The Los Angeles Rams have already made several significant changes to their offense, including how it pertains to their offensive line.
Though the Rams could open next season with the same starting five offensive linemen and their top several backups, Sean McVay has already seen his offensive line coach and run game coordinator Aaron Kromer “mutually part ways,” pass game coordinator Shane Waldron and assistant offensive line coach Andy Dickerson went north to join the Seattle Seahawks, and the change-over at quarterback from Jared Goff to Matthew Stafford will no doubt impact how that unit performs.
And it may necessitate a new kind of offensive lineman to perform them.
Center Austin Blythe is the only notable free agent but there probably isn’t a single player on the team who could be safely etched into the Rams’ plans for 2022. Rob Havenstein has reasonable cap hits over the next two years (about $8.5 million) and was recently ranked by PFF as the 86th-best player of 2020, but he would have been nowhere near the top-100 after the season he had in 2019. Having a right tackle ready to go by 2023 when Havenstein is a free agent could mean drafting one in 2021.
David Edwards is another player who seems more likely than not to be starting in 2022, the final year of his rookie deal, but he has yet to win a job out of training camp and he was also injured against Seattle in the wild card round. Depth at guard has proven to be integral over the last couple of years, at least. Austin Corbett will be a free agent next year and we can’t even say yet what position he will have most recently played when that happens. Can he be a center or a tackle or is he simply a right guard and nothing more?
Joseph Noteboom and Brian Allen are also free agents in 2022. I know how everybody feels about the idea of Allen hitting free agency (as in, I expect to hear that you want him to be a free agent already, why wait a year?) but Noteboom presents a more difficult case after his first three seasons in the league. He seems to best fit in so far as the sixth lineman and top reserve. Maybe he does have a future at left tackle, but does that “maybe” make people feel comfortable about him protecting the blindside of a player who the Rams just invested so much into?
Or is it time for Les Snead to hit the draft hard at offensive line again? It wouldn’t be his first time.
In 2015, the Rams drafted Havenstein in round two, Jamon Brown in round three, and Andrew Donnal in round four. Snead also picked Cody Wichmann in round six.
In 2018, LA selected Noteboom in round three, Allen in round four, and Jamil Demby in round six.
Perhaps the answer then based on those examples is to ask Snead to not use more than his first pick on an offensive lineman. Or the opposite is true, and the more shots the better for a franchise that has struggled to accurately predict which NFL draft prospects will become NFL starting offensive linemen; the 2019 draft did include Edwards in round five, but third rounder Bobby Evans has yet to make a significant impact on the team.
Last year, Snead didn’t select any lineman until picking Tremayne Anchrum with the 250th pick in the draft.
And things worked out pretty good for the line, in general.
Knowing that Snead likes to plan a year ahead for free agency, Whitworth (who is not a free agent next year but is almost certainly trending towards a retirement), Corbett, and Noteboom stand out as potential losses. Having Blythe as a free agent already without an obvious center replacement exacerbates the issue for LA’s line: the best starting five you could make with players who are under contract for 2022 is Whitworth-Edwards-Anchrum-Evans-Havenstein and there wouldn’t be any backups.
Once you remove Whitworth, Anchrum, and Evans from the starting five, unless Evans does step up this year, the only two starters who remain are Edwards and Havenstein.
At the very least, there is an influx of offensive line depth coming. The Rams have pick 57 in the second round and two third rounders (though we can’t say for sure what numbers those will be yet, expect them to be late thirds in the 100 range) and while I won’t call the 2021 draft “the wild west” yet, it’s going to be the most unusual of our lifetimes.
Virtual meetings only.
Many prospects who didn’t play in 2020.
Perhaps this has little effect on the “busts” and “sleepers” tally but maybe it is actually quite dramatic. With five or six quarterbacks expected to be selected in the first round, and depth at offensive line expected to be at its deepest in quite some time, it could be the perfect recipe for quality tackles, guards, and centers to fall to day two. It also wouldn’t be surprising if cornerbacks and pass rushers took precedent over offensive linemen for some teams picking ahead of the Rams.
How much would your outlook change if the LA Rams double or triple-dipped the offensive line position on day two of the 2021 NFL Draft? Would it be right to give yourself three chances at finding starters for 2022, or will neglecting other areas of need — LB, TE, DE, CB, WR — be a death knell of its own kind?
Some random mocked examples that carry no weight but give you the fantasy you dreamt of when you started reading about the Rams triple-dipping. I’m just making up picks 100 and 101, because again, we don’t know yet what their third rounders will be:
57. LA Rams - Creed Humphrey, C, Oklahoma
100. LA Rams - Teven Jenkins, OL, Oklahoma State
101. LA Rams - Walker Little, T, Stanford
57. LA Rams - Jackson Carman, T, Clemson
100. LA Rams - Quinn Meinerz, OL, Wisconsin-Whitewater
101. LA Rams - James Hudson, OT, Cincinnati
57. LA Rams - Alex Leatherwood, T, Alabama
100. LA Rams - Ben Cleveland, iOL, Georgia
101. LA Rams - Dillon Radunz, OT, North Dakota State
57. LA Rams - Quinn Meinerz, OL, Wisconsin-Whitewater
100. LA Rams - Trey Smith, OL, Tennessee
101. LA Rams - Creed Humphrey, C, Oklahoma
57. LA Rams - Teven Jenkins, OL, Oklahoma State
100. LA Rams - D’Ante Smith, OT, East Carolina
101. LA Rams - Alaric Jackson, OL, Iowa
If the Rams took three offensive linemen on Day 2 of the NFL Draft, I’d say...
This poll is closed
"I’m not mad, but that was overkill"
"I’m not mad, I’m not happy"
"Well, shit... Hopefully the Rams at least got one good blocker...but shit"
"Today’s the day that I decided to endorse the firing of Les Snead"