By all accounts, the 2017 Los Angeles Rams beat expectations going into the season. Sean McVay was a rookie HC at age 31. The roster, especially on offense, was in shambles. It seemed like true contention was perhaps years away. The organization was able to assemble a veteran coaching staff around the venerable McVay on both sides of the ball, and the results were tremendous. They won 11 games and the NFCW in the process.. Despite a disappointing first round exit in the playoffs, the Rams were not content to sit on the past year’s accomplishments. A flurry of trades brought in some new faces, and swept some long time players away. Tavon Austin was traded to Dallas, Alec Ogletree to the New York Giants, and Robert Quinn to Miami. Trumaine Johnson also left in free agency after receiving the franchise tag two consecutive years.
Notable FA/Trade Additions:
Ndamukong Suh, DT
Sam Shields, CB
Aqib Talib, CB (Trade from Denver) 2018 5th round pick
Marcus Peters, CB (Trade from KC) 2018 4th round pick
Brandin Cooks WR (Trade from NE) 2018 1st round pick
The departure of Trumaine Johnson in free agency left a void at corner-back for the Rams defense. In light of this, the Rams made moves for Marcus Peters and Aqib Talib on the trade market. In doing so, they were able to form what should be a top 3 CB tandem. The re-signing nickel-back Nickell Robey-Coleman will relegate FA Sam Shields to 4th on the depth chart. He is seen as someone who could fill in for either starter on the outside in spot duty. Brandin Cooks is intended to replace what Sammy Watkins brought to the Rams offense as far as having a deep threat is concerned. Watkins occasionally delivered on big plays, but he also had a knack for vanishing at times. Cooks is seen as a more consistent player, and so far has garnered rave reviews from the Rams coaching staff. Ndamukong Suh is expected to start on the D line, which should form one of the most formidable defensive lines in the league.
Rams 2018 Draft Class:
Round 3 Pick 25 – OT/OG Joseph Notebroom
Round 4 Pick 11 – C Brian Allen
Round 4 Pick 35 – DE John Franklin
Round 5 Pick 10 – ILB Micah Kaiser
Round 6 Pick 2 – RB John Kelly
Round 6 Pick 18 – T Jamil Denby
Round 6 Pick 21 – DT Sebastian Joseph
Roung 6 Pick 31 – LB Trevon Young
Round 7 Pick 13 – Travin Howard
Round 7 Pick 26 – DE Justin Lawler
While the Rams did not have any picks in the 1st or 2nd round due to trades, they did have a glut of picks later in the draft – round 6 in particular. Their highest draft pick, Joseph Noteboom, is seen as a potential replacement for either tackle Andrew Whitworth or Rob Havenstein. Whitworth is 36, and Havenstein is in a contract year. Notebroom is also a player who is versatile enough to play inside, and has been at camp due to the 2 game suspension of starting RG Jamon Brown. C Brian Allen could be a potential down the road replacement for C John Sullivan. All in all, this draft class was geared towards providing roster depth across the board. Draft grades for the class were essentially average in general with no real big name players falling to the Rams.
The Rams turnaround in 2017 was of historic proportions. While the previous regime under Jeff Fisher did provide some good acquisitions, more often than not they were held back by a myriad of problems stemming from Fisher’s archaic coaching style. 2nd year QB Jared Goff was widely and prematurely slammed as a draft bust, however with McVay’s coaching he performed at a top 10 level. With what should be a top 3 offense coupled with a defense in year 2 under Wade Phillips, the Rams on paper should be a team that can push for a Superbowl berth. The issue will be containing the personalities on defense, which fortunately is something that Wade Phillips has a reputation for being able to handle. Brandin Cooks should be a better fit for McVay’s offense than Watkins was. Statistically, Cooks is the more consistent player and comes without the injury/personality baggage that Watkins has. While the draft itself probably won’t provide any superstars, the fact the Rams used their first round pick on acquiring Brandin Cooks is a pretty good deal. Cooks is 24 years old, which is almost a whole year younger than 2nd year Rams WR Cooper Kupp. With Todd Gurley and Aaron Donald coming off Player of the Year awards on their respective sides of the ball, anything short of a deep playoff run would be a disappointment.
Record Prediction: 12-4
Competition from other teams in the NFC West should provide to be meager at best. Arizona and Seattle are both probably a year or two away from contending. San Francisco is closer, but still lacks significant depth on the roster to contend for anything other than a 6 seed on paper. The Rams could have been 12-4 last year if not for resting starters in Week 17, so 12 wins this year sounds appropriate. A more difficult schedule is on tap, but the way the Rams roster looks heading into the season they should be able to defeat any opponent. Outside of the division, they should be able to compete for the 1 or 2 seed.