The Los Angeles Rams offensive line has entered a transition period. As the offense changes its run scheme, the Rams have been changing their type of offensive linemen from the past. LA went from a wide zone scheme that required lighter, more agile offensive linemen to a gap or power scheme. By doing so, they decided to get bigger up front. They drafted Steve Avila in the second round at 330-pounds and traded for Kevin Dotson who weighed 322-pounds.
Changing to overall make-up of the offensive line is a multi-year process. The Rams got by last year and they got better up-front as the year progressed. However, the job isn’t done yet. This offseason, the Rams have some important decisions to make on the offensive line which could result in some moving pieces. One of those decisions could be moving rookie left guard Steve Avila to center.
Let’s take a step back for a moment and consider what the Rams offensive line looks like this offseason. Coleman Shelton, Kevin Dotson, and Tremayne Anchrum are both on expiring contracts. Additionally, Joe Noteboom and Brian Allen could be potential cap casualties. That’s five potential outgoing players who were on the 53-man roster this past season.
Assuming the Rams make Dotson a priority and re-sign him, that still leaves the Rams with an opening at center. Unless Les Snead decides to bring everyone back, Los Angeles will be starting at least one new player on the offensive line next season with several new faces in at depth.
It’s possible that the Rams could bring Shelton back on a one-year deal. With that said, he’s a replacement level center at just 299-pounds. Among centers who played at least 50 percent of their teams’ snaps, Shelton graded 26th out of 32 centers in pass-blocking via Pro Football Focus and 11th in run-blocking. He was tied for the most pressures given up with 34.
They could also decide to keep Brian Allen, but he has a cap-hit of $7.2M next year. The Rams would have to start him as that’s way too expensive to be playing a backup center. This is a big reason why Allen is seen a cap casualty.
The third option here would be to start a rookie center which seems risky in itself even if they were to draft a player like Jackson Powers-Johnson in the first or second-round. It’s unlikely that the Rams would opt to start a rookie center and put them in charge of making the protection calls at the line of scrimmage.
That leaves one final option and as the Rams transition to a heavier offensive line, it’s one that makes sense. After getting experience on the interior at guard this past season, the Rams could decide to move Steve Avila over to center. Prior to playing left guard at TCU in 2022, Avila had played the previous two seasons at center for the Horned Frogs. At the Senior Bowl he practiced at both positions.
In fact, Avila’s two best seasons at TCU came with him at center. However, the center position is more complex in the NFL. With Avila’s previous 800 college snaps at left guard, it made sense to start him at guard as he got a feel for the NFL level. That certainly wasn’t a bad decision as he made the all-rookie team.
With that said, the offensive line is set up next year for Avila to slide over to center. At left guard, the Rams could sign a guard like Robert Hunt or draft one once again. It’s worth noting that the team could also sign a free agent center just as they could sign a guard. However, the Rams have shown in the past that it’s not a position that they necessarily want to spend on.
They could also opt to move Alaric Jackson inside as he’s shown versatility in the past. This would leave the Rams with an opening at a position that we know they’ve needed since the beginning of last season — left tackle. With a first-round pick, the Rams have the ability to either move up and take a franchise caliber player in Olu Fashanu or Joe Alt. They could also simply draft a tackle like Taliese Fuage, Amarius Mims, or Patrick Paul.
Moving Avila to center is something that the team has considered. His versatility inside drew the Rams to him during the pre-draft process. At TCU he had over 1,000 snaps and both guard and center.
Additionally, Rams senior personnel advisor Taylor Morton mentioned seeing how big Avila was in person, as well as the work Avila did at guard and center live at the Senior Bowl and putting that versatility on display as what sold him on Avila. https://t.co/evv0AgiMn6— Stu Jackson (@StuJRams) April 29, 2023
Avila does provide a lot of value at guard. However, with Shelton and Allen potentially on the way out, the offensive line is set up next season for Avila to move over to center and be there long-term for the Rams.