If there was any fan base that was not excited about the 2018 NFL Draft, it would be that of the Los Angeles Rams. The Rams have been extremely busy this off-season acquiring a handful of new players via free agency and trades. In doing so, the Rams were without a first-round pick for the second year in a row and did not have their first pick until the third round. The Rams only had a few minor holes on their roster, meaning they could draft the best player available at either of their selections.
Despite not having any big team needs, general manager Les Snead was busy and executed six trades this past weekend. The trades helped the Rams go from eight to 11 selections. Here are all of Snead’s trades:
- Traded away the 87th overall pick to the Oakland Raiders for the 89th and 217th overall picks
- Traded away the 136th overall pick to the Carolina Panthers for the 147th and 197th overall picks
- Traded wide receiver Tavon Austin to the Dallas Cowboys for the 192nd overall pick
- Traded away 183rd and 217th overall picks to the Denver Broncos for the 160th overall pick
- Traded away the 194th overall pick to the Atlanta Falcons for the 244th and 256th picks
- Traded away the 197th, 231st and 256th overall picks for the 205th and 231st overall picks
It is worth mentioning that the Rams traded their first-round pick for wide receiver Brandin Cooks, a fourth-round pick for cornerback Marcus Peters and a fifth-round pick for cornerback Aqib Talib. Here are the selections the Rams made last weekend:
Third round, 89th overall pick: Joe Noteboom, Offensive Tackle, TCU
Fourth round, 111th overall pick: Brian Allen, Center, Michigan State
Fourth round, 135th overall: John Franklin-Meyers, Defensive End, Stephen F. Austin
Fifth round, 148th overall: Micah Kiser, Linebacker, Virginia
Fifth round, 160th overall: Ogbonnia Okoronkwo, Linebacker, Oklahoma
Sixth round, 176th overall: John Kelly, Running Back, Tennessee
Sixth round, 192nd overall: Jamil Demby, Offensive Tackle, Maine
Sixth round, 195th overall: Sebastian Joseph, Defensive Tackle, Rutgers
Sixth round, 205th overall: Trevon Young, Defensive End, Louisville
Seventh round, 231st overall: Travin Howard, Linebacker, TCU
Seventh round, 244th overall: Justin Lawler, Defensive End, SMU
Los Angeles Rams 2018 Draft Grade: 8.9/10 B+
Los Angeles Rams 2018 NFL Draft Review
The Best Player: Brandin Cooks
Weeks before the draft, the Rams decided to trade their first-round pick to the New England Patriots for Cooks. This is the second off-season in a row in which Cooks has been traded for a first-round pick. Cook was traded last year by the New Orleans Saints to New England.
Cooks had another dominant season with the Patriots hauling in 65 receptions, 1,082 receiving yards and seven touchdowns. Since coming into the league, Cooks has become one of the best deep-threat receivers. He has a career average of 14.1 yards per reception which is 20th best out of all active receivers. Cooks also has a touchdown reception of 50 yards or more in each of his four seasons.
Quarterback Jared Goff last season put up big numbers and excelled with the likes of Sammy Watkins, Robert Woods and Cooper Kupp as the receiving corps. Now head coach Sean McVay and Goff will add Cooks to an already explosive offensive which should give nightmares to defensive coordinators next season. That sounds better than adding a first-round pick if you ask me.
The Head-Scratcher: Drafting Four Defensive Linemen
Defensive coordinator Wade Phillips had a very talented defense last season largely in part to their defensive line. Aaron Donald and Michael Brockers were beasts up front and wreaked havoc on opposing teams’ backfields. This off-season, the Rams added Ndamukong Suh via free agency which only adds firepower to a stacked defensive line. Phillips runs a 3-4 defense meaning Donald, Suh and Brockers would be there three down lineman in their base front.
Because of their superior depth at the position, it was a bit of a shock to see the Rams draft four defensive tackles. While depth at any position is important, the Rams had other needs – such as linebacker and offensive line – in the draft to address as well. Chances are because of their depth, only one or two of the defensive lineman they drafted will make their final roster.
The Surprise: John Kelly
The Rams have one of the best running backs in all of football in Todd Gurley. Gurley did it all for the Rams last season, rushing for 1,305 yards, hauling in 64 receptions and combining for 19 touchdowns. The thought of drafting a running back may seem surprising, but it was a smart decision by the Rams.
Tennessee running back John Kelly was one of the more talked about names of this year’s draft class. Kelly was teammates with Alvin Kamara a season ago and when Kamara left for the NFL, Kelly had big shoes to fill. Tennessee’s offense underperformed last year but that was not due to a lack of production from Kelly. He totaled 1,077 yards from scrimmage including 37 receptions and nine rushing touchdowns.
At 5’10”, 205 pounds, Kelly could be a great change of pace back for Gurley without such a big dropoff. Asking Gurley to duplicate his workload of last season would bring a greater risk of injury, so drafting Kelly to lighten Gurley’s reps is a smart move by Snead and McVay.
The Steal: Ogbonnia Okoronkwo
This off-season, the Rams have traded outside linebacker Robert Quinn to the Miami Dolphins and have yet to re-sign veteran Connor Barwin, creating a big hole at the position. Okoronkwo is one of the better edge rushers in this draft and was projected to go in the third or fourth round. He is a little undersized at 6’2″, 253 pounds which may be the reason he fell to the fifth round, but he was one of the most explosive Big 12 defensive players the past two seasons.
In 2017, Okoronkwo was named Big 12 Co-Defensive Player of the Year and in the prior year, was named to the second team All-Big-12. In his two years as a starter, Okoronkwo recorded 29.5 tackles for loss, 17 sacks, five pass deflections and five forced fumbles. He plays with a relentless motor on the edge and used his speed and athleticism to get around offensive tackles. Not too often do you talk about fifth rounders getting the opportunity to start, but Okoronkwo has a good chance to win the starting job this preseason.
Most Likely to Turn Heads at Training Camp: Micah Kiser
The Rams used their first fifth round pick on Kiser, a three-year starter out of Virginia. Kiser is one of the more polished run-stopping linebackers in this draft class and was a tackling machine at Virginia. In each of his three seasons as a starter, Kiser recorded 117 tackles or more and led the ACC conference in that department in both 2016 (133) and 2017 (143).
As mentioned earlier, the Rams have some question marks at the linebacker position outside of Mark Barron going into training camp. Kiser has a really good opportunity to win a starting job and be a two-down linebacker.
Honorable Mention: John Franklin-Meyers
Franklin is a player that flew under the radar because he played at a small football program but he has the ideal size of an NFL defensive lineman. At 6’4″, 280 pounds, Franklin is strong at the point of attack and sheds blockers easily in the run game. Franklin made the switch from defensive tackle to defensive end in his final season and recorded 13.5 tackles for a loss and three sacks. Franklin shined in the NFLPA Bowl Game and will really need to show off his talents consistently with Donald, Suh and Brockers already at the position, but I believe he is capable of doing so.
The Rams used their first pick of the draft on offensive tackle Joe Noteboom out of TCU. Noteboom was an extremely durable lineman who played both right tackle and left tackle during his career with the Horned Frogs. Rams left tackle Andrew Whitworth is 36 years old and Noteboom could very well be his replacement in the future.
At the 111th overall pick, the Rams selected another offensive lineman in Brian Allen out of Michigan State. Allen played center his senior year for the Spartans but has experience playing both guard spots as well in his career. Much like Noteboom, Allen will be expected to sit and learn from the Rams veteran lineman and potentially start a couple years down the road.
The Rams had four sixth-round picks and used their second one on offensive tackle Jamil Demby out of Maine. Demby was a four-year starter as the left tackle and has good footwork in pass protection. With the depth at offensive line the Rams have, Demby might be fighting for a practice squad spot.
With the 195th overall pick, the Rams selected defensive tackle Sebastian Joseph out of Rutgers. Joseph played three-technique and one-technique while at Rutgers and was a solid run defender. He recorded 35 tackles and 4.5 tackles for loss in his senior season.
With their final sixth-round pick, the Rams took defensive end Trevon Young out of Lousiville. Young has the ideal size for a defensive lineman at 6’4″ 260 pounds but did not produce the way many thought he should at Louisville. He will be lucky to make the Rams practice squad.
The Rams drafted TCU linebacker Travin Howard with the 231st overall pick. Howard led his team in tackles the past three seasons and was named to the first team All-Big 12 both in 2016 and 2017. Howard is undersized but has great speed and athleticism similar to Barron.
SMU defensive end Justin Lawler was the Rams final selection of the draft at 244th overall. Lawler recorded 19.5 tackles for loss and 9.5 sacks during his senior season. He also blocked three kicks last season and played in a defensive scheme very similar to Phillips while at SMU.
Not too many times could you consider a team who did not have a first or second round pick a winner in the draft, but the Rams are the rare exception. Snead was a busy man trading back a few times to compile extra picks and ended the draft with 11 selections. They added a few edge rushers to compete at the position, added depth and youth to the offensive line and added some quality inside linebackers that could be steals of the draft. Overall, it’s a job well-done by Snead.