Los Angeles Rams Rookies Forecast

By Charlie Campbell – @draftcampbell

Solid Starter

Pharoh Cooper, WR, South Carolina – Round 4
The Rams traded away their second-day picks to move up from No. 15 to No. 1 overall, so the team was very fortunate to land Cooper in Round 4. All projections had Cooper being a second-day pick, so it was surprising to see him slip to the fourth frame. Los Angeles was fortunate to land him there, and it wouldn’t be surprising if he develops into a solid starter before the end of his rookie contract.

The Rams are in serious need at wide receiver. They have used a lot of picks on the position in recent years, but have yet to get results. Brian Quick hasn’t panned out, and Tavon Austin is just a role player. Kenny Britt also is aging and not as effective as he once was. Thus, Los Angeles is in need of some receivers to emerge as talent for Jared Goff.

Cooper (5-11, 203) is a quick receiver and very dangerous with the ball in his hands. He could be limited to the slot in the NFL, so in the short term, he might only be Austin’s backup. The Rams have been trying to make the Austin pick work out, but over his three seasons, he has been a serious disappointment as a top-10 pick. Thus, it wouldn’t surprise me if Cooper replaces him as a starter for Los Angeles in a year or two.

Most Likely To Bust

Jared Goff, QB, California – Round 1
I know numerous scouts and directors from around the NFL that just don’t buy Jared Goff as a No. 1-overall talent. One scouting director of a team that recently landed a young franchise quarterback told me that they felt that Jared Goff was “fool’s gold” as a prospect. He can look good, but isn’t a genuine franchise quarterback. I think there are a few problems that could lead to Goff being a bust. You could make the argument that the last No. 1-overall pick to be a bust was the Rams’ selection of Sam Bradford, and I think Goff could be the next highly drafted quarterback who is a bust in the NFL.

The Rams have some roster issues and will lack draft picks to help build around Goff because of how expensive it was to trade up for him. The offensive line is built to run block and had issues in pass protection last year. Left tackle Greg Robinson, the second-overall pick in the 2014 NFL Draft, has been a huge disappointment with a lot of poor play and has hurt his team with a massive amount of holding penalties last season. Goff (6-4, 215) is a small-framed quarterback, and I’m not sure he can take the pounding that the Seahawks, Cardinals and 49ers are going to put on him over their six division matchups per year. A number of sources also feel that Goff’s arm strength is barely above average and his physical skill set is not special for the NFL.

At California, Goff’s numbers were inflated by a gimmick college offense that won’t translate to the NFL. He had receivers running wide open and a lot of instant throws to the flat. The Rams also don’t have much talent at wide receiver, so Goff won’t have a true No. 1 wideout to work with. Transitioning to a pro-style offense with pedestrian receivers could make for a rough rookie year for Goff.

On top of all of that, the Rams are going through the relocation to Los Angeles with practices and training camp at a variety of places. The transition for the franchise is going to be a hinderance and distraction throughout 2016.

The one thing that Goff has going for him is Todd Gurley. Gurley was phenomenal as a rookie, and as soon as this season, he could be among the very best running backs in the NFL. Still, defenses will be selling out to stop Gurley and daring Goff to beat them. I think Goff could be in store for a rough rookie year that gets his career started off on the wrong foot and leads to him eventually being a bust. I think there is serious potential that Goff will be the next No. 1-overall pick to be a huge bust.

Potential Boom Pick

Mike Thomas, WR, Southern Miss – Round 6
It is very rare that I choose a late-round selection for a potential boom pick, but I have a feeling that Thomas could be a late-round gem like Marques Colston. Thomas was a sleeper receiver who a lot of teams really liked. With his skill set, I wouldn’t be surprised if he quickly ascends the Rams’ depth chart and is earning significant playing time quickly in the NFL.

Another reason why I think Thomas could be a boom pick is because the Rams are in serious need at wide receiver. They have invested a number of picks on the position, but have yet to get results – as noted above. Brian Quick hasn’t panned out, and Tavon Austin is just a role player. Kenny Britt also is aging and not as effective as he once was. Thus, Los Angeles is in need of some receivers to emerge as talent for Jared Goff.

Thomas had great tape from his senior year when he totaled 71 receptions for 1,391 yards with 14 touchdowns. At 6-foot-1, 200 pounds, he has some size and showed some speed at the combine as well. I think if Thomas can learn the playbook, he could pass Quick and Britt quickly as he offers more play-making potential. It wouldn’t surprise me if Thomas ends up being a late-round steal and boom pick for Los Angeles.

Future Depth Player

Josh Forrest, LB, Kentucky – Round 6
Forrest (6-3, 249) was a downhill thumper linebacker in the SEC last season. The 6-foot-3, 249-pounder showed more quickness and pass-coverage skills than one would think at the Senior Bowl. However, he is more of a backup linebacker because of being short on speed and athleticism for pass coverage in the NFL. Still, I think that Forrest could be a good role player as a backup and special teams contributor.

Walt’s 2016 NFL Draft Grades:

1. Jared Goff: C- Grade
I’ve already given the Rams a “D” for moving up to the No. 1 pick in my NFL Draft Trade Grades page, and part of this mark has to take the deal into account. Los Angeles was desperate for a quarterback, but didn’t need to panic like this. There will be better quarterback prospects next year – check my 2017 NFL Mock Draft – and 2018 as well, with Josh Rosen set to declare. Rosen and Deshaun Watson are superior prospects – at least at the moment – compared to Jared Goff, who might not even be the top signal-caller in this class.

Goff is a rail-thin quarterback coming out of a goofy spread offense. He had a losing record in college, and his completion percentage wasn’t great. These are all red flags, and it’s baffling that the Rams are ignoring them. The Rams actually liked Carson Wentz more in between the Senior Bowl and Combine, so I don’t know what changed for them. Whatever it is, I don’t agree with it, and our contacts around the NFL feel the same way. For example, one successful offensive coach on a team that doesn’t need a quarterback was completely baffled by Los Angeles’ preference, indicating that Wentz was the easy pick of the two.

I think a C- grade is appropriate for the first-overall choice in the 2016 NFL Draft. This looks to be a bad pick, and the Rams surrendered way too much for it, but I can at least understand why they’re taking a quarterback at this selection.

Follow @walterfootball for updates.

110. Tyler Higbee, TE, Western Kentucky: C- Grade
Wow. I did not think Tyler Higbee would be drafted. Higbee, in terms of a pure football player, would’ve been chosen in the second round if there were no other factors involved. However, the issue is that Higbee has both a knee injury and serious character issues. Higbee is a recidivist; he has gotten into trouble countless times, most recently being arrested for assault. He also fled from police. The Rams have taken chances on players with character concerns before, and it has worked out. Perhaps this will as well, but there were teams that didn’t have Higbee on their board, so why risk it this early with so few selections? I was tempted to give this a “Jerrah” (for Jerry Jones), but there’s a chance this could pan out.

117. Pharoh Cooper, WR, South Carolina: B+ Grade
Pharoh Cooper was once considered a second-round prospect, but his stock sunk because of some horrible testing numbers at the Combine. He was a good football player at South Carolina, however, and at the very least, he’ll be a solid a return specialist. The Rams needed more weapons on offense, and this seems like a quality pick.

177. Temarrick Hemingway, TE, South Carolina State: B Grade
It makes sense for the Rams to draft a second tight end, just in case Tyler Higbee can’t stay out of trouble. Based on Higbee’s off-the-field issues, perhaps Los Angeles should’ve just selected Termarrick Hemingway. The South Carolina State product has a ton of upside, thanks to his great athleticism. He’s a project, but he could evolve into a solid weapon for Jared Goff.

190. Josh Forrest, ILB, Kentucky: B Grade
Josh Forrest looks to be a viable backup and special-teamer in the NFL, which is something the Rams needed. Forrest was a solid player at Kentucky after switching positions (former receiver), but he tested extremely poorly at the Combine. There’s nothing wrong with taking someone who could be a capable reserve in the sixth round.

206. Mike Thomas, WR, Southern Miss: A Grade
One team whose sources we trust told us that they were going to consider Mike Thomas as early as the fourth round. I suppose better players fell to them, but the fact remains that Thomas provides great value here toward the end of the sixth round. I like this pick a lot, and it wouldn’t surprise me if Thomas contributed sooner rather than later. His great route-running will help, as will the fact that Los Angeles doesn’t have the best receiving corps.

2016 NFL Draft Team Grade: C- . Follow Walter @walterfootball for updates.

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