Rams’ next man up mentality and draft options

We have entered the month of April and for football fans that just means the season is that much closer. The 2021 NFL Draft will commence on April 29 in Cleveland, Ohio. For the Rams, their additions of young talent will not start until day two – unless of course, they trade up for a pick or two in the first round – with their first of six picks starting at number 57.

The Rams offseason featured many of its role players depart while the team has done little to fill the voids. The depth of the Rams (especially on the defensive side of the ball) is not as bad a shape as most people think but of course, the team is aware of the process it will take to truly embrace the next-man-up mentality and develop backups into starters.

“I don’t think you would ever look at it (like a setback),” Sean McVay said during a March 19 video conference. “You’ve always got to have contingency plans in place.”

Los Angeles Rams head coach Sean McVay on the sidelines during the 2020 NFL season. Photo credit: Los Angeles Rams

With the departure of key contributors on the defensive line in Michael Brockers (defensive lineman), Samson Ebukam (edge), and Morgan Fox (defensive lineman), names like A’Shawn Robinson (DT) and Sebastian Joseph-Day (NT) are expected to have larger roles once the new season begins. Both have shown when they hit the field how good they can be next to Aaron Donald (both combining for 67 tackles in 16 games last season).

“(Robinson) had some situations and we’re excited about the development for him,” McVay said. “I think Sebastian Joseph-Day is a guy that continues to show why he is a special interior player and those are the guys that are going to be asked to step up.”

On the defensive back side of things, the Rams are fortunate to still have several familiar faces for reinforcements which include Darious Williams, Taylor Rapp and Jordan Fuller who all played a significant chunk of games and produced many a times last season. For David Long Jr. and Terrell Burgess (who mainly contributed on the special teams side of the ball), the loss of John Johnson III and Troy Hill opens up the opportunity to become a dual threat defensive player.

“You look at Darious Williams, he’s done an outstanding job that you tender him as a one, which is what we felt like his worth was to us,” McVay said. “You’re going to ask some guys like David Long (Jr.) to really step up, when you lose a Troy Hill. You invest in the safety position the last couple of years with Taylor Rapp, Terrell Burgess, we saw what Jordan Fuller was able to do. Those are three guys that we’re very excited about.”

The Los Angeles Rams hope to fill the loss of key defensive players in the offseason through the 2021 NFL Draft. Photo credit: Los Angeles Rams

The biggest concerns for the Rams heading into the draft will be looking to find starters at outside linebacker (OLB), center (C), and inside linebacker (ILB). With many mock drafts and predictions out in the football media world, here are a few names the Rams should target to fill the biggest needs:

Texas OLB Joseph Ossai

The Rams need the extra pass-rush help despite the re-signing of Leonard Floyd and Ossai could be that potential missing piece come draft time. He is a fringe first-round prospect and there is a chance the Rams won’t even be able to pick him at number 57, but should he be available, they shouldn’t miss the opportunity to sign him. In the last two seasons as a Longhorn, Ossai had 29 tackles for loss and 10.5 sacks. Add on his 6’4”, 253 lb stature on top of his athleticism and you’ve got yourself a top, young edge rusher.

Kentucky ILB Jamin Davis

Davis has been the pick for the Rams in several mock drafts when the team picks in the third round (possibly a good sign for things to come?). While inexperienced, having only played in just 25 college games, Davis did have 144 total tackles (102 of which came in 2020) and offers a massive size, standing 6’3”, 234 lbs. His statement performance at his pro day workout helped improve his draft stock (4.37s 40-yard dash, 42” vertical jump and 11’ broad jump) and if the Rams are fortunate to have him available at pick 57 or even later, Davis could be that sleeper.

Wisconsin-Whitewater OL Quinn Meinerz

With the loss of center Austin Blythe to his free agent signing with the Kansas City Chiefs, the Rams are without an experienced center. Season after season the Rams offensive line has always been the soft spot and a big reason why the Rams would lose close games. The lack of protection for, then Rams quarterback Jared Goff, was evident. The ball would be snapped and as it hit Goff’s hands, he was either sacked or rushing out of the pocket. Last season saw some improvements and protection, but it wasn’t enough to feel like they have it figured out now. This draft offers a unique possibility for the Rams to take with their later round picks, should he still be available.

Wisconsin-Whitewater’s Quinn Meinerz has made recent headlines after his performance in the Senior Bowl practices (he did not play in the game itself) and at his combine. While the Division III prospect did not play at all last season due to cancellations caused by Covid-19, Meinerz made an impact on NFL analyst Lance Zierlein, who believes Meinerz has to the potential to be a starter within his first two seasons in the league. This is what Zierlein had to say in his overview of Meinerz:

“The darling of this year’s Senior Bowl, Meinerz has broken through and onto NFL draft boards despite moving up from Division III and having no 2020 tape. He flashed at times in 2019, but his tape was nothing like what we saw against upgraded competition across from him. His hands have improved greatly, and his movement appears to be much more efficient and powerful. The step up to NFL competition will require an adjustment period as a full-time move to center likely awaits him.”