RB Todd Gurley, WR Brandin Cooks, TE Gerald Everett and LB Cory Littleton all flanked QB Jared Goff among the notable entries. Well, it’s a year later. All four of those players aside Goff are now 25-years old with Gurley and EDGE Dante Fowler, Jr., both celebrating their birthdays on August 3.
So now where do the Rams rank (ESPN+ subscription required)?
Near the bottom, in fact.
24. Los Angeles Rams
2018 ranking: 1
Blue-chip players: Jared Goff, QB
Notable graduated players: Brandin Cooks, WR; Todd Gurley, RB; Cory Littleton, ILB; Gerald Everett, TE; Dante Fowler Jr., OLB
The Rams experienced the biggest rise in the under-25 rankings from 27th in 2017 to first in 2018 -- and now suffer the biggest fall, from first to 24th this season. Jared Goff’s career production is at the heart of both extremes. His disastrous rookie season in 2016 that featured a 54.6% completion percentage seemed to sabotage the talent around him; most notably, Gurley finished with minus-66 DYAR that year but has finished with at least 170 DYAR in his other three seasons. Goff’s unprecedented turnaround restored Gurley’s true self and elevated the team’s trio of new receivers Brandin Cooks, Robert Woods and Cooper Kupp. Now, Gurley and those three receivers have aged out of the under-25 rankings, as have defensive starters Cory Littleton and Dante Fowler. Ironically, Goff is the team’s last young blue-chip player standing, just two years after he was summarily dismissed as a bust.
The Rams’ rapid decline in the rankings is by design. The team traded two firsts, a second, and three third-round draft picks to obtain the Goff pick, and another first for Cooks. After trading the 31st pick for a pair of Day 2 picks in the 2019 draft, the Rams have now gone three years without a first-round pick. That strategy has already been successful thanks to a Super Bowl appearance, but it will be difficult to sustain after Goff’s salary balloons in the final year of his rookie deal in 2020.
Third-round safety John Johnson and fourth-round linebacker Samson Ebukam have developed into quality starters. The former led the team with 965 defensive snaps in 2018 and compiled 50 run stops. The latter was one of the team’s most productive pass-rushers, with 28 hurries. If they can land a few more impact players out of their four Day 2 2019 draft picks, then perhaps they can offset the escalating costs of their star veterans. Otherwise, they are going to have to hope that their core of Goff, Gurley, Cooks, Woods and Aaron Donald can carry a cast of rotating characters to continued success.
The Rams missed out on a ton of under-25 talent in the last four drafts, but we did so for a reason. The roster is in fine shape and is set up to bring in the under-25 talents we do have and integrate them without requiring them to come in and elevate their position units or their side of the ball as a whole immediately unlike many of their peers on other teams.
I might have expected the Rams’ youth to rank higher on Goff alone, but I’ve pointed out I’m generally higher on him than the norm especially outside of the Rams bubble. And because the Rams have yet to get so much of their non-rookie under-25 talent in action (see: Joseph Noteboom, Brian Allen, Micah Kiser, Sebastian Joseph-Day), I can understand the lack of info dropping them in the rankings. Getting that group on the field along with some rookies like RB Darrell Henderson or DL Greg Gaines should get the Rams back in the top 20 next year.