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Who are the Rams most-athletic players?

Will elite athletic skills translate into bigger team roles?

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Los Angeles Rams Mandatory Minicamp
Cam Akers training to regain his pre-injury form
Photo by Jayne Kamin-Oncea/Getty Images

I make no secret of my interest in the Los Angeles Rams draft process and their training camp roster battles, putting together a draft board every season and follow the draftees and undrafted free agents throughout OTAs, camp, and the preseason.

One interesting tool to use in research when making draft and roster projections is the Relative Athletic Score (RAS) website. Athleticism isn’t the be-all, end-all when projecting whether a player will be drafted or make the team, but there is certainly a strong connection between success and elite speed, length, agility, and explosion.

With the Rams training camp set to start in less than two weeks, here’s a look at LA‘s top players according to their RAS score.

1. Tight end/wide receiver Jacob Harris - 9.89

It was a tale of two tapes in the 2021 preseason for the fourth round rookie (#141) from Central Florida. He showed on film that the NFL lights were not too bright for him, making some nice catches and flashing an ability to run after the catch. But, the same film showed poor ball protection on those plays. During the regular season, he he only received 15 snaps in mop up wins over the New York Giants and Houston Texans and recorded no stats before tearing up a knee in week 10.

Harris was a latecomer to football and didn’t play the game until his senior season of high school. His collegiate numbers were modest, 49 catches for 987 yards and nine touch downs, but he proved to be dangerous down the field and averaged 20.1 yards per catch.

His measurables and athleticism show he certainly has the potential to stretch the field from either/both the tight end or wide receiver positions. His Pro Day numbers only add to the expectations. He measured in at 6’,5” and 219 lbs. with arms 34” long. His speed showed with a 4.39 forty, 6.51 3cone, and 4.31 shuttle. Harris was stellar in the explosion drills with a 40.5” vertical and 11’ 1” in the broad jump. He added 15 reps on bench.

Harris should be saddled with high expectations. He has the athletic ability and even with only five years of organized football, he has a good understanding of how to be a playmaker. He just needs some fine tuning.

2. Defensive tackle Bobby Brown - 9.82

Coming out of Texas A&M, Brown needed to work on technique and keeping a wider base. He was brought along slowly in his rookie season. He made the 53, but was only active in the last 10 regular season games and three playoff games. (29 total defensive snaps and 62 on special teams)

Brown’s game is built on power, he wins with good leverage and big hands, long arms and a heavy punch. To go along with his power game, he adds some stellar athleticism and showed it at his Pro Day. Standing 6’4” and weighing 321 lbs, he timed a 5.04 forty, 7.62 3cone, and a 4.58 shuttle. He was explosive with a 33” vertical and a 9’ 5” broad jump.

In college, he wasn't known as a pass rush specialist, mostly a bull rushing, pocket pusher. But draft pundits think that he has the athleticism to play 3 technique in the future. Brown is still quite young and he’s getting a graduate student level of education with the AD effect. 2022 is a big training camp for Bobby Brown III.

3. Running back Jake Funk - 9.76

What is your idea of the ideal running back? A few attributes come right to mind.

A compact and powerfully built frame, good speed, short area agility and explosive burst would be a good start. Add soft hands, a willingness to block and non-stop motor. Sounds like an MVP candidate, right, or at least a quality starter. Jake Funk’s game has all these qualities.

Injuries have derailed Funk’s career so far. He had some explosive numbers in college, but also had a laundry list of injuries, low lighted by two major knee injuries. Over his five years in college, he averaged 7.2 yards per carry, but only played in 33 games over the same time frame.

With Cam Akers coming back from a major injury and Darrell Henderson and Kyren Williams already battling injuries, Funk may get a lot of work with the first team offense. He was drafted at #233 of the seventh round in 2021. He didn’t get a Combine invite and blew up his Pro Day. He measured in at 5’10” and 204 lbs. He ran a 4.49 forty with a stellar 1.50 ten yard split. In the explosion/power drills he charted a 38” vertical, a 10’ 2” broad and 22 reps on the bench. In short area agility, he was at 6.71 for the shuttle and 4.12 in the shuttle.

Last season, Funk had a hamstring problem and missed seven games in the middle of the season. He ended with 178 special teams snaps and 27 more on offense. Can he finally beat the injury bug and fulfill his potential?

4. Defensive tackle Aaron Donald - 9.66

I mean really, would anyone expect a “Rams best” list without AD. There just aren't any superlatives that I can add that haven’t been mentioned before.

5. Cornerback Robert Rochell - 9.65

When both fans and experts talk about Rochell’s potential, the conversation deals with his future as an outside press/man cornerback. In actuality, he has a lot of experience in Cover3 zone and a history of success on special teams.

Between battling three different injuries in his 2021 rookie season, Rochell logged 239 defensive snaps in five starts and played in 11 games overall. He only made 14 tackles and gave up a passer rating 82.3, not great numbers, but a nice way to get your feet wet. Those nagging injuries were his biggest problem. He got off to a slow start, suffering a freak wrist/hand injury while trying to punch the ball out a runners grasp. He tweaked a knee mid-season and finally went on the Injured Reserve List with a chest injury in December.

The NFL has a steep learning curve and elite athleticism does not guarantee a role, but when can seamlessly blend learned technique with natural athleticism and looseness, you have a very valuable commodity. At the Combine, he stood 5’11 1/2” tall and weighed in at 193 lbs. with over 32” arms. He timed a 4.41 forty, 6.84 3cone, and a 4.08 shuttle. He jumped 43” in the vertical and 11’ 1” in the broad. He only put up nine reps on the bench.

6. Edge Daniel Hardy - 9.34

My biggest camp crush and if the forum posts are any indication, I am not alone. So, why is a one year starter from small FCS school the object of so much affection?

One, he plays edge. It’s an exciting position for playmakers, whether rushing the quarterback or setting the edge versus the run. Two, the Rams are not only thin in experience opposite of veteran Leonard Floyd, but last season, injuries were a source of concern. Lastly, the edge position should considered to be a wide open camp battle. Justin Hollins is long, lean, and athletic, and won the starting spot last season. He has six sacks and five tackles for loss over three years over 838 snaps. Terrell Lewis is gifted with size and athleticism, he’s chalked up five sacks and six tackles for for loss in 491 snaps, better numbers than Hollins, but TLew has been inactive or out with injury in 19 of 38 possible games. Garrett has speed off the edge and stellar college production, but is unproven in regular season games.

At his Pro Day, Hardy stood a shade under 6’2” and weighed 235 lbs. His speed times were 4.69 in the forty, 6.71 in the 3cone, and 4.33 in the shuttle. In the power/explosion drills he had 40” vertical, 10’ 7” broad and 20 reps on the bench. Earlier this year, the Rams took him at pick #235 of the seventh round.

He is raw, needs technique work and would greatly benefit from added mass and strength, but he plays like his hair’s on fire and was a special teams demon in college. If he can translate the coaching he is getting to the field and combine it with his motor, the position is open enough for a rookie to sneak in.

7. Safety Nick Scott - 9.22

Seventh round pick (#243) out of Penn State in 2019, Scott has been a special teams stalwart since joining LA. Last season, he earned a regular season rotational snaps and took over the starting deep safety role in Week 18, when Jordan Fuller was shelved with an injury. Scott played every defensive snap in the playoff run to a Super Bowl victory and chipped in 14 tackles and an interception.

Snubbed by the NFL Combine, Scott lit up his Pro Day. He measured in at 5’10” and 200 lbs. In the speed drills, he timed a 4.45 forty, 7.02 3cone, and 4.20 shuttle. A stellar 41” vertical, 10’ 8” broad and 18 reps on the bench were recorded in the explosion/power drills.

Scott came into the NFL after being a college captain on both a special teams (2017) and defense (2018). He has great burst and is an aggressive and thumping tackler. Over his three years, the raise in his tackle and pass defense efficiency numbers have been commensurate with his raise in snaps.

8. Cornerback David Long - 9.20

A native of Pasadena, Long was drafted at #79 of the third round in 2019 and had a stellar NFL Combine. He stands almost 5’11” and weighs 196 lbs, with 31” long arms. In the speed drills, time recorded a 4.45 forty, 6.45 3cone, and 3.97 shuttle. In the explosion drills, he leapt 39.5” in the vertical and 10’ in the broad. He showed out 15 reps in the bench press. The 3cone and shuttle were the fast recorded at the 2019 Combine.

Playing in a mostly man coverage scheme in college, Long came out as a shut down corner. According to Pro Football Focus, over 595 coverage snaps, he allowed only 18 receptions for 130 yards. As a senior, he broke up more passes than he allowed to be completed.

The main problem? He is a stellar man coverage player in a predominantly zone scheme. In first two years with the Rams he was used sparingly, garnering just a little over 100 snaps each season. Last year, he had five regular season starts and 516 defensive snaps. He made 40 tackles and had one interception. In the four playoff games, he played over 65 percent of snaps and chipped in 12 tackles and an interception return for a touchdown.

It’s the last year on his rookie contract, and under Defensive Coordinator Raheem Morris’ helm, the secondary has played more zone coverages. Long has the burst, ball skills and read-and-react skills to be a success in zone, but his bread-and-butter is in man. Can he adjust and finally earn a starting role or will he be a situational substitute?

9. Running back Cam Akers - 8.81

There are lots of stories set to come out of training camp, but none bigger than whether-or-not Akers is back to full strength and more importantly, completely back to his former burst and speed. At the NFL Combine, he ran a 4.47 forty with a stellar 1.47 ten yard split, and a 4.42 shuttle. His explosion/power numbers were 35.5” vertical, 10’ 2” broad and 20 reps on the bench. At 5’10” and 217 lbs., Akers is powerfully compact with big legs that squat 600 lbs.

Does Akers fulfill his potential and have a breakout season in 2022? Or does he become another footnote in NFL history, a a gifted player with a promising career scuttled by by an injury?

10. Offensive line Logan Bruss - 8.76

This number is actually low for Bruss, he won’t play tackle for the Rams and he actually gets docked by RAS for only being 6’5”. Probably not a lot of difference, but getting a poor grade in any category should be duly noted.

Bruss continues a Rams tradition of drafting lineman that aren’t particularly fast but have good feet and short-area agility. As well as measuring in at 6’5”, he came in at 309 lbs with good arm length at a little over 33”. He ran a 5.32 forty, but came in with very good 1.76 ten yard split and in his agility numbers were a 7.57 3cone, and 4.55 in the shuttle. In power/explosion, he charted a 31” vertical and a 9’4” broad.

Multiple reports call Bruss a mauler who plays the game with a nasty attitude and this is what Rams fans have been calling for. He comes from an multiple offense with a lot of outside zone, and has the lower body strength, feet and understanding of angles to be a success early in his career. He is expected to be in a roster battle for a starting role in 2022.

Just missed

Tackle Joseph Noteboom- 8.50, Brycen Hopkins- 8.19, Terrell Burgess- 8.11 and Travin Howard- 8.03

Does this mean really anything for 2022?

Hard to say. The proven players are locked in and while I certainly think elite athleticism gives players an edge, it is not a guarantee of success. All the players listed have other sterling attributes besides their athleticism and are reportedly in the Rams plans for the upcoming season.

Buss will be given a chance to win the right guard spot, Akers is primed for breakout, Long and Scott should earn a long look after playing well down last season’s stretch, Hardy is the longest shot, if Rochell stays healthy he will contribute big time, AD is AD, Funk is the sleeper of the group, Brown has the highest expectations, and Harris is a freak who just needs to learn the pro game.