The New York Jets only won two games last season, and the first of those was a shocking victory late in the year that LA Rams fans won’t soon forget. What Rams fans could have understandably forgotten though is that the next week, the Jets won again, this time upending the 10-4 Cleveland Browns.
From 0-13 to 2-13 in the span of a week and most of that credit is due to New York’s defense against a pair of pretty good offenses.
Not only did the Jets hold both of those teans to 20 points or less — the Buffalo Bills were the only other team that failed to score 20 against the Jets — but one player in particular emerged to be a force against those quarterbacks: former Rams fourth round pick John Franklin-Myers.
Through the first 13 games, Franklin-Myers had one sack.
Over those two wins against the Rams and Browns, Franklin-Myers had two sacks, four quarterback hits, one fumble recovery, and one batted pass. Franklin-Myers, 24, is expected to compete for a starting defensive end job with the Jets this season, and in any case he’ll be playing significant snaps alongside Quinnen Williams, Sheldon Rankins, and Carl Lawson.
In that Week 15 win over the Rams, Franklin-Myers was facing many former teammates, including eight fellow members of LA’s 2018 draft class.
In the Week 16 win over the Browns, Franklin-Myers was actually — in a way — facing the remaining two members from LA’s 2018 draft class: running back John Kelly was on Cleveland’s practice squad and was nearly called up for that game, while defensive end Trevon Young was on the Browns’ injured reserve list.
The Browns waived Young in March and he hasn’t signed with another team yet, which means that Young could become the first player from LA’s 11-player 2018 draft class to become a former NFL player.
The first of an 11-player class that featured zero picks in the first 88 selections and eight picks after the fourth round.
That’s unbelievable to say as those players enter their fourth year in the league. And Young isn’t necessarily finished yet either.
While Kelly enters Browns camp hoping to win a spot behind Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt (or at least, does enough to convince another team that he’s soaked up some talent from those two) and Franklin-Myers competes for playing time on Robert Saleh’s new New York defense, there are still eight players from the 2018 draft class who are competing for one of the 53 spots on the Rams 2021 roster.
How many will make it to the start of year four?
How many will make it to the end of year four?
How many will play a fifth year in the NFL?
How many will play a fifth year for the Rams?
Which members of the 2018 Rams draft class are guaranteed to play for the Rams in 2021?
Joseph Noteboom, OL, 89th overall
Sebastian Joseph-Day, DL, 195th overall
A versatile lineman on either side of the ball, Noteboom and Joseph-Day are the obvious standouts from the class. Though neither has established himself as a long-term NFL starter, both have contributed at a high level and they could stick in the pros for many years to come. Maybe as starters — SJD has often been noted as LA’s “breakout” player for 2021.
Which members of the 2018 Rams draft class are probably going to play for the Rams in 2021?
Brian Allen, C, 111th overall
Micah Kiser, ILB, 147th overall
Ogbonnia Okoronkwo, OLB, 160th overall
Travin Howard, ILB, 231st overall
If Allen loses the starting and backup job at center — which is possible with Coleman Shelton in competition behind Austin Corbett — then he might not make the Rams final roster. For now, he’s the player on the team with the most relevant experience at center.
Kiser and Howard could be in line to start at inside linebacker, but that appears to be a wide open competition with many notable names involved, including rookie Ernest Jones, and veterans Kenny Young, Justin Hollins, and Troy Reeder.
Okoronkwo appears to have less competition in between him and a starting gig at outside linebacker now that Samson Ebukam plays for the San Francisco 49ers, but he still needs to earn it.
I can’t guarantee any of these Rams a spot on the 53, but they’re all competing for starting jobs this summer.
Which members of the 2018 Rams draft class are in danger of not playing for the Rams in 2021?
Jamil Demby, OL, 192nd overall
Justin Lawler, LB, 244th overall
Fans don’t tend to forget (or forgive) Demby and he remains a member of the Rams, even in spite of a brief stint on the Detroit Lions in 2018. Demby played 146 snaps for LA in 2019 but has been a practice squad player for most of his career.
Lawler tends to get forgotten among the linebackers but he hasn’t disappeared yet and as noted, those competitions remain open.
Which members of the 2018 Rams draft class will re-sign with the Rams?
For now, Joseph-Day seems to be the only player who looks like a potential ‘priority’ ahead of 2022’s free agency, but that remains questionable. I think trading Michael Brockers was in part of a vote of confidence in Joseph-Day, but there’s a long road between what he’s proven on an NFL field so far and signing a long-term contract.
Joseph-Day actually played in fewer snaps in 2020 than he did in 2019 and even if it’s not his main job to disrupt the quarterback, it’s not as though we have much evidence that he can disrupt the quarterback — especially sans Aaron Donald. Joseph-Day’s season-high for snaps came in the playoff loss to the Green Bay Packers, when Donald was limited because of a ribs injury, and we saw how the defense had atypical struggles that day.
Noteboom took over for Andrew Whitworth at left tackle last season but does LA see him as a potential replacement for Whitworth in 2022? Can they afford Noteboom if he does prove himself as a starting left tackle?
As for players like Kiser and Okoronkwo, even if they win starting jobs, we’ve seen the Rams shy away from extensions to players like Cory Littleton and Ebukam in the past. Could they be exceptions? Of course, that’s why they play the games, but as of now there are no members of the 2018 draft class who are assured a fifth season with the Rams.
It’s still amazing that there are eight players who have a chance.
Nine if they want to give Trevon Young another go.