The roster of the Los Angeles Rams is in a state of flux. The team parted ways with star players that once formed its Super Bowl-winning core: Jalen Ramsey, Leonard Floyd, A’Shawn Robinson, Greg Gaines, Taylor Rapp, Nick Scott, and others.
But perhaps the biggest question surrounding the 2023 version of the Rams pertains to the quarterback position. There’s really no telling which way the arrow points—up or down—for Matthew Stafford heading into next season. The veteran QB came into last season with significant questions around his lingering elbow injury, and then he had multiple stints in the NFL’s concussion protocol before being shut down for the year with a spinal cord contusion.
The Rams should feel confident in a quarterback that just helped them reach the pinnacle of the sport just over a year ago, but it’s fair to wonder how Stafford will bounce back from injuries—especially considering he will play with a lesser supporting cast in 2023.
Another week, another Matthew Stafford INT.— Dov Kleiman (@NFL_DovKleiman) September 18, 2022
This one in the endzone by Casey Hayward. Stafford had 3 INTs last weekpic.twitter.com/C53wwsYeeB
It’s also fair to point out that Stafford did not play well at all even when he was on the field last season. With a PFF offensive grade of just 67.0 (26th at his position based on a 20% drop back filter), the Rams’ signal caller had the worst performance of his career since 2015 (65.7) and his rookie year in 2009 (45.2).
Perhaps the most troubling advanced metric surrounding the veteran’s play last season is the fact that he was the third-worst QB in terms of pressures converting to sacks (27.1%). Ahead of him are only Baker Mayfield (30.8%) and Deshaun Watson (27.4%), and he is tied for third with Justin Fields. As Stafford’s athleticism diminishes in the later years of his career—and as the hits continue to pile up—it may be time to wonder if he’s turning into a species of quarterback on a trajectory with extinction. Traditional pocket passers are a dying breed, and the next generation of players in the draft specialize in evading pressure and creative playmaking.
It’s not yet clear when the Rams plan to pivot to a successor to Stafford, but it is clear that the next franchise quarterback must have a level of mobility in order to unlock production outside of the offense’s scheme and traditional structure.
The good news is that the team’s answer may rest in their own backyard. Perhaps they won’t need to look too far for their next signal caller.
Why Dorian Thompson-Robinson is right for LA:
The #Browns drafting Dorian Thompson-Robinson to be their third string QB sign me up. pic.twitter.com/Nryht1foR1— Tyler Johnson (@T_johnson_TJ) April 4, 2023
Sean McVay and Les Snead won’t have an opportunity to select the top four quarterbacks in this class (at least barring a jarring surprise): Bryce Young, CJ Stroud, Anthony Richardson, or Will Levis.
One quarterback that is flying well below the radar is UCLA’s Dorian Thompson-Robinson. Most evaluators have pinned “DTR” to the middle round of the draft, though Chris Simms has went out on a limb and ranked the Los Angeles product as his fifth QB with Levis:
Taller than Bryce Young, faster than Bryce Young, think his arm might be stronger than Bryce Young. He plays the position of quarterback right up there with the top guys in the sport. I mean he can do everything…he has a little bit of a long wind-up, maybe doesn’t see the field as well as C.J. Stroud and Bryce Young…I would argue that going through reads and seeing the field other than Stroud and Young he’s the next best one in the group, even maybe better than Hendon Hooker in that department… his mechanics are great, his feet is great, he’s got a really natural, fluid motion…this kid’s got starting quarterback NFL traits.
Dorian Thompson-Robinson crushed defenses on dagger concepts last season. He stays patient at the top of his drop and hits Jake Bobo with perfect ball placement leading him into open space for YAC pic.twitter.com/vBfSgBGVfe— Tyler Forness (@TheRealForno) April 5, 2023
At 6-1, 191 lbs. Thompson-Robinson is undersized by typical NFL standards, but in a draft with Bryce Young (5-10, 194 lbs.) it’s easier to give him a pass. The former Bruin is a twitchy athlete with a powerful arm, though his over aggression can get him into trouble. Working in his favor is the fact he’s worked with former NFL coach Chip Kelly in a pro-style offense that also took some pressure off him with read-option passes (RPO’s) which are becoming more frequently used in the pro game.
It’s not all rosy for the athletic signal caller, however. Thompson-Robinson can be inconsistent at times with throwing mechanics which can result in erratic accuracy. There is also a wealth of tape available from his days at UCLA, as Thompson-Robinson first took the field for the Bruins in 2018—and he really didn’t begin to standout as a potential NFL prospect until late in his college career.
Is that a sign that the young quarterback has learned the intricacies of the most difficult position in all of football, or can this breakout be chalked up to an anomaly in a stretch of lackluster play?
Perhaps we won’t know the answer until we see what kind of NFL career Thompson-Robinson is able to carve out for himself. Will Sean McVay and Les Snead give him the opportunity to take over for Matthew Stafford with the Rams?
The real intrigue with Dorian Thompson-Robinson as a passer is how he reads the field and manipulating the defense. He looks off the safety on the nearside before coming backside for the slant, resulting in a big gain pic.twitter.com/LGOGTkVRP4— Tyler Forness (@TheRealForno) April 5, 2023