Now that the preseason is behind us, the Los Angeles Rams coaching staff will shift the focus from getting the 2021 draft class as much game action as possible to deciding if they’ve made the cut. Which drafted rookies will find their way on to the game day roster? Who lands on the practice squad?
Tutu Atwell, WR, Louisville Round 2, pick 57
Atwell played a ton during the preseason, hauling in 18 catches on 28 targets for 129 yards. Although he was drafted to be a deep threat and eventual replacement for DeSean Jackson, most of the Louisville alumni’s production was close to the line of scrimmage, as he only averaged 7.2 yards per reception. He showed consistent hands, as he was only credited with one drop in August.
He also showed his signature speed on a handful of punt returns, though a few were called back due to penalties, as he is officially credited with only 5 returns for 27 yards during the preseason.
Atwell will suit up for the Rams against the Chicago Bears in week one of the regular season. He may be the primary punt returner and I’m sure Head Coach Sean McVay will have some specific packages for him throughout the year. I wouldn’t be shocked if the former high school quarterback got an opportunity throw the ball on some sort of gadget play down the road.
Ernest Jones, LB, South Carolina Round 3, pick 103
Jones may not have the numbers to illustrate a stellar preseason (6 solo tackles and 9 assists according to NFL.com) but he is a lock to make the 53-man roster. Early reports out of camp not only had him rolling with the starting unit, but also donning the green dot, relaying the defensive calls to the likes of Jalen Ramsey and Aaron Donald, who was recently robbed of the number one spot in the top 100 players.
Oh wow - overturned - ref says Peterman's knee was down. So that's a hell of a job by Ernest Jones there. https://t.co/6jQTMZxZM1— Jourdan Rodrigue (@JourdanRodrigue) August 22, 2021
As with most rookies who have not found their way into the starting lineup, Jones will likely find himself on a few special teams units, while rotating in at one of the inside linebacker spots.
Bobby Brown III, DT, Texas A&M Round 4, pick 117
This was one of my favorite picks the Rams made in 2021 NFL draft. I’m an admitted trenches guy so my vote will almost always go to the offensive or defensive line, as I am a firm believer of building a team from the line of scrimmage, back, then out.
"He's been one of my favorite players for a minute," - New Rams DL Bobby Brown III on Aaron Donald. "I will take any advice he gives me, he could tell me how to write on a piece of paper and I'll take it."— Lindsey Thiry (@LindseyThiry) May 1, 2021
Brown has previously proclaimed Donald as his favorite player. I believe the “Aaron Donald effect” will be strong on the former Texas A&M stud. One could assume Brown will soak up everything Donald teaches him, and then some.
Of course he makes the 53-man roster this year, but I can see him being a player that develops into a house hold name and impact player for this defense towards the back end of his rookie contract. And if I’m wrong, no one will remember this statement by then to judge me.
Robert Rochell, CB, Central Arkansas Round 4, pick 130
Rochell is another pick that may blossom after a year or two in the league. He’s ridiculously athletic and has a knack for getting his hands on the ball. Similar to Brown, his favorite player (Jalen Ramsey) is also on the Rams roster.
Another lock for the 53-man roster, Rochell will likely play his fair share of special teams, though I personally expect him to be the third cornerback later in the season.
Jacob Harris, WR, UCF Round 4, pick 141
Harris will certainly make the roster, and feature prominently on the majority, if not all of the special team units. If LA does intend to use him as a tight end of any sort, he will need to add some weight to his 211 pound frame.
I’ve heard comparisons to both the Raiders and the dreaded 49ers tight end Darren Waller and George Kittle, respectively. I’ve also heard some expect him to reprise a Calvin Johnson like roll for quarterback Matthew Stafford.
THE FIRST NFL TD FOR JACOB HARRIS ’19 pic.twitter.com/missWY2c9H— UCF Alumni (@UCFALUMNI) August 22, 2021
To all three of those scenarios I tilt my head like a confused dog. While I do like the pick and the potential, and also acknowledge the likelihood that he will have a small role on offense this year. I’d rather let the converted soccer player learn the nuances of playing at the NFL level before he is mentioned in the same breath as a Hall of Fame wide receiver and two of the best tight ends in the game today.
Earnest Brown IV, DE, Northwestern Round 5: No. 174
If I’m being honest, this was my least favorite pick of the draft. I love the size at 6’5 and 270 pounds but that’s where my enthusiasm ends. I haven’t heard much about him in camp and he hasn’t jumped off the screen during the preseason.
I’m not saying that he can’t develop into a good rotational player, or that this was a bad pick. I just do not see him making the roster. He is more than likely going to be a practice squad player this season, if he is not outright released.
Jake Funk, RB, Maryland Round 7: No. 233
We want the Funk! Prior to Los Angeles trading for Sony Michell, Funk was probably expected to feature as the Rams back up to Darrell Henderson. Even after the trade, he will still suit up when the Rams host the Bears.
The fan favorite will certainly play on special teams, but I wouldn’t be surprised if he gets a carry or two against Chicago, as he showed good second effort and found virtually nonexistent creases running behind the reserve offensive line. I believe he has earned McVay’s trust and the fact that he didn’t carry the ball once in the preseason finale speaks volumes to his importance once the regular season starts.
Ben Skowronek, WR, Notre Dame Round 7: No. 249
Like many of the Rams rookies (really the Rams in general), Skowronek has been a victim of the preseason injury bug. He definitely hasn’t had much opportunity to show what he can do and all of the time missed during training camp has placed Benny Skow firmly behind the eight ball.
He may be a practice squad player but I wouldn’t be surprised if LA finds a way to stash him on the IR and effectively give him a redshirt for his rookie campaign.
Chris Garrett, LB, Concordia University St Paul Round 7, pick 252
Not only is Garrett going to make the team, I expect him to see a decent amount of playing time during the season. He has shown promise off the edge in the preseason, especially his dominating performance against the Las Vegas Raiders.
Rams rookie 7th round pick Chris Garrett Set NCAA Division II record with career forced fumbles (15) & ranks 3rd in NCAA Division II history with 1.30 sacks per game.— RAMS ON FILM (@RamsOnFilm) August 22, 2021
Garrett showed this type of talent tonight registering 1.5 sacks, a big TFL, 3 QB hits and force fumble pic.twitter.com/mJqAES2ypZ
He is obviously far from a finished product , but once Garrett improves at setting the edge in the run game, he may go from a small school afterthought to a player offensive coaches have to keep in mind when preparing a game plan against the Rams in the 2022 season and beyond.