clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Trading Van Jefferson only reiterates a bad 2020 draft class for Rams

Rams 2020 draft class continues to look worse four years later

Los Angeles Rams v Arizona Cardinals Photo by Norm Hall/Getty Images

The Los Angeles Rams traded away wide receiver Van Jefferson to the Atlanta Falcons on Tuesday for sixth and seventh-round pick swaps in 2025. That’s a long way of saying, they traded away Jefferson for next to nothing.

This comes less than three weeks after the Rams traded away Cam Akers for late-round pick swaps in 2026. Again, that’s a long way of saying that the Rams traded away Akers for next to nothing.

Trading Akers made some sense as he was a player that didn’t fit on the locker room or what the Rams were looking for moving forward. Jefferson on the other hand is a little more confusing as Puka Nacua has an injury history going back to college, Cooper Kupp is coming off of a hamstring injury, and TuTu Atwell has dealt with injuries himself in the NFL. While Jefferson may have fallen down the depth chart, he at least provided insurance at the position.

That’s not even to say that trading away Jefferson was the wrong or bad move. Seth Wadler of ESPN gave the Rams a B- in the trade deal. Wadler said,

“Entering the season, it looked like Jefferson had a prime opportunity to earn targets playing in a WR room that featured an injured Cooper Kupp and not much else. But with Kupp back, Jefferson had slid to at least fourth, and maybe even fifth, on the depth chart, behind emerging star Puka Nacua and Tutu Atwell. Last week against the Eagles, Ben Skowronek played six snaps to Jefferson’s two, as well. When he did play this season, his numbers were not impressive. On 155 routes, Jefferson — typically a deep threat — earned 15 targets and caught eight passes for 108 yards. That’s the second-worst target rate (10%) among wideouts with at least 100 routes this season...He still had lackluster Receiver Tracking Metrics in every category, with an open score of 43, catch score of 43 and YAC score of 49 — indications that he was below-average at getting open, making the catch and generating after the catch relative to expectations...Two weeks ago, he played 86% of the Rams’ snaps. It’s a little surprising that the team would already give up on him for almost nothing, considering it may need him again in case of injury. Then again, the Rams may feel it’s better to get almost nothing for him now than literally nothing in the offseason when his contract is up.”

The primary issue here is that in less than a month, the Rams gave up not one, but two former second-round picks for, as Wadler put it” “almost nothing”. Second-round picks are supposed to be the cornerstone of your franchise. While Jefferson and Akers weren’t selected in the top-50, it should have been expected that at least one of those players would have performed well enough to earn an extension or at least play out their rookie contract.

Hindsight of course is 20/20 and there is some bad luck especially when it comes to Akers with his torn achilles after a strong rookie season. However, one pick after Akers, the Philadelphia Eagles selected Jalen Hurts.

Now, the Rams didn’t necessarily need a quarterback at the time, but neither did the Eagles. Philadelphia had just given Carson Wentz an extension the previous summer.

Wentz performed comparable to Jared Goff in 2019, finishing with a slightly better EPA per dropback and EPA + CPOE (completion percentage over expectation) composite. Wentz ranked 17th in EPA per dropback compared to Goff at 22. In EPA + CPOE composite, Wentz came in at 20th which was slightly better than Goff at 22.

In 2019, Wentz finished with 27 touchdowns to seven interceptions while Goff had just 22 touchdowns to 16 interceptions. This is all to say, if the Eagles could have taken a quarterback with the 53rd overall pick, the Rams didn’t have an excuse not to with the 52nd overall pick.

The pick that really hurts the Rams is the Jefferson pick. While the Rams took Jefferson 57th overall, just three picks later, the New England Patriots selected edge rusher Josh Uche. Uche had 11.5 sacks last season and will be one of the top projected edge rushers to hit the free agent market next offseason. One of the Rams’ biggest needs right now is edge rusher where the team is rolling out Michael Hoecht, a converted defensive lineman, every week.

Again, hindsight is 20/20. However, the Rams needed an edge rusher at the time and Uche was a player that was consistently mocked to the Rams pre-draft. Based on positional value alone, Uche should have been selected over a running back like Akers.

While Akers and Jefferson were two of the biggest misses, the Rams got one starter from their 2020 draft haul. That player of course is Jordan Fuller. It’s fair to wonder how many other teams Fuller would be starting for given the talent on the current Rams defense. The Rams don’t pay safeties, therefore it’s not likely that he signs an extension.

In the third-round, the Rams selected edge rusher Terrell Lewis. Just 18 picks later, the Pittsburgh Steelers took edge rusher Alex Highsmith who signed an extension and had 14.5 sacks last season. Safety Terrell Burgess was also selected in the third-round by the Rams and was cut in 2022 along with Lewis.

Between Akers, Jefferson, Lewis, and Burgess, none of the Rams’ second or third-round picks made it through their rookie deals.

Tight end Brycen Hopkins remains on the team, but the Rams drafted a tight end and traded for a tight end this past offseason. It seems highly unlikely that he’ll be brought back on an extension this offseason.

Linebacker Clay Johnston and kicker Sam Sloman didn’t make it through their rookie years. Tremayne Anchrum was the final pick of the 2020 draft for the Rams. He’s been a depth piece on the offensive line and it’s uncertain/not probable that the team would bring him back next year as they re-build that position group.

Overall, the 2020 draft class was a complete disaster for Les Snead and Sean McVay. Jefferson had a strong 2021 with 800 yards. His touchdown catch on Monday Night Football played a key role in the team’s Super Bowl season. However, between the 2018, 2019, and 2020 drafts, the Rams will have signed two out of 28 potential players to an extension. Those two players are Joe Noteboom and Brian Allen.

Early signs point to the 2023 class being better. It’s easy to point to Snead trading away high draft picks as the primary reason the Rams roster being in the current state that it is. However, had the assets that they did have been used correctly, the roster would be in a much different spot.