The Los Angeles Rams went into the 2021 NFL Draft with some notable voids to fill on both sides of the ball. While head coach Sean McVay and general manager Les Snead are optimistic their haul addressed the remaining needs on their roster, they still did not use a single pick on an offensive lineman.
The departure of center Austin Blythe in free agency this offseason left the Rams without a surefire option to anchor down the middle of this group. As a result, it had been deemed a top priority for McVay and Snead leading up to the draft.
L.A. instead opted to shore up some more firepower for the supporting cast around quarterback Matthew Stafford on offense. This leaves plenty of speculation regarding how the team plans on going about protecting him.
While the Rams certainly had their fair share of opportunities to bring in another lineman, they clearly felt there were more pressing needs on the roster. McVay noted that their decision to do so is indicative of the confidence they have in this current group under the tutelage of coach Kevin Carberry.
“Yeah, I think, what I would say is, what I think was an incredible blessing for our team a couple of years ago, that was really tough to go through is, you got a lot of young players some experience and you don’t want to be naive to the fact that, ‘Hey, you don’t want to just look at the upcoming season’, but you want to have a long-term perspective as well,” McVay said after the draft.
“But the way that the things shook out, 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. There are guys that we project as real NFL guys. Typically, you want to have 15, if you’re going to go on your 90-man roster, but I think it is a reflection of the confidence of the group that we do have in place and just kind of how things shook out. There were some different guys that were potentially going to be people that we were maybe going to select, but I think it worked out exactly how we had hoped. 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 (Offensive Line Coach) Kevin Carberry is going to do a great job leading that unit.”
Snead doubled down on McVay’s comments regarding the state of their contingency plans up front.
“I second Sean on that. I think we’ve been saying it a good bit and Sean mentioned it. I mean, we’ve got 11 guys who’ve played games that we won. That’s probably as deep a group that’s played as I’ve ever been a part of. So, give those guys credit and they’ve done a heck of a job. As Sean said, that unfortunate at times that we’ve had a lot of guys get a chance to play and they’ve grown together and they’re jelling together and like Sean said, in the draft, there’s times you’re looking at OL, maybe if you’re 15 spots away, but someone takes one. So, that’s just how the draft goes. But we did know this going into this draft, right? If we did take an OL, it would really be, I would say maybe a redshirt year. It’d be hard for an offensive lineman to be one of our eight (gameday OL) no matter how good you were coming into this group.”
McVay indicated that versatile lineman like Chandler Brewer will essentially be brought in as an alternate to draft picks.
“(OL) Chandler Brewer was our draft pick this year opting back in. A guy that we have a lot of excitement about that can play inside and outside. Chandler Brewer was the guy we added to the mix that wasn’t with us last year. There you go.”
Snead also revealed that the team’s addition of Iowa offensive lineman Alaric Jackson to the mix after going undrafted should help as well.
“This isn’t official yet, but I know we got a handshake agreement with a kid from Iowa, Alaric Jackson, who’s a very talented kid and because of the Big Ten, didn’t have as good a year, a little bit probably similar to, (OL) David Edwards types, where he didn’t have as good a year as the year before and he fell out of the draft. He was a kid that was down at the Senior Bowl, but he’s definitely got to make a team and contribute talent, so we’ll see if we can officialize that and go to work.”
It is evident that the Rams’ brass did their due diligence on fallback options in the event that they were deemed shorthanded up front. Rather than add a rookie to the mix straight out of college, they are optimistic in their ability to develop a talented prospect that may have been overlooked to begin their careers.
Tackles Andrew Whitworth and Rob Havenstein remain as staples at the edge of this line. It is on the inside where things start to get tricky with David Edwards, Austin Corbett looking to hold their spots over the likes of Joe Noteboom and Bobby Evans.
Meanwhile, Brian Allen and Coleman Shelton will be competing to take over the vacancy left by Blythe at center. Corbett could also be tasked with moving to the middle, despite his notable struggles at the position.
Although it remains to be seen if their confidence is well-warranted, McVay and Snead are surely aware of the risks involved with not being able to protect Stafford.