-graded players.
There’s also the nature of roster projection. Last year, PFF had former Rams RG Jamon Brown and ILB Ramik Wilson as starters instead of RG Austin Blythe or ILB Cory Littleton (spoiler: this year, they have rookie OL Bobby Evans starting at left guard over OL Joseph Noteboom).
2. Los Angeles Rams
Biggest strength: Aaron Donald finished each of the past four seasons as the league’s highest-graded interior defender. And last year was Donald’s best season yet, as he earned a monstrous overall grade of 95.0 and recorded a mind-boggling 113 total pressures to lead interior defensive linemen by a handsome margin in both categories. He is a one-man wrecking crew, which will continue in 2019.
Biggest weakness: It’s tough to find a weakness on the Rams’ loaded defense, but collective run defense is probably it. Sure, they have Donald, but it wouldn’t hurt to get better against the run at other positions. Consider that the Patriots gained 154 rushing yards in the Super Bowl, and forced seven missed tackles. Aside from Donald, only one other Rams front-seven member earned a run-defense grade above 80.0 last season. That was Ndamukong Suh, who has left town.
X factor for 2019: Jared Goff is coming off a great season in which he earned an overall grade of 84.3, ranking eighth among quarterbacks, but struggled mightily in the Super Bowl loss to the Patriots. The Rams have an excellent coaching staff, a loaded roster and Super Bowl experience, but they will get only as far as Goff allows them to. The NFL is a quarterback-driven league, and if Goff can continue to improve, the Rams might get back to the big game. Goff’s clean-pocket passing ability ranked third in overall grade in 2018 and is an extremely strong and stable metric for looking at year-to-year production.
It’s just a damn fine roster overall and one with very few gaps. Yes, two new starters on the line will be a focal point. And the linebacking corps will be one for Defensive Coordinator Wade Phillips to have to make the most out of, though that was the case last year and we did just fine sooooooo yeah.
The bottom line is this is just a different era of Rams football. In years past, especially prior to 2014, it was quite easy to claim the roster was holding the team back from success in the win column. That’s just not the case anymore.
The Rams have the talent to win. Last year, they nearly won the whole thing.
If anything, the roster won’t be something to hold them back in 2019.