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How Ben Skowronek can make the Rams 53-man roster as a wide receiver

NFL: JUN 10 Rams Practice Photo by Jevone Moore/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

In the last 16 months, the Los Angeles Rams have drafted two wide receivers in the second round, signed DeSean Jackson, and extended both Robert Woods and Cooper Kupp. While teams like the Detroit Lions enter the season with an open competition for basically the top four or five receiver jobs, the Rams went into 2021 training camp with five virtual guarantees at wide receiver.

Woods, Kupp, Jackson, Van Jefferson, and Tutu Atwell all figure to be involved in LA’s passing attack this season. Even with having released Nsimba Webster, the Rams also return a sixth receiver who spent all of last season on the 53-man roster, Trishton Jackson. And stacking 13 donuts into a tray that only seats 12, rookie fourth round pick Jacob Harris figures more likely to see time at receiver in his first season than he is to be an in line blocker.

Seventh round pick Ben Skowronek has faced an uphill battle ever since he fell to a spot where he was nearly undrafted, but the Rams seemed to offer even less opportunities at the receiver position than most teams this year.

Within the first week of training camp, Skowronek appears to be meeting the challenge, and not just as a special teamer. Skowronek is also showing that he could have a future on offense, even if he didn’t have an especially productive career in college.

Skowronek spent the first four years of college at Northwestern, catching 45 passes for 644 yards and five touchdowns in 2017, and 45 passes for 562 yards and three touchdowns in 2018. He missed all but three games in 2019 and returned in 2020 after transferring to Notre Dame, catching 29 passes for 439 yards and five touchdowns in nine games. Skowronek was third on the team in receiving yards after Javon McKinley and Michael Mayer.

One of the hallmarks of Skowronek’s draft resume was his likelihood to immediately compete for a job on special teams. This is similar to teammate running back Jake Funk, another seventh rounder who has seen his odds of making the final 53-man roster go up during training camp.

Pro Football Network had this to say of Skowronek’s receiving ability prior to the draft:

Positives: Tall, sure-handed receiver who is fluid releasing off the line of scrimmage and tracks the pass in the air. Gets vertical and looks the ball into his hands. Competes to come away with the difficult catch and wins out for contested throws more times than not. Solid route runner for a bigger receiver who quickly gets into breaks then stays low on exit.

Displays focus as well as concentration, plays intelligent football, and possesses strong hands. Extends his hands to offer the quarterback a target and makes the reception away from his frame.

Negatives: Lacks play speed as well as burst. Suffered a Jones fracture in his foot during Senior Bowl practices.

Analysis: Skowronek is a reliable possession receiver with a nose for the end zone. He offers possibilities as a fifth wideout if he gets back to health and gets his game back to where it was during the 2020 season.

Though Skowronek didn’t have big numbers at Notre Dame, he returned in October after having missed considerable time with injury and was able to create explosive plays, averaging 15.1 yards per catch and scoring six times on 31 touches.

He has the potential to be a special teams captain early in his career, but can he make a roster that will definitely be carrying five receivers who aren’t him? Can he beat out Jackson? If the Rams carry three tight ends who aren’t Jacob Harris, can they keep both Harris and Skowronek?

For now, Skowronek may have a more clear lock on a practice squad position than he does on the final 53-man roster. We also don’t know if it will come down to him or Funk for the final roster spot but we do know that LA is more in need of running backs than it is with wide receivers. Skowronek has potential to make the decision more difficult however and he can do that with some undeniable performances in the preseason.