Now that the major free agent signings have been finalized, the Last Word On Sports NFL department will be looking at the top three needs for each team heading into the 2017 NFL Draft. Today, the Los Angeles Rams are the focus. The Rams will have to wait until the second round to make their first selection with the 37th pick in the draft. General Manager Les Snead and new head coach Sean McVay have many holes to fill in their roster and with a lack of picks, they will need to be extremely efficient with their selections.
Los Angeles Rams 2017 NFL Draft: Top 3 Needs
It is no secret that the Rams need a true number one receiver. With quarterback Jared Goff set to make his first full season start, he will need a top target to realize dividends from his first overall pick status.
The team did bring in Robert Woods to help the absence of Kenny Britt, but Woods’ height disadvantage will slow down the progress of the passing game. Instead, they should be looking for a wideout that is tall, at least the height of Britt (6’3”), and one that has the speed to beat defenders on deep routes.
Most likely, they will need to make a compromise. Names that are beginning to stand out in the draft include East Carolina’s Zay Jones, who clocked a 4.45 40-yard dash, but only stands 6’1”. USC’s JuJu Smith-Schuster stands an inch taller, but loses 0.1 second on his 40 time. Cooper Kupp is another receiver of solid size, but lacking some speed when compared to the other two.
Whoever the Rams take will need to have a great balance of size and speed. If taken this early, he will definitely be expected to take that number one spot as soon as possible. With the rebuild in process, this position will make or break this year’s draft.
Right behind the need for a receiver will be picking up a free safety. With T.J. McDonald headed to Miami and Maurice Alexander moving over to strong safety (after being named Pro Football Focus’s Most Improved Safety), the team has the opportunity to build an elite unit in the secondary.
The problems at the position are compounded since they lost Rodney McLeod to the Philadelphia Eagles two years ago, but the replacements have held up in the absence. As of right now Lamarcus Joyner will be working in the position, but this will need to be tested before making any permanent claims.
Some safeties that may be around in the mid to late rounds include St. Francis’ Lorenzo Jerome, who has been a standout in the Football Championship Subdivision. Though slightly undersized and a bit slower than desired, his instincts and athleticism will have Los Angeles keeping a close eye on him. Eddie Jackson of Alabama might also be on the radar despite ending his college career with a broken leg. Jackson has notable versatility and the experience of winning a championship on his resume.
Locking down a capable safety that can grow with this young team will make life for defensive coordinator Wade Phillips much easier. Having the talent to shut down a league filled with elite receivers will put the Rams in contention quickly, bringing the team up to the high standard of Los Angeles sports.
The Rams lost Tim Barnes in free agency, but picked up former Minnesota Viking and Washington Redskin John Sullivan. The veteran is expected take up the mantle for 2017, but a hole at center is something that cannot be allowed and thus requires careful preparation. As the team reinforces their line to be the front that can enable Goff and Todd Gurley, this would be a perfect time to pick up their center for the future.
Gurley excels at north-south style running, so a strong player right in the middle is priceless to the team. In addition, they have the time to use a valuable pick on a potential future captain of the offensive line. Unfortunately, the Rams are not looking for a Super Bowl appearance next season, but the knowledge of that can open themselves to other helpful options. If they use it wisely, a championship team will not be far off.
They might be looking at players like Ethan Pocic from LSU. Though on the taller side, he has experience at all five line positions and has shown he can handle the strongest defenders. Isaac Asiata from Utah has the size to work in the interior and he can play both center and guard. He has also been praised for his work ethic, which is always a good sign, but especially desirable in the current “rebuild” phase.
The offensive line has been the foundation of the game and is becoming the hot topic once again as of late. The Rams would be wise to strengthen their line as soon as they can so as to enable their offense. Fortifying the all-around attack begins with strong blocking, otherwise they could be scraping the bottom of the league in points once again.
The Rams have a lot of work to do to get back into competitive shape and it all begins in the 2017 Draft. By picking up a wide receiver, free safety, and center, they can fill their most important gaps and begin bringing a strong and dynamic team together. This off season has been an active one for Los Angeles and with a few more shrewd moves, they will be a team to watch sooner rather than later.