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Ernest Jones ‘saves’ 2021 Rams draft class in PFF regrade

Lack of production from LA’s 2021 draft class contributed very little to the team’s Super Bowl run

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NFL: Super Bowl LVI-Los Angeles Rams at Cincinnati Bengals Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

The mania surrounding draft season and schedule leaks for the 2022 Los Angeles Rams campaign are officially in the books. Now is the time for the team to “run it back” in hopes of defending their crown in Glendale, Arizona this February. There’s clearly a lot more work left to do before LA is able to field the best team possible.

While we anxiously await the September 8 opener against the Buffalo Bills, let’s take a look back at the team’s draft class from 2021. Pro Football Focus recently regraded the selections of all 32 teams. In the initial grade, Los Angeles didn’t fare very well, earning a “C” for the selection of these seven players:

R2 (57): WR Tutu Atwell, Louisville

R3 (103): LB Ernest Jones, South Carolina

R4 (117): DI Bobby Brown III, Texas A&M

R4 (130): CB Robert Rochell, Central Arkansas

R4 (141): WR Jacob Harris, UCF

R5 (174): EDGE Earnest Brown IV, Northwestern

R7 (233): RB Jake Funk, Maryland

The overall lack of production from last year’s draft class justified the grade according to Michael Renner of PFF in his regrade:

“Ernest Jones saves this one from going even lower. The Tutu Atwell selection looks especially rough after he managed all of 10 snaps in seven games before the Rams placed him on injured reserve. Jones was a steadying presence in the middle of the Los Angeles defense down the stretch and finished with a 67.9 coverage grade. Not bad for the 103rd pick.”

LA’s selection of wide receiver Tutu Atwell looks worse and worse by the day. It deserves the highest scrutiny possible. Snead and company got way too cutesy with the pick and it cost them a chance at a player who could’ve helped them immediately. Should the Rams re-sign OBJ, it’s hard to imagine a role for Atwell in McVay’s offense. His opportunity might’ve already slipped away.

Related: What do Rams plan to do with Tutu Atwell in 2022?

As for the other selections, Bobby Brown III played in 13 games, regular and postseason, starting none and finishing with a tackle. Robert Rochell started five of the 11 games he appeared in, contributing 14 combined tackles and a pick before being placed on Injured Reserve. Jacob Harris tore his ACL and MCL in November, ending a rookie campaign in which he caught zero passes. Earnest Brown IV was waived before the regular season but was re-signed to the practice squad. Jake Funk played in 10 games, rushing two times for five yards but was relegated to special teams duties.

It’s not always fair to judge a draft class after one year. Typically, a team deserves at least three years before having their picks assessed fairly. However, what we’ve seen out of last year’s class is enough to make a Rams fan cringe in agony.

Luckily as Renner wrote, Jones saved this putrid draft class and he has the highest ceiling of all. Just listen to how Bobby Wagner beamed about the linebacker ahead of his sophomore campaign:

Ernest had a promising rookie year and it’s not hard to imagine him getting even better while he has a future Hall of Famer showing him the ropes. Those two on the field could turn a position of weakness into a strength. Jones’ potential has been compared to another popular teammate of Wagner and within a few more years, it’s quite possible as long as the second-year player develops as expected.

Sure the 2021 draft class might’ve been a stinker to this point but it shouldn’t be entirely given up on yet. If LA continues to find gems like Jones, the Rams will be in good hands for a long time. Here’s to 2022!