NFL teams
Lindsey Thiry, ESPN 45d

Which Los Angeles Rams draftees are most likely to make immediate impact?

THOUSAND OAKS, Calif. -- Before the start of the 2021 NFL draft, Los Angeles Rams coach Sean McVay made his stance clear: the roster did not have any pressing, must-fill needs.

"We don't have any major glaring holes where it's like, 'Okay, you've got to address this position or else,'" McVay said. "We're not really asking anybody to feel like they have to come in and immediately start."

The Rams went into the draft with six picks, but three trades later, general manager Les Snead made nine selections. The Rams added four offensive players and five on defense.

"All of these guys provide tremendous value," McVay said. "They all love football and their skill sets are different, but I think they really fill out the rooms that they're going into."

On an offense that returns eight starters and a defense that lost several playmakers but still features three-time Defensive Player of the Year Aaron Donald and All-Pro cornerback Jalen Ramsey, which rookie can make a significant impact next season?

Without a first-round pick for a fifth consecutive year, the goal of the draft, according to McVay, was to provide depth, add talent for different personnel groupings and bolster special teams.

On offense the Rams added receivers Tutu Atwell (Louisville), Ben Skowronek (Notre Dame) and Jacob Harris (Central Florida) -- who is expected to switch to tight end -- along with running back Jake Funk (Maryland).

And on defense they picked inside linebacker Ernest Jones (South Carolina), cornerback Robert Rochell (Central Arkansas), defensive linemen Bobby Brown III (Texas A&M) and Earnest Brown IV (Northwestern) and outside linebacker Chris Garrett (Concordia-St. Paul).

"The way we did it, and like Sean had alluded to, we didn't have to have really any position," Snead said. "At least that's subjectively how we felt."

Coming off a 10-6 season and a divisional playoff loss to the Green Bay Packers, the Rams wasted little time making their biggest move of the offseason, trading quarterback Jared Goff to the Detroit Lions in exchange for quarterback Matthew Stafford in January.

During free agency, they re-signed pass rusher Leonard Floyd to a four-year, $64-million deal after he played last season on a one-year, prove-it contract and turned in a career-best season. And in a quest to make the offense more explosive, the Rams signed veteran receiver DeSean Jackson to a one-year, $4.5 million deal.

After the offense struggled to produce explosive plays down field last season, the Rams were seeking speedy playmakers to strengthen the unit and provide deep targets for Stafford.

The 5-foot-9, 155-pound Atwell possesses the speed and ability to stretch a defense and gives McVay plentiful options as a creative play designer.

"I like everything that he stands for," McVay said about the second-round pick. "The explosiveness, play-making ability."

In three seasons at Louisville, Atwell -- who ran a 4.32 40-yard dash at his pro day -- caught 139 passes for 2,303 yards and 20 touchdowns. He averaged 16.6 yards per catch.

However, Atwell joins a crowded position group in L.A. that includes Jackson, Robert Woods, Cooper Kupp and second-year pro Van Jefferson, who flashed during training camp last year but saw limited regular-season opportunities.

If Jackson -- who McVay is familiar with given previous seasons together in Washington -- remains healthy (a question that looms large after two consecutive injury-riddled seasons) it seems likely that McVay would utilize the veteran over Atwell.

Harris, who only began playing football as a senior in high school and was a receiver in college, Funk and Skowronek will compete for roles on special teams.

"[Harris] was probably our number one ranked special teamer, in terms of coverage," Snead said. “But he's a fast guy that we project could go to tight end and just an interesting weapon based on the special teams and things like that."

On defense, the Rams picked up much-needed reinforcements for first-year coordinator Raheem Morris following an offseason of departures that included losing linemen Michael Brockers and Morgan Fox, outside linebacker Samson Ebukam, cornerback Troy Hill and safety John Johnson III.

A third-round selection, Jones will compete in a linebacking corps that lacks depth and struggled to remain healthy last season. Micah Kiser and Kenny Young are expected to start, with Travin Howard, Troy Reeder and Jones providing reinforcements.

"He's just got that knack to go find the ball, avoid blockers," Snead said. "He's got some interesting traits where he's a longer-armed human being, so that allows him to blitz, use his hands to probably bat those longer tackles ..."

Bobby Brown III and Earnest Brown IV will provide depth in the absence of Brockers and Fox as they join a group that includes Donald, Sebastian Joseph-Day and A'Shawn Robinson.

"Earnest Brown, he's someone that can add versatility of maybe playing inside and also outside a little bit like Morgan Fox at times," Snead said.

Rochell, a fourth-round pick, joins a cemented cornerback duo in Ramsey and Darious Williams, but will compete with David Long Jr. in the slot.

The Rams did not select an offensive lineman despite losing center Austin Blythe in free agency, selecting only one linemen in both 2019 and 2020 and having three more on expiring contracts. They also did not opt to select a safety in the wake of Johnson's departure.

However, McVay expressed confidence that the players selected rounded out any roster needs.

"You look at each of them and there's a vision that we have for them and how they fit, how they provide value for a football team and that might be offensively or defensively," McVay said, adding later, "All of these guys provide value and depth."

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