In the past week, the predominant Los Angeles Rams news has been the reworked contract of Aaron Donald and the extension of Cooper Kupp. With these moves, LA has proven they are willing to spend real money to keep their stars happy and under contract. Fans marvel at the Rams ability to navigate the NFL salary cap, but it’s more than transactional hocus focus and kicking the can down the road.
Les Snead and Sean McVay have proven adept at integrating late round and undrafted players into the LA offense, defense, and special teams. These low-cost options, properly developed, can provide quality snaps and allow the Rams to have a top heavy, star-quality salary contract salary. On today’s roster, 59 of 88 players are 5th round players or later. Another seven are from 4th.
So yes, the Rams do know how to go out and get big name playmakers, but they afford them by stocking 2⁄3 of their roster with talent from the latter rounds and undrafted ranks. Here’s a look at some of the Rams success stories.
Buying low and selling high
WR Bennett Skowronek - Rd. 7 #249
Showed his git and competitiveness by making the Rams squad, while battling through a broken arm. Contested catch specialist with plus blocking skills. Saw action in 14 games as a rookie with one start. His overall offensive production was modest, but he did record seven first downs on only 11 receptions. He added 200 special teams snaps.
RB Jake Funk -Rd. 7 #233
Hard-charging, workout warrior who overcame two college knee injuries. Missed seven games due to a hamstring injury but had 180 special teams snaps including four kickoff returns. His hot motor and work ethic, gives Funk the inside track to RB3 in 2022.
E Chris Garrett - Rd.7 #252
Just had a capsule on Garrett and his getting a long look to be in the 2022 edge rotation. Most players, particularly from small schools, make a big jump between their rookie and sophomore seasons. LA Rams coaches and fans are watching Garrett closely.
DE Earnest Brown - Rd.5 #174
More of a 4-3 defensive end than edge/OLB. Brown spent his first season on the practice squad. He has good college film and may just need some development in transitioning to pro game, adding some good mass in strength/conditioning, and upgrading technique.
S Jordan Fuller - Rd. 6 #199
After struggling with nagging injuries in his rookie season, Fuller stepped out in 2021 with 113 tackles in 1029 snaps. He was injured in season finale and missed the playoff run to the Lombardi Trophy. He’s tough, smart and good play recognition. Most likely fell in the the draft because he’s a tweener, a little slow for single high and a little lean for the box. He fits very well into the Rams two and three deep zones.
While injury forced him to miss the post season, Jordan Fuller had a underrated 2nd year. Voted Captain & “green dot” man of the defense, the coaches and players have great respect for his game & leadership. Fuller led the team in tackles in 2021 and was sound in coverage pic.twitter.com/UUeIgRt7bA— RAMS ON FILM (@RamsOnFilm) March 2, 2022
OL Tremayne Anchrum - Rd. 7 #250
Hasn’t played much yet. A few special teams reps in 2020, but was mostly inactive last year with zero snaps. College tackle who lacks the prototypical size and length for that role in the NFL. Has the get-off and striking ability in space to play the zone.
G David Edwards - Rd. 5 #169
An option quarterback in high school, who began as a tight end at Wisconsin. He put on 65 lbs. over his final three college years, so he is still growing into his frame. Moved into a starting guard role in week seven of his rookie year and has proven durable. Since taking over, Edwards has started 41 of 43 regular season games and played almost every snap, only coming off the field in a couple of blowouts.
S Nick Scott - Rd. 7 #243
Core special teamer since joining LA, Scott has earned a role as a rotational deep safety. While only starting one game regular season game, he got in on 36 percent of snaps on defense, but on the road to the Rams Super Bowl victory, he started all four playoff victories. He has gained a reputation for clean, bone-crunching hits.
Unheralded, but still a good investment
WR Landen Akers
Very fast player who was mostly a special teams standout in college. Activated for two games because of COVID19 and played 25 ST snaps.
T Alaric Jackson
As a college junior, he was often mentioned in the same breath with his teammate Tristan Wirfs, a first round pick. Questions about his length, athleticism, and aggression led him to go undrafted. Most draft experts thought his best role was to transition inside to guard, but LA has kept him at tackle. He made final roster in 2021 and although mostly inactive, he logged 52 snaps in a week nine win over the Minnesota Vikings.
DT Michael Hoecht
Played in all 21 games last season with three starts and 110 snaps. He added another 298 snaps on special teams. An ex-tight end, he’s big, fast, with both long speed and short area quickness, and powerful. The Rams and defensive line coach Thomas Henderson love his first step and the potential he has on providing an interior pass rush. It is not a stretch to think 2022 could be big step-up season for Hoecht.
RB Xavier Jones
Had 178 special teams snaps in 2020, but missed all of last season with an achilles injury that required surgery. Natural zone runner with decent size (5’ 11” 208 lbs.) who runs behind his pads and good vision.
DE Jonah Williams
Athletic freak. 4.67 forty, 6.70 3cone, 4.06 shuttle, 37” vertical, 10’ 6” broad jump. Played in 96 snaps in first eight games of 2021 and, with no official reason given, was released at the trade deadline. He was quickly snatched up by the Minnesota Vikings, but didn’t pass their physical and was re-signed by the Rams. He was inactive for the rest of the season.
QB Bryce Perkins
Made the Rams opening roster as QB3 after showing some outstanding running skills in preseason. Great athlete with tremendous college production. Although an average arm may stymie his ascent in the NFL, his athleticism, ultra-competitive qualities and leadership abilities will keep him in the mix as the Rams primary backup.
ILB Christian Rozeboom
Released in final 2021 cuts and snatched up by the Kansas City Chiefs and re-signed by the Rams to the active roster in November. He garnered 250 special teams snaps through rest of the regular season and playoff. Traditional size/style inside linebacker and has a nose for the football, he had four straight college seasons of 100 tackles
WR JJ Koski
Small school college playmaker with kickoff and punt return skills. He had 47 special teams snaps in 2021, including two punt and five kickoff returns. He looked tentative in his attack and shaky in ball protection. His performance may have led to the Rams signing Brandon Powell.
OL Chandler Brewer
A great back story, he entered the Rams training camp two months after his final cancer radiation treatment and opted out of 2020 because of COVID-19. He’s got NFL size and good feet, but since his rookie season, (17 snaps) he has not been on the field for a game.
DT Marquise Copeland
Copeland has made the the long uphill battle going from undrafted free agent, to the Rams practice squad, and finally, to a rotational role on the defensive front in 2021. He earned 108 snaps and chipped in 10 tackles.
S/LB Jake Gervase
Ultra athletic and hot motor, Gervase hasn’t been able to secure a defensive role. He’s been active in five games as a Ram, but mostly on the practice squad. He started bulking up last year and is now moving into a hybrid role.
TE Kendall Blanton
Injuries got Blanton two starts and 148 offensive snaps last season. He added 70 on special teams. Although his production was modest, the Rams are thin at his position and as of now, he will be in a roster battle for TE2 in 2022.
Kendall Blanton stepped up with FOUR 1st down catches on 5 receptions. The trend of this season has been “Next Man Up” & they have all delivered! Additionally, despite the narratives, the Rams are 6th in the NFL in homegrown players. We have developed our young guys so very well pic.twitter.com/H9aX6J3NQ5— RAMS ON FILM (@RamsOnFilm) February 2, 2022
OL Jeremiah Kolone
A perennial practice squad member, has never had an NFL snap. He has been cross-trained up and down the offensive line. Since the Rams, by rule, can keep six players with unlimited experience on the PS, Kolone could provide his utility until he’s old and grey.
Gone in a sell-off market, but not forgotten. Well, maybe.
NT Sebastian Joseph-Day- 2018 Rd. 6 #195
TE Johnny Mundt- Undrafted 2017
ILB Troy Reeder- Undrafted 2019
E Justin Lawler-2018 Rd. 7 #244
ILB Travin Howard- 2018 Rd.7 #231
K Sam Sloman- 2020 Rd.7 #248
ILB Dakota Allen- 2019 Rd. 7 #251
Return on investment
The success of the Rams late round and undrafted players must certainly be taken with a measured expectation of success. These aren’t “can’t miss” prospects, they have all had and will continue have, plenty of development work.
If the hard work put in by these players and the position coaches that school them up, can provide team value at a relatively low price, it offers the Rams front office the flexibility to sign/reup big name playmakers. The stars, no matter how good they are, need the support of a solid nucleus to shine brightly.