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Rams’ starting five along offensive line seem to lack pedigree

Did LA find a few diamonds in the rough, or does the starting OL lack premium talent?

Los Angeles Rams Offseason Workout Photo by Jayne Kamin-Oncea/Getty Images

The starting five along the offensive line seem to be taking shape for the Los Angeles Rams.

Alaric Jackson is pulling ahead from Joe Noteboom in the battle for the starting role at left tackle. Coleman Shelton is running in front of Brian Allen at center. Steve Avila has been penciled in at left guard from the beginning, and Tremayne Anchrum has taken the majority of reps at right guard while Logan Bruss made a seemingly permanent position change from guard to tackle.

As of right now, and barring injuries, the starting offensive line in Week 1 against the Seattle Seahawks would be the following:

LT - Alaric Jackson

LG - Steve Avila

C - Coleman Shelton

RG - Tremayne Anchrum

RT - Rob Havenstein

One of my first takeaways when evaluating this group of linemen is the fact that two are former undrafted rookie free agents (Jackson, Shelton) and Anchrum is a former seventh round pick. Avila and Havenstein were both drafted in the second round, and Havenstein has been a starter for the Rams for almost a decade.

Maybe saying this group lacks pedigree is unfair to the players, but it’s at least concerning for now. If the offensive line performs well and keeps Matthew Stafford upright and opens up running lanes for Cam Akers, then we will forget where these players were and weren’t drafted.

But in the meantime it’s fair to wonder how this group will fare despite the seemingly lack of premium talent amongst the starting five.

Sure, the Rams organization deserves credit for identifying players like Jackson, Shelton, and Anchrum and developing them to the point the team is comfortable to consider these players in starting roles. However, you also have to question why individuals selected with premium draft selections didn’t work out for the team and are across the board losing the ongoing training camp battles.

Joe Noteboom and Brian Allen were drafted back-to-back by the Rams during the 2018 draft in the third and fourth rounds, respectively. LA didn’t have a first or second round pick that year as a result of their trades for WR’s Brandin Cooks and Sammy Watkins, so Noteboom and Allen were the top-billed players from that draft class. Bruss was also the Rams’ top pick from the 2022 draft class, though he’s now comfortably a backup to Havenstein.

Four years later they hit free agency and the Rams rewarded both of them with sizeable contract extensions—Noteboom earned three years and $40M and Allen inked a three-year, $18M deal. Both of these contracts were restructured by the team this offseason as LA worked to get under the salary cap, which signaled that the Rams believed Noteboom and Allen could bounce back and remain on the roster for the next two seasons. Noteboom’s season ended in Week 6 last year with a ruptured Achilles tendon. Allen was in and out of the lineup in 2022 and ultimately missed 10 of the 17 games.

The bottom line is that it’s strange to see a former third round draft pick and an individual playing on a $13M annual average contract lose out to a former undrafted player, but that’s exactly what’s happening with Noteboom and Jackson. The same goes for Allen and Shelton, though LA’s financial commitment to Allen is less significant than their contract with Noteboom.

Give the Rams credit for identifying these unheralded players and developing them to a point where they are able to start. Los Angeles also deserves kudos for being able to admit when the players they heavily invested in are no longer the better option at a certain position and for being able and willing to pivot to plan B.

But this version of the offensive line deserves some skepticism given their lack of pedigree, and that skepticism will remain until they can prove it wrong.

How will the offensive line fare in 2023? Time will tell.

Rams training camp, Irvine Wally Skalij/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images