Finding the Fits: Rams hoping Franklin-Myers can fill gaps

John Franklin-Myers is mostly expected to use his speed off the edge for the Rams.Stephen F. Austin Athletics

The defensive end also has seen time inside in camp

This is part of a series -- Finding the Fits -- in which will review the more intriguing picks made during the 2018 NFL Draft. The goal is to identify one relatively unheralded player per team who appears to be a good schematic fit and, therefore, more likely to be a surprise contributor early in his pro career.

L.A. Rams' best fit: John Franklin-Myers, DE, Stephen F. Austin, selected No. 135 overall (4th Round)

Even without the benefit of first- and second-round selections in the 2018 NFL Draft, perhaps no team added more talent over the offseason than the Los Angeles Rams.

With defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh and cornerbacks Aqib Talib and Marcus Peters, the Rams added three proven difference-makers with 12 combined Pro Bowl appearances. They joined a roster already boasting young superstars Todd Gurley, Aaron Donald and Jared Goff, with the team coming off an 11-5 record and NFC West divisional crown in head coach Sean McVay's first season.

While not earning the same fanfare, general manager Les Snead also brought in several other veterans expected to play important roles (if not start) in 2018, including speedy wideout Brandin Cooks, inside linebacker Ramik Wilson and former Green Bay Pro Bowl cornerback Sam Shields, who has been one of the pleasant surprises of early training camp after missing virtually all of the past two seasons due to injury.

The splashy additions have overshadowed turnover at various other positions, especially at linebacker, where defensive coordinator Wade Phillips must find replacements for past standouts Alec Ogletree (ILB), Robert Quinn (OLB/DE) and Connor Barwin (OLB).

That formidable task is not aided by the fact that Donald, the NFL's reigning Defensive Player of the Year, remains embroiled in a contract dispute that some believe could extend deep into the regular season and force a re-shuffling of the Rams' potentially dominant defensive line.

The Rams have several candidates to replace Ogletree in the starting lineup with Wilson, incumbent backup Bryce Hager and ultra-productive rookie Micah Kiser all contenders.

In Franklin-Myers, the Rams believe they may have discovered a diamond in the rough with the versatility to help fill gaps just about everywhere else.

With Franklin-Myers being the first player drafted out of Stephen F. Austin since 2011, you are forgiven if the name doesn't ring many bells.

The 6-foot-4, 283-pounder turned heads working under former Rams head coach Mike Martz at the NFLPA Collegiate Bowl. While playing a traditional 4-3 defensive end role, Franklin-Myers registered a game-high seven tackles, including a tackle for loss, QB hurry and pass breakup.

He followed that up by showing off his underrated overall athleticism at the Combine, registering a 33-inch vertical jump (sixth among DEs tested in Indianapolis this year) and a 4.75-second 40-yard dash. No defensive lineman weighing as much as Franklin-Myers ran faster in 2018.

Listed five pounds heavier on the Rams' official website, Franklin-Myers is expected to primarily line up as a five-technique defensive end in Phillips' beloved 3-4 alignment, projecting as part of a rotation with Ethan Westbrooks (6-4, 287) behind starter Michael Brockers (6-5, 307).

With Donald not in camp, however, Franklin-Myers has also seen time inside (where he played as a senior at Stephen F. Austin), reportedly earning first-team reps at times.

Prior to sliding inside, the 21-year old spent his first three seasons rushing up-field as a stand-up defensive end for the Lumberjacks, a role very similar to the one Phillips is looking for at outside linebacker.

The Rams have some intriguing candidates already in the fold at this position, including one of my favorite sleepers from a year ago, former Eastern Washington star Samson Ebukam, as well as undersized speed rushers like fellow rookie Ogbonnio Okoronkwo and second-year pro Ejuan Price.

None, however, possesses Franklin-Myers' size and power at the point of the attack, which historically Phillips has prioritized at the position.

McVay certainly sounds intrigued.

"Yeah, (Franklin-Myers) is really a guy throughout the whole offseason that he's shown the ability to move across the front," McVay said. "He's got a natural rush ability, he can really work edges on people. He's a bigger guy but he's got some fluidity in his hips and he knows how to use his length."

The Rams' stacked roster leaves little room for rookies to make a significant impact in 2018, but given the multiple roles in which he can help, Franklin-Myers certainly qualifies as an intriguing (if still relatively unknown) fit.

Other thoughts on the Rams' 2018 draft class:

Given the investments made in Todd Gurley and Jared Goff, the Rams' top picks of blockers Joseph Noteboom and Brian Allen make sense, though both project as backups in 2018 with established veterans already in place ahead of them.

Noteboom and Allen have each lined up at multiple positions in training camp and the club does have a complication in that starting right guard Jamon Brown was suspended for the first two games for a violation of the league's substance abuse policy.

Noteboom, who only played tackle at TCU, has the length and light feet scouts like at tackle but does have good size at 6-5, 309 and very good strength (27 repetitions of 225 at the Combine) to make this transition, if necessary.

Allen does have extensive experience at guard, starting more times there (21, including five on the right side) than at center for Michigan State (15), but he possesses just average arm length (32 3/8 inches) to play outside in the NFL.

Both, however, have the competitive mentality to ultimately develop into starters, which the Rams will eventually need with starting left tackle Andrew Whitworth (36) and John Sullivan (33) nearing the end of distinguished careers.

Los Angeles Rams' 2018 draft class:

3rd Round, No. 89 overall: Joseph Noteboom, OT, TCU

4th Round, No. 111 overall: Brian Allen, C, Michigan State

4th Round, No. 135 overall: John Franklin-Myers, DE, Stephen F. Austin

5th Round, No. 147 overall: Micah Kiser, ILB, Virginia

5th Round, No. 160 overall: Ogbonnia Okoronkwo, DE/OLB, Oklahoma

6th Round, No. 176 overall: John Kelly, RB, Tennessee

6th Round, No. 192 overall: Jamil Demby, OG, Maine

6th Round, No. 195 overall: Sebastian Joseph, DT, Rutgers

6th Round, No. 205 overall: Trevon Young, DE, Louisville

7th Round, No. 231 overall: Travin Howard, SS, TCU

7th Round, No. 244 overall: Justin Lawler, DE, Southern Methodist

Key Undrafted Free Agents Signed:

Steven Mitchell, WR, USC

Luis Perez, QB, Texas A&M-Commerce

Tegray Scales, ILB, Indiana


NFL Draft Scout
EditorNFL Draft Scout
New Comment
NFL Draft Scout
EditorNFL Draft Scout
New Comment
NFL Draft Scout
EditorNFL Draft Scout
Sports Xchange
EditorSports Xchange
Sports Xchange
EditorSports Xchange