NFL rosters are set and game one is a little over a week away. While the Los Angeles Rams begin game preparations in earnest for next Thursday’s tilt with the Buffalo Bills, the scouting staff is in full-on work mode, poring over opposing teams final roster cuts, and deciding which, if any, players can be of value to L.A.
It’s time to build the practice squad roster and the Rams certainly need some depth on certain units after having their share of roster cut surprises. Nor can you disregard the possibility of opposing teams rummaging the L.A.’s discards for value.
There are nearly 1000 recently laid off players to choose from. So, where can the Rams begin? Not only to just fill up the practice squad but to add a measure of talented insurance, in case of injury problems.
It appears that three units are in need of structural support, tight end, running back, and offensive line. Let me offer my offer the scouts some help and offer up six players that not only have some marketable skills, but would also fit into the Rams schemes. Of course, these players must first go unclaimed off waivers and become free agents before the Rams could add them to the practice squad.
Will the Rams really stick with only Tyler Higbee and Brycen Hopkins? No matter how good of blockers the wide receivers are, at the very least, there should be some depth on the practice squad. If L.A. keeps it in-house, both Roger Carter and Jared Pinkney would be passable, they just don’t seem to have huge upsides and aren’t very exciting as playmakers.
Lucas Krull— 6’ 6” 260 lbs.
Named to the 2021 Feldman’s Freaks list for his combination of size, length, and athleticism. He has big, strong hands, and an 81 1/2” wingspan. Pair that with a 35” vertical and 10’ broad jump and you can expect contested catch skills. He has long speed with a 4.54 forty and short area quickness, a 7.16 3cone and 4.35 shuttle.
In college, he lined up as both receiver and blocker outside, in the slot, in-line, and as blocking h-back. He was regularly tasked to take on defensive ends and showed the physicality to set and lock up the edge. He shows good, soft hands and hand/eye coordination, enough speed to attack the seam and toughness to catch in traffic.
Zaire Mitchell-Paden— 6’ 4” 256 lbs.
A very versatile player with pro size and length. Mitchell-Paden was also a college special teams stalwart. With 35” arms and and 84” wingspan, he not only has the length and leaping skills to block kicks, he was also the backup long snapper.
He is a physical and effective blocker. He moves well and can get to the second level for cut-off blocks and has the power to get push inline. In Mitchell-Paden’s first two college seasons, his teams offense recorded over 2000 yards rushing per annum.
As a receiver, lined up on the wing, inline, wide in the slot and even in the backfield. He tracks the ball well, catches with large hands, and has a huge target radius. He worked in predominantly run schemes in college, so he needs route tree work and technique polish, but he has a maulers mentality.
At the risk of sounding like a broken record, the injury history of the Rams backfield will need continuous monitoring. Kyren Williams will not only face the typical steep learning curve of mid-round rookies, but he also had minimal physical contact (tackling) for the whole of training camp. Jake Funk showed more in preseason games than many give him credit for, the blocking schemes he ran behind had little to do with what the Rams will use during the season. The practice squad appears to be wide open, why not add some speed and power.
D’vonte Price— 6’ 1” 210lbs.
For a back of his size, Price shows impressive footwork finesse and stellar long speed. He has a tendency to run a little high at times, but is strong finisher who falls forward after contact. He shows good vision, patience, and burst with the ball in his hands. He is an aggressive blocker and while he wasn’t a big part of his college teams passing game, he catches the ball with his hands away from his body and transitions quickly from catch to run.
He ran a 4.38 forty, had a 34” vertical and 9’ 11” broad jump. He has experience in a zone running scheme and when he feels/sees a hole, he can put a foot down, make one cut and go. He does his best work between the tackles, but is not limited to that role. He has the contact balance to to bounce off would-be tacklers and get outside.
Kevin Harris— 5’ 10” 221 lbs.
If fans liked what Sony Michel brought to the Rams last year, they will like Harris. Not a dancer, he’s more apt to lower shoulder and go through tacklers than avoid them. Coming out of college at South Carolina, Harris was always part of a platoon as the early down and short yardage back. So in theory, he’s not all beat to hell like many bruiser backs.
At the NFL Combine, he didn’t show very well in the speed drills. A 4.6 forty, 7.39 3cone, and 4.26 shuttle are mediocre. In the power/burst categories, Harris did very well. A 38 1/2” vertical, 10’ 6” broad and 21 reps on the bench. Quite honestly, the stellar explosion drills just don’t match up with his speed. Nevertheless, he has good film versus top college (SEC) competition and would give the Rams a true power back.
After starting the 2021 season with 10 linemen, the Rams decide to cut back to eight. Would love to know the thinking behind that decision? Quality over quantity? Hmm.
Unless injuries abound, keeping two or three backups on the practice squad will probably suffice. In the final roster say, Bobby Evans flexed his power of incumbency. Jeremiah Kolone and A.J Arcuri both played well in preseason and I thought Chandler Brewer was outstanding. Any of them could have been added to the roster. If L.A. decides to move on from any of them, there are a couple players that need quite a bit of development.
Jason Poe— 6’ 1” 300 lbs.
I really don’t know if Poe can become a starter and stand up to the rigors of the NFL trenches with his lack of size. But lining him up as a sixth blocker would allow the Rams to use his low center of gravity, explosion off the ball and natural leverage as a weapon. Just think of him as a hybrid tight end/fullback/guard getting up a few yard head of steam and turning his speed into power.
He has a tremendous upper body strength, 34 reps on the bench with a reported high of 500 lbs. And while he looks a little thin in his lower half, he recorded a 31 1/2” vertical and 9’ 3” broad. His forty time was 4.89, with a 1.72 10 yard split.
Devin Cochran— 6’ 6 1/2” 306 lbs.
I mainly like this player because of his film versus the Georgia Bulldogs and the NFL’s number one draft pick Travon Walker. But he also has the prototypical size and length for success at tackle.
Not invited to the NFL Combine, at the Georgia Tech Pro Day, his arms measured 35 1/2” and his wingspan was 86”. He ran a 5.10 forty, 7.64 3cone, and 4.71 shuttle. Having started 41 games in the ACC and SEC, he has solid experience and knows how to use his length. He is strong run blocker, but needs technique work in pass pro. He’ll probably need more mass and lower body strength, as well.
Are the Rams even looking to add practice squad level players?
The Rams don’t have a history, in the McVay/Snead years, of adding a lot of players after final cuts. They prefer to dance with who they brung. You cannot really disagree with most of their decisions, L.A. has done a good job of developing the players the scouting staff has zeroed in on. But why not consider some outsiders, with athletic upsides, to bolster units that appear to be thin? Are there any others that would fit with the Rams?