With the Los Angeles Rams addition of 25 rookies, eight via the draft and 17 as undrafted free agents (UDFA’s) and the teams first rookie camp scheduled for May 13-15, which prospects will charge out of the gate, win their roster battles and impress Sean McVay and the LA coaching braintrust? The prize being coveted role on the final active roaster.
The Rams 2022 NFL Draft class should be viewed with measured expectations. They didn’t make their first choice (#104) until late on day two, at the the very end of the third round, and overall, only had two selections in the top 150 prospects. Another way to look at it is, the consensus grade on 22 of the 25 yearlings signed was late round/priority UDFA.
There are some openings for the rookies and some roster battles to win. Here’s a look at some of those battles. Who will step up and who is not ready for prime time? The names of the Rams projected roster are in bold.
Matthew Stafford, John Wolford, Bryce Perkins
The Rams will probably add a camp arm, they usually start training camp with four, but there is no realistic rookie camp battle.
Battle for RB3: Cam Akers, Darrell Henderson
5th round rookie, #164- Kyren Williams vs. Jake Funk, Xavier Jones, and Raymond Calais.
RB3 is wide open. The entire Rams running back room has missed significant time due to injury, their production and potential is limited by both major and nagging ailments. Funk can be counted on top play hard on special teams or limited offensive snaps. Calais has elite speed and can return kickoffs. Jones is a smooth natural outside zone runner.
After a pedestrian NFL Combine workout that showed a lack of elite speed and agility, Williams lost draft stock. Is he a gem? Or just another one of the innumerable fifth rounders hanging on and hoping to carve out any kind of role.
Williams has a very good chance to not only make the roster, but earn important snaps as well. He offers good versatility, can run, catch and block from multiple sets. He runs with patience, vision and truly cuts on a dime. He is a willing blocker who takes on rushers, no toreador action. As a receiver he catches away from his body with soft hands and has slot and wideout capabilities.
He won’t make it on speed and power, Williams will need to use his vision, sharp cuts, and contact balance both running and receiving to earn a role.
Battle for WR6: Cooper Kupp. Allen Robinson, Van Jefferson, Tutu Atwell, Bennett Skowronek
UDFA rookie- Lance McCutcheon vs. Brandon Powell, JJ Koski, Warren Jackson, and Landen Akers
Atwell’s draft stock gets him another year. With a year in the LA system and his 300+ NFL snaps, Skowronek has huge leg up on the competition for WR5. If Atwell comes back strong, Powell could expendable at WR6. He certainly sparked the punt return game last season, but the Rams appear to be valuing contested catch ability with their latest wideout additions. Jackson is of that ilk. Koski and Akers got some snaps at special teams but didn’t really show much hint of potential.
McCutcheon fits the bill as a contested catch receiver. An alluring blend of size, speed, length and athleticism. As you would expect, he has stellar hand/eye coordination, ball reaction skills, times his jumps well and strongly catches away from his body. His route tree is very limited, he ran a lot of boundary streaks.
A year on the practice squad is most likely. There is potential here but he will have to show that he can run a NFL route tree, create separation and battle NFL calibre cornerbacks down the field.
Battle for TE4: Tyler Higbee, Brycen Hopkins, Kendall Blanton, Jacob Harris
UDFA rookies- Jamal Pettigrew and Roger Carter vs. Kyle Markway
Placing Harris in this unit makes it appear full, his speed and potential will keep him around. Hopkins and Blanton’s late season solid play earn them a long look. Markway is the same boat as the rookies, IF one of the holdovers falters and IF they have a huge camp, any one could get them in running for TE4.
Pettigrew is a former four-star recruit who spent four seasons with LSU. His Pro Day numbers were adequate, but his good hands, pro-ready frame/length and downfield playmaking prowess could create mismatches with some polish work. He is a good blocker when keeps leverage and uses those long arms. His physical traits and ability to stretch the field play give him potential.
Carter lacks the prototypical height and length of NFL tight ends, but blocks with good technique and has soft receiving hands. His is a long journey to NFL roster, some experts think he would be a good fit in a transition to fullback.
Battle for OL8, and OL9: Joseph Noteboom, David Edwards, Brian Allen, Rob Havenstein, Logan Bruss, Coleman Shelton, Alaric Jackson.
3rd round rookie Logan Bruss, 6th round rookie AJ Arcuri and UDFA rookie Jack Snyder vs, Tremayne Anchrum, Bobby Evans, Chandler Brewer, Jeremiah Kolone, Adrian Ealy, Max Pircher
Last season, the Rams broke training camp with 10 offensive linemen, and may very well do so again, if so, maybe OL10 is in play as well. By all reports, the Rams expect Bruss to compete for a starting position, so barring injury or total collapse, he’s penciled in. Shelton and Jackson appear locked.
Evans and Anchrum seem the most likely to fill OL8&9 roles. Evans has filled in for eight starts and 564 snaps over his three years. Anchrum offers positional versatility. Brewer, Kolone, and Ealy know the system, but have been career practice squaders. Pircher is still learning the American game.
Arcuri seems better suited to a downhill power scheme, but may have potential to be a future swing tackle backup. Can be stashed on practice squad, while learning the pro game. Has the hands, wingspan and strength to succeed.
Snyder, while limited in length, has the movement skills and versatility to play all five line positions. He has good technique in both pass and run blocking, but needs lower body and play strength. Another practice squad player who could surprise and sneak a roster spot.
Off ball linebacker
Battle for LB4: Bobby Wagner, Ernest Jones, Travin Howard
UDFA rookie Jake Hummel vs. Christian Rozeboom and Anthony Hines
In what appears to be a mostly special teams role, LB4 could had. Rozeboom was a college tackle machine who grabbed 56 special teams snaps as a rookie. He was let go by the Rams last season in final cuts and snatched up by the Kansas City Chiefs. LA re-signed him in November after KC waived him and he played in 10 games. Hines is a developmental/camp body.
Hummel is a fast, athletic and relentless player, the prototypical traits for a special teams standout. He does have some play recognition deficiencies and needs work on shedding blocks, He has good strength and big hands, relative length, and plays an aggressive game. Willing to to take on bigger players in the gaps and has good ball skills.
Battle for E5: Leonard Floyd, Justin Hollins, Terrell Lewis, Chris Garrett
7th round rookie Daniel Hardy and UDFA rookies Keir Thomas, Brayden Thomas, Benton Whitley, and Andrzej Hughes-Murray vs. each other
There is a starting spot up for grabs as well as E5. Hollins has two years as a rotational player and on special teams. He has been a good role piece, helped out on special teams, and had earned a starting spot before a season-ending pectoral injury. Lewis has tantalizing potential, but is injury prone and must have his play time regulated. Garrett has the get-off and speed to pass rush off the edge, but needs to develop his ability to set the edge.
Hardy is hot-motored and a stellar athlete. His relentless pursuit profiles well to being valuable on special teams. Keir Thomas is more of a power player and offers versatility to play multiple defensive line/edge positions and can stack and shed blockers. If LA goes to more 4-3/4-2 looks he could find a role. Brayden Thomas is another power guy with positional versatility and good athleticism. His lack of length and limited pass rush moves will most likely limit him to the practice squad. Whitley is a small school guy who looks the part with a powerful frame and great length. Tested very well at Pro day. Another relentless pursuer who need grooming versus better competition. Hughes-Murray is athletic, but didn't make enough plays in college, camp body.
Daniel Hardy and Benton Whitley are similar in growth and potential to current Rams edge Chris Garrett. All three just need a little time. Keir Thomas has the versatility to add value. Injuries could easily move any of these three prospects onto the roster.
Battle for DL6: Aaron Donald, A’Shawn Robinson, Greg Gaines, Bobby Brown, Michael Hoecht
UDFA rookies Elijah Garcia and Dion Novil vs. Marquise Copeland, Jonah Williams and Earnest Brown
After year on the practice squad, Hoecht played in all 2021-22 games, he has a pretty good grip on DL5. Jonah Williams is big and athletic, he bounced from LA’s practice squad to Minnesota and back, seeing action eight Rams games. Copeland has been with the Rams three years and been active for 10 games, he’s a smaller player who can play up and down the line. EBrown was a 2021 fifth round pick #174 who spent all last season on the practice squad, he a smaller player who might have a role in a 4-3 front.
Garcia has great size and length, is very athletic and has plus upper body strength. He needs a season of lower body strength work and playing against stiffer competition. Novil shows better on tape than he tested, albeit against lesser competition. He’s a strong gap plugger who has good get-off and never quits pursuing.
Both Garcia and Novilwere very good against lower level competition and need a year of NFL strength/conditioning work. I happen to like both and think they have potential to be rotational players, just not in 2022.
Battle for S5: Jordan Fuller, Taylor Rapp, Terrell Burgess, Nick Scott
6th round rookie Quentin Lake, 7th round rookie Russ Yeast, UDFA rookies Jairon McVea, and Daniel Isom vs. Jake Gervase and each other.
With the top four locked in, it will be a special teams competition for S5 and who knows, maybe S6. Gervase has bounced between the Rams active roster and practice squad since joining LA in 2019. He has put on mass and is now more of a hybrid S/LB.
McVea and Isom are camp bodies/long shots and will battle for a place on the practice squad.
Lake looks like a smart and instinctual player who fits into a cover2 scheme with his ball skills and downhill linear burst. He played special teams at UCLA and that role could be his ticket to the Rams active roster.
Yeast is smallish nickel-type of safety. Has adequate speed and good agility, but his strength is his competitive nature. He’s an alpa-type with three years of cornerback experience and is willing to mix it up vs. the run. Good ball skills and has one season of returning kicks.
Depending on how the Rams build their roster, an added safety spot might allow both these prospects to make the final roster. If it is only one though, Yeast can offer better versatility and should press Lake onto the practice squad.
Battle for CB5: Jalen Ramsey, Troy Hill, David Long, Robert Rochell
4th round rookie Decobie Durant, 6th round rookie Derrion Kendrick and UDFA rookies TJ Carter, Duron Lowe, and Caesar Williams vs. Grant Haley and Tyler Hall
The draft day reunion of the Rams and Hill solidifies a position of need and allows the Rams to groom draftees Durant and Kendrick instead of a baptism by fire. Haley and Hill are both bottom of the unit members and what they offer can easily be replaced by the youngsters.
Carter has had starts at free and strong safety and cornerback. Lowe has good speed, coverage skills and can return kicks. Williams has a lot of zone coverage and special teams experience from college. All three are battling for the practice squad.
Durant is competitive, fast and agile. He has good ball skills, is loose and smooth gong forward and backwards or flipping his hips open and can run with anyone. He is kind of an ankle-biter tackler, but willing to attack ball carriers below the waist. In a man coverage scheme, he would be limited, but in LA’s base zone he can play just about anywhere.
After testing poorly at his Pro Day, Kendrick tumbled down draft boards. He started as a wide receiver at Clemson and was forced over to defense because of team injuries. Four-year SEC starter who has experience and both man and zone coverage. On film he shows sticky man coverage on mid and underneath routes, but doesn’t ave the long speed to run with deep routes. Although not a great tackler, he comes up strong and is willing.
Durant has the moxie and athleticism to get on the field and would certainly be snatched up if LA tried to sneak him on to the practice squad. Kendrick had a couple of poor, high-profile games, a bad Pro day and has some gun/weed issues in his past and could, most likely, he could be put on the practice squad with little notice. I think he could fit into an aggressive package that calls for a high shell coverage and the corners playing man to man underneath.
Special teams (punter)
Battle for P1: Cameron Dicker vs. Riley Dixon
Anyone’s guess is as good as mine. Dicker offers the ability to kickoff and convert PAT’s, in addition to punting. Dixon has the experience edge.
So, which rookies make the squad?
Even keeping measured expectations, Kyren Williams at running back, Logan Bruss at guard, and Decobie Durant should all make the 53. Not just make the team, but play quality snaps and add value.
For safeties Quentin Lake, Russ Yeast, and cornerback Derrion Kendrick, two make it. It’s all about special teams. I like Yeast’s fiesty play and am ambivalent about Lake and Kendrick.
Of the UDFA’s, I like Jack Snyder at swing guard, his move skills and solid technique could overcome his strength issues, and Daniel Hardy on the edge, he’s another Chris Garrett with the traits to play on special teams while grooming. I also like DL Keir Thomas, but not sure where to fit him in. He could fill the Marquise Copeland role as a smaller versatile guy that does the dirty work. There are others who have some potential/traits that I like, but belong on the practice squad unless injuries force them into competing for a role.
If the Rams can integrate six rookies onto the 2022 roster, considering their draft capital and overall roster depth, it should be considered a measured success.