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By Fred Altieri
Sports Reporter 

Rams hope they made the right draft picks


George Laase

Rams draft pick Robert Rochelle.

On paper, the Los Angeles Rams got decent results without the benefit of a first-round pick during the 2021 NFL Draft in Cleveland. They were resourceful in gaining three additional picks in the last two days, leading to five defensive and four offensive selections. Including ten undrafted free agents signed on Saturday following the Draft, the Rams focused on replacing off-season free agency losses while reinforcing the NFL's top-ranked defense in 2020.

They also doubled down on their commitment to give incoming quarterback Matthew Stafford plenty of receiver options but raised a few eyebrows by not selecting a single offensive lineman. The team's first selection, Round 2 and 57th overall, was Louisville 5'9" 165 lb. wide receiver Tutu Atwell. "When the balls in my hands, I know what to do with it. I just need the ball in my hands, and I'll show you everything else. You've got my word," said an excited Atwell.

"We really wanted to add speed to our wide receiver corps... Tutu's one of the fastest, if not the fastest, player in the draft," said Rams general manager Les Snead. "We feel like, hey, he's going to add an element of explosiveness to our group and really open up things for us."

Head coach Sean McVay said, "I like the competitiveness of Tutu. I like everything that he stands for, the explosiveness, play-making ability. So, to be able to add another guy that can make plays in that room is a big-time get for us and being able to put players around Matthew was an important thing for us."

The Rams added 11 new defensive players of 19 total to their roster, including six of the ten undrafted free agent signees. It was a blanket coverage with one inside linebacker, defensive tackle, cornerback, defensive lineman, and outside linebacker each drafted. Three safeties, one outside linebacker, one defensive tackle, and one defensive back were among the free agent signings.

Ernest Jones, 6'2" 230 lbs. inside linebacker from South Carolina, was the Snead's and McVay's 103rd overall pick in Round 3. Jones said the Rams were on his mind all day before being selected. "I'm going to do deliver" said Jones. 'Whatever they tell me, the task they put in front of me, it's going to get handled on my end. I'm going to come in and work hard, learn what I need to learn so I can be productive for this team in every aspect."

The Rams selected Bobby Brown III, 6'3" 315 lbs. defensive tackle from Texas A&M 117th overall in Round 4. "That's one of my favorite players," said Brown, referring to now having a chance to learn from defensive tackle Aaron Donald, the 2020 NFL Defensive Player of the Year. "I don't even know how to feel. It feels like an out of body experience," he laughed. "I'm going to be a sponge as soon as I get there."

Robert Rochell, 6'0" 195 lbs. cornerback from Central Arkansas was the team's second of their three Round 4 picks and 130th overall. Rochell is looking forward to training with Rams All-Pro cornerback Jalen Ramsey. "He's a guy that I modeled my game after" said Rochell. "He's a guy that I love watching. He's a guy who I really look up to in ways of playing cornerback. "Same kind of body style, same type of attitude about football. He's a guy that I'm ready to get beside of and work and learn from."

The Rams semi-addressed one-sixth of the offensive frontline by choosing tight end Jacob Harris, 6'5" 219 lbs. out of the University of Central Florida. "The reaction was, once I got the phone call everyone just, TV went down," exclaimed Harris. "Everyone got silent. Once I was able to get off the phone and say I'm going to be a Ram, it was just ecstatic. The whole room just lit up,"

Earnest Brown IV, the 6'4" 273 lb. defensive lineman from Northwestern was chosen 174th overall in Round 5. Brown also referred to Aaron Donald. "I'm going to say this the whole day. "The happiest man alive. Y'all had, well now I can say we, we had the best defense the last year. I can just put some more on that as well and learn after some defensive linemen from the Rams. It's the best feeling in the world, especially Aaron Donald."

Jake Funk, 5'10" 204 lbs. from Maryland, the 233rd overall pick and the Rams' first of three picks in Round 7, was the only running back they selected. According to scouting reports, Funk is a solid runner and receiver out of the backfield who displays excellent field vision. The concerns are that Funk has a history of knee injuries and does not possess a lot of speed. "A lot of people counted me out, especially through the injuries," replied Funk. "I would just go back and tell myself that it was all worth it in the end. All the tears, all the worry, all the doubt, it was all worth it in the end."

The Rams selected 6'3" 210 lb. Notre Dame (via Northwestern) wide receiver Ben Skowronek 249th overall as an obvious possession receiver and special teams player. Skowronek has excellent hands, plays tall, runs solid routes but lacks speed.

"I love to get in there blocking. That's my favorite thing to do on the football field is hitting people," said Skowronek. "I think I have some of the best hands coming out in this year's draft. Strong hands, I catch everything and I'm also a high IQ player."

Outside linebacker Chris Garrett, 6'3" 243 lbs. out of Concordia College St. Paul, Minnesota, was the Rams final selection and 252nd overall. Garrett is considered a smart, explosive, and agile pass rusher who has excellent hands. Concerns are his size and strength and especially as a pass rusher in the NFL. "I wouldn't want to cap myself to just being a pass rusher, but obviously that's what got their attention and they told me that's what they're going to try to use me as," said Garret. "Coming from a small school, you can't really see much but my pass rush ability and I have a lot more in my arsenal.

George Laase

Rams draft pick Earnest Jones.

Baked into the Rams strategy was drafting players that could also help shore up the special teams, a phase that routinely suffered last season. "There's a couple of guys that we felt like their value to our special teams unit was a really big asset. That they can immediately boost the production of that group," said McVay. "Not really just in the kicking game, in general, not exclusive to our coverage units or our return units, but really being those core players."

McVay also addressed not drafting any offensive linemen. "We were able to really get players off the board that we all really had a good feel and a light for. And then, there's a lot of depth with the 11 players that we had in that offensive line room going into today, all of them have played meaningful games.

"I think it's a reflection of the confidence that we do have in the group that's played a lot of football and I know Kevin Carberry (Rams offensive line coach) is going to do a great job leading that unit."


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