With little draft capital and salary cap woes, getting back to the Super Bowl will be tough for Los Angeles

NFL Draft News

Going to the Super Bowl in consecutive years is incredibly difficult, unless your team is led by now-retired quarterback Tom Brady.

Winning two in a row? Even harder.

Take away the Brady-led New England Patriots and Tampa Bay Buccaneers, and only 12 other teams have won a Super Bowl. Only two of those teams went to the Super Bowl in consecutive years; none won consecutive titles.

The overall record of those non-Brady teams the year after winning the championship is 146-78. Two teams made it to the Big Game in consecutive years: Seattle and Kansas City. Both teams lost to Brady in the Super Bowl the following season. Six teams failed to make the playoffs the year after winning the Super Bowl.

In other words, just making the playoffs is no sure thing for the Los Angeles Rams, let alone winning it again next season.

First and foremost: Los Angeles must decide if coach Sean McVay will return. Same goes for All Pro defensive tackle Aaron Donald and All Pro offensive tackle Andrew Whitworth, both of whom are allegedly mulling retirement. Players like edge rusher Von Miller, guard Austin Corbett and receiver Odell Beckham Jr. will all be unrestricted – can the team afford to bring any of them back?

The problem is, the Rams are projected to be $17.8 million over the salary cap, the fourth-worst total in the league, according to Over The Cap.

And there’s not much Los Angeles can do in the draft, as trades have left the Rams with eight picks – most of which are in the sixth (three picks) and seventh (two picks) rounds. Los Angeles doesn’t have a draft pick in the first and second rounds.

Overall, the Rams are ranked last for offseason capital, according to ESPN, which takes into account the team’s number of draft picks and its salary cap situation.

Therefore, Los Angeles is going to need to hit on many of their picks in the upcoming draft, moreso than the Rams did this past draft. Los Angeles didn’t have a first-round pick in 2021, either, but had nine picks overall, including three in the fourth round and three in the seventh round.

Of that total, only three received significant playing time:

  • Round 3 (pick 103 overall): South Carolina LB Earnest Jones, 15 games, 7 starts, 61 tackles, 1 TFL, 1 sack in 581 snaps, including 440 on defense
  • Round 4 (pick 130): Central Arkansas CB Robert Rochell, 11 games, 5 starts, 14 tackles, 4 PDs, 1 INT, 272 snaps, including 234 on defense
  • Round 7 (pick 249): Notre Dame WR Ben Skowronek, 14 games, 1 start, 11 receptions for 133 yards, 378 snaps, including 178 on offense

The rest of Los Angeles’ rookies had little to no impact, as those three were the only ones to start at least one game. Three of the players didn’t register a statistic, while another one landed on the practice squad. Receiver Tutu Atwell, the team’s second-round pick out of Louisville – who was also the Rams’ highest pick – had no receptions in eight games and wound up missing more than half the season with a shoulder injury that required surgery.

With that said, it’s possible that Los Angeles comes away from the upcoming draft without a single full-time starter. That’s what happens when you don’t have a pick inside the top-100.

But the Rams can, at the very least, aim for a better draft class and maybe – maybe – come away with two or three players who start by either Year 2 or 3.

Here’s a look at three Day 3-type of players who fit the bill:

OT Rasheed Walker, Penn State

The 6-foot-6, 325-pound redshirt junior could benefit greatly if Whitworth returns; otherwise, handing the all-important left tackle job over to a third-round rookie sounds like a disaster in the making for a team trying to get back to the Super Bowl.

Walker entered this past season widely regarded as a potential first-rounder. That never materialized, though, as he had some rough patches, particularly early in the season.

From The Bleacher Report: “Overall, Walker’s blend of size, natural power and body control are special enough to suggest that he can start early in his NFL career despite a rudimentary toolkit and erratic technique. He will need to be coached hard and improve quickly to bridge the gap between his talent and current skill set, but his youth gives him the necessary runway to reach his considerable upside.”

Edge Christopher Allen, Alabama

You’re forgiven if you’ve already forgotten about the 6-foot-4, 242-pound outside linebacker, as the redshirt senior suffered a season-ending foot injury during a strip-sack against Miami in the team’s season opener against on Sept. 4. Reports say Allen’s rehab is going well – he even took light pregame drills before the Cotton Bowl game.

Either way, Allen’s medical evaluations will ultimately determine whether he’s drafted on Day 3 or at all.

Prior to that injury, though, Allen made second-team All-SEC honors after leading the conference in tackles for loss with 13 over 13 games. He also had 6 sacks, 5 QB hurries and two forced fumbles.

Outside linebacker could become an even bigger need if Miller leaves or retires.

CB Matt Hankins, Iowa

The 6-foot, 185-pound redshirt senior got off to a blazing start in 2021, picking off two passes in the season-opener. However, Hankins only had 1 INT the rest of the season.

His alleged lack of recovery speed and overall technique are among the reasons why Hankins might still be available on Day 3.

Still, it’s hard to ignore the success Iowa defensive backs have had in the NFL, including those drafted in the later rounds. Five Hawkeyes defensive backs have been drafted since 2017, including Desmond King (fifth round, 2017), Josh Jackson (second round, 2018), Amani Hooker (fourth round, 2019), Michael Ojemudia (third round, 2020) and Geno Stone (seventh round, 2020). King earned All-Pro honors in 2018, while Hooker, Ojemudia and Stone have had solid careers thus far. Jackson, though, is the lone disappointment, as he’s currently out of the league.

Either way, the odds are in Hankins favor. At the very least, he provides more depth at the cornerback position, which is currently manned by All-Pro Jalen Ramsey and Darious Williams, who went undrafted out of UAB in 2018. Williams finished this past season with 71 tackles and 9 passes defended but failed to record an interception after picking off six his first two seasons. Williams also played in 925 snaps on defense, sixth-most on the team.

Click here to see what Los Angeles might do in the upcoming draft!

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