Don’t expect much action from the Los Angeles Rams when the 2020 NFL draft begins Thursday. The trade for cornerback Jalen Ramsey in October made it likely that for the fourth consecutive year, the Rams and general manager Les Snead will not make a first-round selection.
But this year the Rams do own seven picks, including two in the second round (No. 52 and No. 57) and two in the third round (No. 84 and No. 104).
They solved some issues in free agency — mostly on the defensive line — with the return of Michael Brockers, who initially agreed to terms with the Baltimore Ravens before re-signing in L.A. The Rams also agreed to terms with tackle A’Shawn Robinson and outside linebacker Leonard Floyd, though the team has yet to announce that either player has signed.
But several position groups remain in need of reinforcements, or perhaps even starting-caliber talent.
Here’s a look at several needs the Rams are expected to address in the draft.
Whitworth is 38 years old, however, and even though he signed a new three-year, $30 million deal, it’s uncertain how much longer he can play.
Joe Noteboom, a third-round pick in 2018 who was sidelined last year because of a season-ending knee injury, and Bobby Evans, a 2019 third-round pick, are internal candidates to eventually replace Whitworth, but Snead said the draft could also provide options.
“We would always probably ideally like to take a tackle and train that player at guard to not only give him versatility but an element of slightly more athleticism inside, but that doesn’t always necessarily work,” Snead said.
Gurley is gone, leaving a gaping hole in the Rams’ backfield.
But it’s also likely that the Rams will look to supplement the group through the draft as they potentially move toward a running-back-by-committee approach.
“It has been proven that many names, Hall of Famers, have come from the middle to the back of the draft and there’s obviously some really, really good names that come early in the draft,” said Snead of the running back position. “So I think like every position, maybe the spectrum of talent is a little different from a player drafted in the first round, second round versus the fourth, but with the running game it does require things other than talent, that you can be successful having maybe a lesser level of talent running the football, the key being figuring out how we want to run the ball, right?”
But now Cooks is gone, having been traded to the Houston Texans in exchange for a second-round pick, and depth is thin in 2020 and looking ahead to 2021.
Reynolds and Cooks are entering the final season of their rookie contracts, and there are no proven reinforcements on the roster.
The Rams’ passing game is likely to evolve this season to include more from tight ends Tyler Higbee and Gerald Everett, but in a draft rich with receiver talent, the Rams should look to find young, inexpensive players.
“I don’t think you can have enough guys that can rush the passer on defense,” Rams coach Sean McVay said earlier this month.
The Rams have expressed confidence in the young group but also have acknowledged that they lack experience and that reinforcements will be sought in the draft.
“Internally we have, let’s call it, solid to good to high hopes for this group and we got to do our best to develop them,” Snead said. “But also look in the draft to say, ‘Hey, can we add a complementary piece to go with the group?’”
“When you most likely lose your third safety, a guy that’s been a major contributor in a variety of ways, in Marqui Christian, you’re saying, ‘OK, what do you want to do to try to improve the depth behind John Johnson, behind Taylor Rapp?'” McVay said. “You look at, with Eric having retired, I think those are things that we’re looking to upgrade overall.”