How does the L.A. Rams 2016 NFL Draft class look three years later?
Despite finishing the 2015 season with seven wins, the Rams were in desperate need of help at the quarterback position since Nick Foles and Case Keenum combined for 11 touchdown passes between the two of them, although it arguably wasn’t entirely their fault. Thanks to Todd Gurley proving doubters wrong by going on to win Offensive Rookie of the Year after rushing for 1,106 yards with 10 touchdowns, the Rams were at least in great shape at running back, but their receiving corps was pretty weak as well. Kenny Britt led the way that season at receiver with a mere 36 passes for 681 yards and three touchdowns, so it was easy to understand why improving the offense was a top priority heading into the 2016 NFL Draft, starting at quarterback.
Rightfully so, Sports Illustrated made it clear right away that whether this draft would be considered a success would come down to the play of Jared Goff at quarterback when looking at all of the draft picks the Rams were willing to give up to the Tennessee Titans for the quarterback.
Would Jared Goff be worth it in the long run when taking into consideration what it cost the Rams to move up to No. 1 in the draft? This is the main issue that FanSided pointed out right away in regards to the team deciding to trade up for Goff since there was no guarantee that he he would turn out to be the next best thing at quarterback in the NFL, even if the potential was there.
Round 1 (No. 1)
Current Team: L.A. Rams
After all those years spent trying to figure out their situation at quarterback, Jared Goff seemed well worth the wait for the Rams, and he seems to only be scratching the surface of his true potential if the previous two seasons are any indication of what the future holds. Plenty of Rams fans were willing to label Goff a bust following a rookie campaign in which he went 0-7 as the starter, but it was unfair to criticize the quarterback when the offensive line and receiving corps ranked near the bottom of the league. Once Sean McVay was hired as the team’s head coach two years ago following the firing of Jeff Fisher, the Rams wasted little time improving both areas to help bring out the best in Goff. Two NFC West titles later along with a trip to the Super Bowl, the decision to trade up in 2016 seems well worth it for Los Angeles.
Round 4 (No. 110)
TE, Western Kentucky
Current Team: L.A. Rams
Waiting until the fourth round for their next selection was tough for Los Angeles to accept at first, but it also seemed like it would be worth it in the long run since acquiring Jared Goff was the most important factor, no matter what it cost. With their second pick in the draft, the Rams decided to take a risk on Western Kentucky’s Tyler Higbee, despite some of the issues he was dealing with off the field that drew some concerns. After a strong senior year with the Hilltoppers in which he found the end zone eight times, Higbee was considered one of the top tight ends from the 2016 class, but an arrest in the weeks leading up to the draft resulted in his stock taking a hit. Goff and the Rams may not rely on tight ends in the passing game as much as other teams across the league, but watching Higbee start every game over the last two seasons shows how valuable he’s been to the offense.
Round 4 (No. 117)
WR, South Carolina
Current Team: Arizona Cardinals
What was the best part about drafting Pharoh Cooper in the fourth round of the 2016 NFL Draft? Not only was Cooper known for his receiving skills at South Carolina, but his ability to be used in multiple ways, such as special teams, set him apart from some of the other prospects at his position. Even though he wasn’t needed as much in the passing game, Cooper’s future in Los Angeles appeared to be bright on special teams after leading the NFL in 2017 by averaging 27.4 yards per kick return while earning a trip to the Pro Bowl in the process. Unfortunately, the 2018 season got off to a rough start for Cooper after the return specialist suffered an ankle injury in Week 1 which forced him to miss most of the year. The Rams decided to part ways with him in December, and he was claimed off waivers by the Arizona Cardinals.
Round 6 (No. 177)
TE, South Carolina State
Current Team: Denver Broncos
Plenty of football fans were surprised to see the Rams go with two tight ends during this draft since they were already at a disadvantage for losing some picks to the Titans, but this shows how much of a work in progress their offense was. Originally, Los Angeles felt confident enough in taking a chance on Hemingway due to his catching and blocking abilities, but unfortunately, his career with the Rams was limited to just eight games from his rookie year in 2016. As if suffering a fractured fibula in preseason during his sophomore NFL season wasn’t already frustrating enough to deal with, Hemingway was released by the team back in September.
Round 6 (No. 190)
Current Team: Free Agent
Similar to the situation with Hemingway, Josh Forrest was quickly labeled a bust for the Rams, despite starting four of 10 games he appeared in as a rookie during the 2016 season. One can only imagine how different things would have been for Forrest in Los Angeles if the former Kentucky star managed to stay healthy over those first two NFL seasons. Since he was a sixth-round pick, this really didn’t have that much of an impact on the Rams anyway. Looking back, the Rams would have been better off considering Kamu Grugier-Hill since the linebacker is coming off the best year of his career with the Philadelphia Eagles after starting 10 of 16 games in 2018.
Round 6 (No. 206)
WR, Southern Miss
Current Team: L.A. Rams
Since the Rams had one of the league’s weakest receiving corps heading into the draft back in 2016, Mike Thomas appeared to be in a great position to make a name for himself since the opportunity for additional playing time would be there. Unfortunately, Thomas failed to live up to the hype after only catching eight passes over his first two NFL seasons, and he even missed the first four games of 2017 due to a suspension for violating the league’s policy on performance-enhancing drugs. To top the frustration off, Thomas suffered a groin injury in Week 1 this past season that led to the wideout going on injured reserve, making his future with the team unclear since he was already deep on the depth chart to begin with.”
Other than Tyler Higbee, there really isn’t that much to say about the 2016 NFL Draft other than this was the miraculous year in which Jared Goff came on board, which gave the Rams finally found a reliable quarterback to build the franchise around. Dating back to their time in St. Louis, it’s tough to put into words just how desperate the Rams were for a franchise quarterback since this seemed to be the main concern holding the team back from taking the next step in the NFC to playoff contender.
Like most rookie quarterbacks, Goff saw his fair share of struggles in 2016 during the seven starts he received under center, but that early experience paid off in the long run for Los Angeles after looking at the success surrounding this team in each of the last two seasons. Many will consider this year’s draft to be a bust for the Rams from an overall perspective, and all the picks that failed to work out, but since this was the draft that resulted in Goff, it only seems fair to reward the team with a B+ grade.
Trading up in 2016 was the best decision the Rams ever could have made since landing Jared Goff has changed the franchise for the best over the last two seasons with quarterback leading one of the best offenses in the NFL. After watching his career get off to a rough start in 2016, it’s been amazing to witness Goff emerge as one of the top quarterbacks in the NFL over the last two seasons thanks to an improved supporting cast on offense.