Los Angeles Rams (Last Year: 9-7)
2020 NFL Season Preview:
DT A'Shawn Robinson, DE/OLB Leonard Floyd.
Early Draft Picks:
RB Cam Akers, WR Van Jefferson, DE/OLB Terrell Lewis, CB/S Terrell Burgess, TE Brycen Hopkins. Rams Rookie Forecast
RB Todd Gurley, WR Brandin Cooks, DE/OLB Dante Fowler, DE/OLB Clay Matthews, LB Cory Littleton, K Greg Zuerlein.
2020 Los Angeles Rams Offense:
The Rams were one of the worst teams in the NFL in 2016. Jared Goff was a raw rookie who committed nine turnovers compared to five touchdowns, all while maintaining a ghastly 5.3 YPA. Goff looked like he was going to be a JaMarcus Russell-type bust, but his career quickly turned around in 2017 and 2018. Sean McVay received lots of credit for this, and rightfully so, but a big factor in Goff's improvement was the offensive line. The Rams possessed one of the best blocking units in the league, which would explain why they had so much success those two seasons. However, it also explains why they regressed so much in 2019.
Los Angeles was a major disappointment last season. The team finished 9-7, which is a poor record considering that it was fresh off a Super Bowl appearance. The Rams were also fortunate with some early-season victories, taking advantage of Drew Brees' Week 2 injury, for example. Their offense underperformed because the line lost two starters in the prior free-agency period, and it didn't help that usually stellar left tackle Andrew Whitworth regressed a bit with age.
With that in mind, the Rams were expected to address the blocking this offseason, but that never happened. They'll enter 2020 with another pedestrian front, which will continue to hurt Goff, who needs all the help he can get because his pocket awareness and football IQ are lacking. Whitworth, now 38, could be even worse this year, though right tackle Rob Havenstein may rebound off a down 2019 campaign. The Rams have a number of young linemen to start in the interior like David Edwards, Austin Corbett and Austin Blythe, but the latter two players haven't shown any signs that they can be capable starters in the NFL.
Running back was another position that was expected to be taken care of this spring. That was actually addressed, with the Rams spending a second-round pick on Florida State's Cam Akers. He figures to be an upgrade over the other two underwhelming runners on the roster, Malcolm Brown and Darrell Henderson. Still, it's difficult to imagine Akers being better than Todd Gurley, whose once-dominant presence will be missed.
The Rams also lost Brandin Cooks this offseason, but that departure won't be as impactful as Todd Gurley's dismissal. Cooks underperformed, and his absence will only give emerging tight end Tyler Higbee more targets. Higbee was a monster to finish the 2019 campaign, so with Cooks gone, he should continue to generate his massive stats. Goff will also continue to target Robert Woods and Cooper Kupp, his two reliable and talented receivers.
2020 Los Angeles Rams Defense:
Along with Sean McVay, the offensive line and Todd Gurley, the defense was able to help carry Jared Goff to a Super Bowl appearance. The Rams' stop unit was one of the best the NFL had to offer, but a number of losses this offseason will change that in 2020.
First and foremost, Wade Phillips is gone. The legendary defensive coordinator gets the most out of his players, so it's fair to expect some of the Rams' defensive talents to regress a bit this year. That, on top of some of the departures, is troubling. For example, Dante Fowler finally met expectations as a dynamic edge rusher this past season. Los Angeles doesn't have a viable edge rusher with Fowler gone. The team signed former first-round bust Leonard Floyd, then spent a second-day selection on the injury-prone Terrell Lewis. Samson Ebukam, a fourth-round choice from 2017, might be the top player at the position.
The Rams also lost another linebacker, as Cory Littleton signed with the Raiders. Littleton began his career as a special-teams standout, but eventually emerged as a dynamic defensive play-maker. His absence will create a major void in the middle of the field. The Rams have some unknown talents remaining at the position, including 2018 fifth-rounder Micah Kiser, who hasn't played a single defensive snap in the NFL yet, thanks in part to his torn pectoral in 2019.
Michael Brockers was nearly another loss, but his contract with the Ravens was voided because he couldn't pass a physical. Brockers then returned to the Rams, but given that a smart franchise like Baltimore didn't give him a clean bill of health, it's worrying that he may not be able to produce up to expectations in 2020. The Rams already missed Ndamukong Suh, whom they didn't replace last spring, so it might just be a one-man show up front. Of course, that's an amazing one-man show, as Aaron Donald is among the top players in the NFL, regardless of position. Newly signed A'Shawn Robinson was signed to help stop the run alongside Donald, but he has trouble staying healthy.
While everything outside of Donald has seemed bleak for the Rams' defense thus far, the strength of the stop unit is the secondary. A big reason for that is Jalen Ramsey, whom Los Angeles acquired via trade during the 2019 campaign. Ramsey is one of the better cornerbacks in the NFL, while the other starter, Troy Hill, did a decent job last year when he took over for Marcus Peters, at least until he suffered a season-ending thumb injury. David Long, a 2019 third-rounder, should have a better year covering the slot.
The Rams have a pair of talented safeties as well. John Johnson is coming off a down year because of a shoulder injury, but he figures to rebound in 2020. Meanwhile, Taylor Rapp, a second-round pick from the 2019 NFL Draft, showed lots of promise as a rookie.
2020 Los Angeles Rams Schedule and Intangibles:
It's no surprise that Los Angeles has been a horrible home-field advantage for the Rams. When the team played in Los Angeles previously, Steve Young would actually have to tell his teammates to be quiet in the huddle, since the stadium was so silent that the opposing team could hear what they were saying. It's no surprise the Rams were 3-5 at home in 2017 while being 7-1 on the road. They were 8-1 as hosts in 2018, but failed to cover the spread in most of their home games. Last year, they were a mere 4-3 as hosts. In a crumbling city comprised of heavy traffic, high taxes, countless homeless people, diseases from the 1800s, and insufferable celebrities who think they know what's best for everyone else, there aren't many people who care about professional football.
Greg Zuerlein is one of the best kickers in the NFL, but he's no longer with the team after signing with Dallas. His replacement is seventh-round rookie Sam Sloman.
Johnny Hekker maintained the highest net-punting average at 44.2 in 2013, 43.7 in 2015 and 46.0 in 2016. He was second in 2017 and 2018, only behind Tennessee's Brett Kern (2017) and Thomas Morstead (2018). He finished seventh (42.4) in 2019.
The Rams were poor on special teams last year, being outgained on both punts and kickoff returns.
Los Angeles' schedule is difficult to start, as five of its first six opponents are the Cowboys, Eagles, Bills, upstart Giants and 49ers. This stretch doesn't even include battles against the Patriots and Buccaneers, a second tilt versus San Francisco and the two contests against Seattle.
2020 Los Angeles Rams Rookies:
Go here for the Rams Rookie Forecast
, a page with predictions like which rookie will bust and which rookie will become a solid starter.
2020 Los Angeles Rams Positional Rankings (1-5 stars):
2020 Los Angeles Rams Analysis:
The Rams were one of the most overrated teams in the NFL last year because casual fans and the media don't pay enough attention to offensive line play. Jared Goff's blocking was horrendous, and that should once again be the case in 2020. Making matters worse, the Rams lost Wade Phillips and some key defensive players, so an exposed Goff will be charged with scoring more points in increased shootouts. That's not going to happen, so there's a legitimate chance the Rams could finish with the worst record in the division this year.
5-11 (4th in NFC West)
2019 Projection: 9-7. 2019 Actual Result: 9-7.
2018 Projection: 9-7. 2018 Actual Result: 13-3.
2017 Projection: 3-13. 2017 Actual Result: 11-5.
2016 Projection: 3-13. 2016 Actual Result: 4-12.
NFL Draft Team Grade: C- Grade
Goals Entering the 2020 NFL Draft: The Rams' dire cap situation prevented them from bolstering their offensive line, which was a dire issue for them last year. They don't have a first-round pick, but three of their four selections on Day 2 could be used to help this area. The Rams also must find a new running back to replace the departed Todd Gurley.
2020 NFL Draft Accomplishments: I argued that the Rams should spend three day-two picks on offensive linemen if they wanted to return to prominence. Instead, they didn't even touch the blocking unit until their very last selection, No. 250 overall. It's not like there weren't any good blockers available, so Los Angeles completely failed in their objective to revamp the roster as a result.
This team grade won't earn an "F," however, because the Rams obtained some nice prospects. I liked the Cam Akers pick, as he figures to be a viable replacement for Todd Gurley. Terrell Lewis was a steal in the third frame, and he should be able to replace Dante Fowler quite well. Jordan Fuller and Clay Johnston were nice bargains on Day 3.
Overall, however, the Rams didn't do enough to ensure a bounce-back 2020 campaign. The offensive line was the primary reason why the Rams were so good in 2017 and 2018, but it doesn't seem like they understand that. Instead, Jared Goff will continue to regress behind a poor blocking unit.
NFL Draft Individual Grades:
52. Cam Akers, RB, Florida State - A Grade
The Rams had to get rid of Todd Gurley and his arthritic knees this offseason because of his absurd contract. They also had to replace him. I didn't know if one of the second-round running backs would get to them, but a couple did. The Rams are making a great pick with Akers here, as he should be a major upgrade over the other runners Los Angeles has on its roster at the moment.
57. Van Jefferson, WR, Florida - B- Grade
The Rams used the pick they acquired in the Brandin Cooks trade on another receiver. Van Jefferson projects as a solid replacement for Cooks, as he's a great route runner. I don't think he was quite good enough to crack the second round, but I'm OK with this selection.
84. Terrell Lewis, DE/OLB, Alabama - A Grade
Terrell Lewis would've been a first-round pick if it weren't for his countless injuries. In fact, we had Lewis in the first round of our mock draft once upon a time, as high as No. 18 to Baltimore at one point. This is a gamble for sure, but isn't every pick pretty much the same thing? I love this swing for the fences by the Rams, who really needed to improve their pass rush with Dante Fowler gone.
104. Terrell Burgess, CB/S, Utah - B- Grade
This pick doesn't really fill a need, but the range makes sense at least. Terrell Burgess is a solid third-round prospect who can play multiple spots in the secondary. It'll be interesting to see where the Rams use him.
136. Brycen Hopkins, TE, Purdue - B- Grade
I wonder if this will spell the end for Gerald Everett. Brycen Hopkins is an athletic, pass-catching tight end who could contribute to the offense in the near future. I had him in this range at times in my mock.
199. Jordan Fuller, S, Ohio State - B+ Grade
The Rams needed a backup safety, and Jordan Fuller is a fine option in the sixth round. He's a tough player, but his instincts need to improve. Still, he has potential, so he's a decent selection.
234. Clay Johnston, LB, Baylor - A- Grade
Clay Johnston is another player who dropped because of numerous injuries. The Rams needed a linebacker in the wake of Corey Littleton's departure, and Johnston could eventually step in and contribute if he can remain healthy.
248. Sam Sloman, K, Miami of Ohio - C- Grade
The Rams needed a kicker, but there was a better kicker available. Not good.
250. Tremayne Anchrum, OT/G, Clemson - B+ Grade
Tremayne Anchrum played at tackle at Clemson, but he'll likely have to move inside in the NFL. Anchrum plays with good technique, but the athleticism is rather lacking. Still, he might be able to latch on with the Rams because of his good technique.
The Rams were one victory away from making the playoffs. They ended up missing the postseason, mainly because their offensive line was far worse this past season than it was in 2018.
Texans acquire WR Brandin Cooks from Rams
Rams cut DE/OLB Clay Matthews
Rams cut RB Todd Gurley
Rams sign DT A'Shawn Robinson
Rams sign DE/OLB Leonard Floyd
- Center: The Rams must improve their offensive line. Their poor blocking was the catalyst for their decline this past season.
- Guard: David Edwards showed some promise, but the Rams have nothing else at guard.
- Offensive Tackle: Andrew Whitworth did a great job for the Rams for several seasons, but he declined a bit in 2019. Turning 39 in December, Whitworth will have to be replaced. Re-signed Andrew Whitworth
- Safety: Eric Weddle was a disappointment in his first year in Los Angeles. The Rams reportedly weren't pleased with his play, and he just retired anyway.
- Running Back: The Rams have cut Todd Gurley.
- Edge Rusher: Dante Fowler played very well this past season, logging 11.5 sacks. However, he's set to hit free agency, so he'll need to be re-signed or replaced. Signed Leonard Floyd
- Defensive Tackle: Michael Brockers is another key front-seven player who is set to hit free agency. Re-signed Michael Brockers; signed A'Shawn Robinson
- Inside Linebacker: Make it a third important front-seven talent whose contract is set to expire. Cory Littleton will be missed if he departs.
- Kicker: Greg Zuerlein is an impending free agent. He struggled in 2019, but he's likely to rebound.
Follow me @walterfootball for updates.
2020 NFL Free Agent Signings:
A'Shawn Robinson, DT, Lions. Age: 25.
Signed with Rams (2 years, $17 million)
A'Shawn Robinson played well in 2018, but took a step backward this past season. Robinson had been dealing with a knee issue entering the year and ended up missing a handful of games, so his 2019 decline can be attributed to him being banged up.
Leonard Floyd, DE/OLB, Bears. Age: 27.
Signed with Rams (1 year, $10 million)
Leonard Floyd failed to live up to his first-round billing. He notched seven sacks as a rookie, but he's seen that number regress each year from 4.5, to four, to three. He failed to capitalize off the attention Khalil Mack draws. Floyd could turn out to be a late bloomer, but time will run out soon.
Los Angeles Rams Free Agents:
Salary Cap: TBA.
Cory Littleton, LB, Rams. Age: 26.
Signed with Raiders (3 years, $36 million)
Cory Littleton has transformed from a special-teams standout to a stellar linebacker. Littleton is spectacular in coverage and holds up well against the run.
Dante Fowler, DE/OLB, Rams. Age: 26.
Signed with Falcons (3 years)
Dante Fowler signed a 1-year "prove it" deal last offseason. He certainly proved himself by racking up 11.5 sacks. Just 26 in August, Fowler has finally blossomed into the player the Jaguars thought they were getting with the third-overall pick in the 2015 NFL Draft.
Greg Zuerlein, K, Rams. Age: 32.
Signed with Cowboys (3 years, $7.5 million)
Greg "The Leg" Zuerlein is coming off a down year, but he's been a spectacular kicker otherwise. He should bounce back in 2020.
Michael Brockers, DT, Rams. Age: 29.
Re-signed with Rams (3 years, $31.5 million)
Michael Brockers is a monstrous force against the run, and he can get to the quarterback on occasion. He'll turn 30 in December.
Todd Gurley, RB, Rams. Age: 26.
Signed with Falcons (1 year, $5 million)
Todd Gurley's contract was so bad that the Rams took $23 million in dead money to get rid of him in order to avoid paying a $10.5 million roster bonus. Gurley was once seen as one of the top running backs in the NFL, but things have changed drastically over the past 16 or so months. Gurley has degenerative, arthritic knees, so he won't improve. He can play very well when handling the ball, but he can't be asked to shoulder a full workload. Gurley would be a great member of a running back committee, as he can still plunge into the end zone and catch passes well.
Andrew Whitworth, OT, Rams. Age: 38.
Re-signed with Rams (3 years)
Andrew Whitworth still played very well this past season, but he suffered through some regression because of his age. Turning 39 in December, Whitworth will continue to decline.
Clay Matthews, DE/OLB, Rams. Age: 34.
Clay Matthews' career looked like it was over in 2018, but he signed with the Rams and played better than expected. Thanks to Wade Phillips' great coaching, Matthews was able to log eight sacks. He could rapidly regress, however, given that he'll turn 34 in May.
- Austin Blythe, G, Rams. Age: 28. -- Re-signed with Rams (1 year)
- Marqui Christian, S, Rams. Age: 25. -- Signed with Jets
- JJo Natson (RFA), WR, Rams. Age: 26.
- Morgan Fox (RFA), DT, Rams. Age: 25.
- Bryce Hager, LB, Rams. Age: 28.
- Mike Thomas, WR, Rams. Age: 26. -- Signed with Bengals
NFL Free Agent Tracker:
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