2023 NFL Offseason: Los Angeles Rams

Los Angeles Rams (Last Year: 5-12)

2023 NFL Season Preview:

Veteran Additions:
WR Demarcus Robinson.
Early Draft Picks:
G/C Steve Avila, DE/OLB Byron Young, DT Kobie Turner, QB Stetson Bennett, LB Nick Hampton, OT/G Warren McLendon, TE Davis Allen, WR Puka Nacua. Rams Rookie Forecast
Offseason Losses:
QB Baker Mayfield, WR Allen Robinson, G David Edwards, DT Greg Gaines, DT A’Shawn Robinson, DE/OLB Leonard Floyd, LB Bobby Wagner, CB Jalen Ramsey, CB Troy Hill, S Nick Scott, S David Long, K Matt Gay, P Riley Dixon.

2023 Los Angeles Rams Offense:
It’s almost difficult to believe that the Rams won the Super Bowl slightly more than a year ago. Given how poorly the 2022 season went, it almost seems like that occurred in another lifetime. The Rams’ disastrous 2022 campaign saw the team struggle to block and suffer injuries to nearly all the key players. As a result, the Rams finished with a dismal 5-12 record.

Matthew Stafford was one of the primary Rams to get hurt. He suffered an elbow injury early in the season and never was 100 percent. He then injured his neck in October. He tried to play through it, but was highly ineffective and was ultimately sidelined for the second half of the year. Sean McVay said there won’t be any limitations for Stafford going forward, but that’s rather difficult to believe, given Stafford’s extensive injury history.

Cooper Kupp also missed a huge chunk of the season. He suffered an ankle injury in Week 10, which was a deathblow to the offense. Not only is Kupp one of the top receivers in the NFL; he was also the lone, viable downfield target the Rams had last year. That wasn’t supposed to be the case because the team signed Allen Robinson, but he was a colossal bust. There was also Van Jefferson, but he didn’t take the field until Week 8 because of yet another injury. With Robinson traded to Pittsburgh, Jefferson will have to step up as the No. 2 receiver. Otherwise, Stafford will lean on solid tight end Tyler Higbee and a slew of pedestrian wideouts. Perhaps Puka Nacua, a fifth-round rookie, or preseason star Lance McCutcheon will be able to emerge as a threat.

The offensive line was ravaged by injuries as well. The Rams had a new combination of blockers each week, which was problematic because the initial setup had some major flaws stemming from the retirement of Andrew Whitworth. Replacement Joe Noteboom looked like a human turnstile at times last year. Rob Havenstein was at least a stable force at right tackle. Havenstein was an excellent blocker who somehow lasted the entire season.

Los Angeles shuffled interior linemen in and out of the lineup. Center Brian Allen played just six games, while David Edwards was on the field for just four contests. Edwards has signed with the Bills, and he has been replaced by second-round rookie Steve Avila, a versatile blocker who can play both guard and center. Coleman Shelton, who was a big liability last year, will join Allen and Avila in the interior.

The Rams were at least able to run the ball late in the season. They did this with Cam Akers, who finally seemed to overcome his injury problems. Akers finished with three 100-yard rushing performances in the final trio of games, so that should carry over into 2023.

2023 Los Angeles Rams Defense:
Matthew Stafford and Cooper Kupp weren’t the only perennial Pro Bowlers who missed extensive action for the Rams last year. Count Aaron Donald as part of that group as well. Donald suffered an ankle injury in Week 12 and never returned.

It goes without saying that Donald was sorely missed. Arguably the best defensive player in the NFL, Donald is capable of single-handedly dominating a game by what he does in the interior of the trenches. Donald’s presence is imperative for two reasons, with the first being that Los Angeles doesn’t have anyone else on the defensive line. Marquise Copeland, Jonah Williams, and Bobby Brown form a very underwhelming corps. Perhaps third-round rookie Kobie Turner can be an upgrade.

The second reason that the Rams absolutely need Donald to remain healthy is that Von Miller is no longer around. Miller signed with the Bills ahead of 2022, which was a huge blow to the Rams’ pass rush. Los Angeles hasn’t properly replaced Miller, only adding an edge rusher with the third-round pick in the 2023 NFL Draft. Perhaps this edge rusher, Byron Young, can have success right away, but the odds say otherwise. Aside from Young, the Rams’ primary edge players will be Michael Hoecht, as well as two third-day rookies: Nick Hampton and Ochaun Mathis. It’s safe to say that the Rams will generate no pressure on the quarterback if Donald were to get hurt again.

With some changes to the secondary, Donald will really need to dominate in order to preserve the pass defense. The Rams’ ability to cover has taken a hit in the wake of the Jalen Ramsey trade. With Ramsey in Miami, the Rams’ starting cornerbacks project to be Derion Kendrick and Cobie Durant. The latter performed well last year, but Kendrick was a huge liability. Los Angeles also has some young players at the position, including rookie Tre’Vius Hodges-Tomlinson, the cousin of LaDainian Tomlinson.

The Rams lost two other key players. One is safety Taylor Rapp, leaving the new starting duo to be Jordan Fuller, and one of Russ Yeast or Quentin Lake. Fuller is another player who barely saw action last year because of injury, so his return will be welcome. Yeast and Lake have barely played as late-round picks in the 2022 NFL Draft.

The other key Los Angeles player to depart was Bobby Wagner, who signed back with the Seahawks. Wagner played on a high level last year, so he’ll be missed. Wagner’s departure leaves the Rams’ linebacking corps with barely any experience. In fact, the only player with any is Ernest Jones, a third-round pick from the 2021 NFL Draft. Jones is a mediocre player who thrives versus the run, but struggles to cover. Otherwise, the Rams have some no-names at linebacker, including Christian Rozebom and Jake Hummel.

2023 Los Angeles Rams Schedule and Intangibles:
The Rams don’t have the best home-field advantage. They’re 32-19 as hosts since moving back to Los Angeles, but they’re 34-19 on the road during the same span. 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.

The Rams lost their talented kicker, Matt Gay, so their new kicker will be either Christopher Dunn or Tanner Brown. Both are undrafted free agent rookies.

Los Angeles will also have a rookie punter. Ethan Evans was actually drafted, albeit in the seventh round.

Los Angeles’ schedule is difficult to open the season, as four of the first five opponents – Seahawks, 49ers, Bengals, Eagles – all made the playoffs last year. There are some easier opponents after that, but the Rams could be buried in a quick hole.

2023 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.

2023 Los Angeles Rams Positional Rankings (1-5 stars):
Offensive Line
Running Backs
Defensive Line
Special Teams

2023 Los Angeles Rams Analysis: The Rams will welcome back Matthew Stafford, Cooper Kupp, Aaron Donald and some others from injury. They’ll be competitive as long as these perennial Pro Bowlers are healthy, but there’s so little quality depth on this team, so some injuries could quickly derail things and transform the 2023 Rams into one of the worst teams in the NFL.

Projection: 5-12 (3rd in NFC West)

2022 Projection: 11-6. 2022 Actual Result: 5-12.
2021 Projection: 12-5. 2021 Actual Result: 12-5.
2020 Projection: 5-11. 2020 Actual Result: 10-6.
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: B Grade

Goals Entering the 2023 NFL Draft: The Rams must upgrade their offensive line and pass rush. Both areas were incredibly weak last year. The Rams don’t have a first-round pick, but they still have three selections on Day 2.

2023 NFL Draft Accomplishments: The Rams’ front office agreed with my evaluation of their roster because they spent their first three selections on offensive linemen and pass rushers. I was a big fan of the Steve Avila and Byron Young picks. I did not feel nearly as optimistic about the Kobie Turner choice, however, as that was a major reach.

The Rams targeted other positions on Day 3. They found a potential franchise quarterback in Stetson Bennett and then acquired a versatile linebacker in Nick Hampton. They later drafted two late-round gems in Tre’Vius Hodges-Tomlinson and Zach Evans.

Considering that the Rams didn’t have a first-round pick, they did quite well. Aside from one horrible selection, they drafted solid prospects and filled needs.

NFL Draft Individual Grades:

36. Steve Avila, G/C, TCU – B+ Grade
If you watched the Rams at all last year, you know how dreadful their offensive line was. The poor blocking gave Matthew Stafford no chance, and then Stafford got hurt and missed the second half of the season. Steve Avila will be a nice boost up front, and he can play both center and guard, which will be very helpful for a team with numerous holes on the offensive line.

77. Byron Young, DE/OLB, Tennessee – A- Grade
The Rams really needed an edge rusher in the wake of Von Miller’s departure. They had no edge rush, so perhaps Byron Young will help. Young has a low floor, but he’s an explosive player with high upside.

89. Kobie Turner, DT, Wake Forest – MILLEN UNDERSIZED KIELBASA Grade
The Rams made fun of the Patriots for reaching last year. My, how the turntables have turned! Kobie Turner is a late-round prospect who is undersized. He should not have been chosen this early.

128. Stetson Bennett, QB, Georgia – A+ Grade
The Rams have their quarterback of the future, something they needed with Matthew Stafford old and injured. Stetson Bennett is a great leader with an underrated arm. He’s short, but that’s his only downfall. Sean McVay should be able to develop him very well.

161. Nick Hampton, LB, Appalachian State – B+ Grade
Nick Hampton is a versatile linebacker I had in the fourth round. The Rams needed a linebacker after losing Bobby Wagner, so perhaps Hampton can challenge for playing time right away.

174. Warren McClendon, OT/G, Georgia – C Grade
Warren McClendon is a limited athlete, so he may have to move to guard. However, he’s a versatile player and could fight for a starting spot in the interior of the Rams’ dreadful offensive line.

175. Davis Allen, TE, Clemson – B Grade
Davis Allen fell because of speed concerns, but he has nice receiving and blocking potential for the next level. The Rams needed another tight end, so Allen is a solid choice at thsi juncture.

177. Puka Nacua, WR, BYU – C- Grade
I didn’t have Puka Nacua as a draftable prospect. He has separation issues and isn’t a very good route runner. He also missed some time with an injury last year. Receiver was a need though.

182. Tre’Vius Hodges-Tomlinson, CB, TCU – A+ Grade
What great value! I thought Tre’Vius Hodges-Tomlinson could have potentially gone late on Day 2. He’s an extremely fast cornerback. He has size issues, but he’ll be able to play in the slot at the very least.

189. Ochaun Mathis, DE, Nebraska – C Grade
The Rams needed another pass rusher, but the player they chose is questionable. Ochaun Mathis regressed at his time in Nebraska, so he’ll need to be coached up to turn his football career around.

215. Zach Evans, RB, Ole Miss – A Grade
Zach Evans is undersized, but explosive. He can compete to be the Rams’ second running back. I like this pick, as Evans easily could have been drafted a couple of rounds earlier than this.

223. Ethan Evans, P, Wingate – B Grade
Wingate sounds like Boris College. We’re not sure if it’s real, but apparently it is.

234. Jason Taylor, S, Oklahoma State – B+ Grade
Jason Taylor was one of the top performers at the combine among the safeties, both in the workout numbers and on-field drills. Thus, I’m shocked he fell this far. The Rams won’t complain, as they had to find a replacement for Taylor Rapp. I like this value.

259. Desjuan Johnson, DT, Toledo – B- Grade
Desjuan Johnson is an explosive player, but he’s undersized and lacks length. There’s not much room for growth here from this year’s Mr. Irrelevant.

Season Summary:
Given how bad the Rams were in 2022, it’s easy to forget that they won the Super Bowl during the prior season. The Rams are now extremely far away from competing for a championship, so they have their work cut out for them.

Offseason Moves:
  • Rams sign WR Demarcus Robinson
  • Steelers acquire WR Allen Robinson from Rams for pick swap
  • Dolphins acquire CB Jalen Ramsey from Rams for TE Hunter Long, 3rd-round pick

    Team Needs:
    1. Left Tackle: Two major elements were missing from the team that won the Super Bowl. The first was Andrew Whitworth. The Rams struggled to protect Matthew Stafford’s blind side all year.

    2. Two Edge Rushers: The second element was Von Miller. He was sorely missed, and the Rams had one of the worst pressure rates in the NFL as a result.

    3. Two Guards: Going back to the offensive line, some major upgrades are needed in the interior to give Stafford a chance.

    4. Wide Receiver: A better No. 2 receiver is needed across from Cooper Kupp, as Allen Robinson can’t separate anymore.

    5. Two Cornerbacks: Troy Hill is an impending free agent, and he didn’t exactly play very well last year. Jalen Ramsey is also gone.

    6. Linebacker: The Rams finally had good play at linebacker, but they cut Bobby Wagner.

    7. Defensive Tackle: Los Angeles needs to find someone better to play next to Aaron Donald.

    8. Safety: Taylor Rapp is another impending free agent who will need to be replaced or re-signed.

    9. Running Back: Cam Akers was terrific to close out the year, but the Rams will want to bring in some competition for him, or at least behind him.

    10. Backup Quarterback: Stafford is returning, but the Rams will need a better backup if he gets hurt again.

    11. Kicker: Matt Gay had a phenomenal season, but his contract is expiring in March.

    12. Punter: Riley Dixon will be entering free agency as well.

      Follow me @walterfootball for updates.

    2023 NFL Free Agent Signings:
    1. Demarcus Robinson, WR, Ravens. Age: 28.
      Signed with Rams

      Demarcus Robinson was a surprise performer for the Ravens last year, doing well as a possession receiver once Rashod Bateman got hurt.

    Los Angeles Rams Free Agents:

    Salary Cap: TBA.
    1. Taylor Rapp, S, Rams. Age: 25.
      Signed with Bills

      Taylor Rapp is a terrific safety, especially when it comes to stopping the run. It feels like he’s been in the NFL forever, so it’s surprising that he’s only 25.

    2. Matt Gay, K, Rams. Age: 29.
      Signed with Colts (4 years, $22.5 million)

      Not much went right for the Rams in 2022, but Matt Gay’s kicking was an exception. Gay went 28-of-30, including 7-of-9 from 50-plus.

    3. Riley Dixon, P, Rams. Age: 30.
      Signed with Broncos

      Riley Dixon ranked third in punting last year.

    4. Bobby Wagner, LB, Rams. Age: 33.
      Signed with Seahawks (1 year)

      Bobby Wagner was a declining player in his final days in Seattle, but he revived his career with the Rams last year. He was cut to save some money, but he should still be able to perform on a high level for another season or two.

    5. Leonard Floyd, DE/OLB, Rams. Age: 30.
      Signed with Bills

      Leonard Floyd has 10.5, 9.5 and nine sacks in the past three seasons. Floyd has been a solid pass rusher, but he turns 31 in September.

    6. David Edwards, G, Rams. Age: 26.
      Signed with Bills (1 year)

      David Edwards was one of the linemen the Rams missed last year. He’s a talented guard, but has a sketchy concussion history.

    7. Troy Hill, CB, Rams. Age: 32.
      Troy Hill returned from his one-year hiatus with the Rams to perform well while on the field. However, Hill has missed five games in each of the past two seasons.

    8. Baker Mayfield, QB, Rams. Age: 28.
      Signed with Buccaneers (1 year)

      Baker Mayfield was one of the worst quarterbacks in the NFL while he was with the Panthers, but he improved under Sean McVay late in the season. Still, there’s not much hope for him to become a viable starting quarterback.

    9. Greg Gaines, DT, Rams. Age: 27. — Signed with Buccaneers
    10. Nick Scott, S, Rams. Age: 28. — Signed with Bengals (3 years, $12 million)
    11. A’Shawn Robinson, DT, Rams. Age: 28. — Signed with Giants
    12. David Long, S, Rams. Age: 25. — Signed with Raiders
    13. Oday Aboushi, G, Rams. Age: 32.
    14. Brandon Powell, WR, Rams. Age: 28. — Signed with Vikings
    15. Bryce Perkins, QB, Rams. Age: 26.
    16. Malcolm Brown, RB, Rams. Age: 30.

    NFL Free Agent Tracker:
    QB | RB | FB | WR | TE | OT | G | C | DE | DT | OLB | ILB | CB | S | K/P | FA Grades | FA Rumors

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