The Los Angeles Rams’ 2017 draft was peppered with small-school reaches. While the Rams may not have gained the best value from the 2017 NFL Draft, the overall process did contain a few positives. The offensive selections demonstrate that the front office has a clear acknowledgement of the scheme that new head coach Sean McVay wants to run. Furthermore, second rounder Gerald Everett – the Rams’ first pick – is a player McVay has coveted for years. It should be comforting for Rams fans to see evidence of a relationship between general manager Les Snead and his head coach; a rapport that has been lacking in previous seasons.
Everett has been compared to Jordan Reed on numerous occasions. Direct player comparisons are lazy, unfair, and incorrect. However, this likeness has merit in terms of the ideal offensive fit and role for both Everett and Reed. Both are branded as ‘tight ends:, yet are more mismatch, big slot receivers who bring similar skills to an offense.
We saw in Washington what McVay could do with a player like Reed. Very rarely did Reed line up in a traditional 3 point stance. He spent his snaps in the slot or on the wing, and even split out wide. McVay’s usage of Reed gives us insight into how he will attempt to use Everett in Los Angeles. He looked to utilize his run-after-catch ability, with plenty of shallow slants cleared out by verticals, quick out, and flat routes. This also extended to dump offs after play-action bootlegs. Additionally, Reed was used as a mismatch weapon: stretching a defense vertically up the seams and down the middle of the field, while being a size mismatch who was ideally isolated on the outside.
In this first video, McVay creates a one-on-one mismatch with linebacker Vontaze Burfict (#55) for Reed. Los Angeles leads 20-10 in the third quarter, and they are facing a 2nd and 8. The Cincinnati Bengals run a mixture of man and zone based on reads and keys made by the defenders. Reed is given a free release since he is lined up off the line of scrimmage in a stack. Washington runs a 10-yard out and a fade on the right side of the formation. The vertical route, from DeSean Jackson (#11), creates even more room for Reed. He runs his route well, beating Burfict with a sharp outwards cut while maintaining his speed. He comes back to the football and takes it for more yards and a touchdown. He has great ability with the ball in his hands:
Here, Washington is facing a big 3rd and 5 with a narrow lead of 13-10 in the third quarter. The Green Bay Packers are also running a mix of man and zone. It’s essentially a Cover 2 look, with the middle linebacker – safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix (#42) – carrying and covering any seam routes deep. The curved, C-like, post route from Reed is again run adeptly. He finds a hole behind the zone coverage of safety Micah Hyde (#33), taking advantage of the space created by the skinny post run by slot receiver Jamison Crowder (#80). It’s the perfect example of what a switch concept can do. Reed is left wide open for a simple throw. Once more, the offensive chess piece creates yards after the catch:
In the redzone, McVay was inclined to split Reed out wide. Here, with Washington facing 1st and 7 with 2:00 left in their game against Dallas, they score a much-needed touchdown, as they were trailing 31-19. Reed wins on the slant against the isolated coverage of Brandon Carr (#39). He does well to create clear separation with a subtle brush of his arm. He catches away from his frame using his size for the eight-yard touchdown.
In college, Everett rarely lined up in-line or in a 3 point stance. His successes came in very similar ways to Reed’s game in Washington. He was a lethal yards-after-catch threat, running through arm tackles consistently with strong legs. He stretched the seam with speed and threatened over the middle on post routes. Finally, he showed the ability to be a sheer size mismatch. McVay’s usage of Reed in Washington is the perfect role for Everett in Los Angeles.
Against Georgia Southern, Everett’s run-after-catch ability was on display frequently. The defense seems to be in Cover 2 pre-snap. What initially appears to be Cover 4 is actually a 4 steal coverage. On the boundary, cornerback Darius Jones Jr. (#5) is in man coverage with receiver Tyrone Williams (#2). Meanwhile, weakside linebacker Ironhead Gallon (#27) is in man coverage with the running back. Weak safety Joshua Moon (#22) is tasked with working from the #3 receiver to the trips, aimed at picking up seam routes or deep crossers. The other two defensive backs are more conventionally covering their deep thirds.
South Alabama’s seam deep crossing route, run by Josh Magee (#1), causes strongside linebacker Ukeme Eligwe (#7) to gravitate toward it, creating space for Everett’s wheel route from the wing. Everett adjusts to the football mid-flight, making a back-shoulder catch. He establishes himself as a runner quickly – despite the ball being thrown behind him – and goes on to force four missed tackles, adding 20 yards to the 15 yard catch. It is reminiscent of Reed’s ability to catch in the flat and transform the gain, such as the one from the first video versus Cincinnati.
Here, Everett is again lined up on the wing. The defense is showing a Cover 4 or Cover 2 off look. The defense rotates into a Cover 3 buzz pass coverage. South Alabama runs a double-post concept, with a smash concept to the left. Everett’s post route faces contact from Eligwe (#7) passing him off to the deep coverage, but he works through it and finds the hole in the zone coverage. He makes the catch over the middle.
Again, his ability to create yards after the catch is showcased. He breaks the immediate tackle from the deep safety, Moon (#22), and keeps his balance and takes the ball for an additional 10 yards. This is exactly the sort of play that Reed executed under McVay – similar to the second clip and Reed’s play against Green Bay.
Before the snap on this next play, Mississippi State lines up in a goal-line formation, showing a Cover 0 look. Post-snap, they send seven to rush the quarterback and do indeed play straight one-on-one coverage. It is the second last chance for South Alabama to pull off a remarkable upset against a Power 5 school. They must convert this 3rd and goal, trailing 20-14 with just 1:01 left in the fourth quarter.
The Jaguars run a combination of an under route and a stick-nod route. Everett does a satisfactory job of running his stick-nod route, but the defensive back, Kivon Coman (#11), does not bite on his outside feint. However, what Everett flashes most on this play is the size mismatch he presents. Quarterback Dallas Davis (#11) throws the football up for Everett to go and get it. He uses his big frame – perhaps influenced by his basketball background – to box out the two defenders around the ball and catch the game-winning touchdown.
These examples all come with one large caveat: To have the level of success in the NFL akin to Reed, Everett needs to improve and refine numerous aspects of his game. Though he demonstrates acceleration into his routes, he appears slow off the line. He really needs to develop his route-running overall. It lacks sharpness, urgency, and nous – such as selling the deep route better by pushing harder vertically. In his role, he will be most hurt by this on post routes against Cover 2. In that scenario, it is vital that he is able to manipulate the safety. His hands also looked inconsistent. His poor blocking should be less of an issue since he will not be playing the traditional tight-end role, but it suffers from flawed technique.
Against better competition, a lot of Everett’s plays would not have had the same results. In the first example, a better linebacker would have stayed disciplined and therefore would have been in prime position to play the ball. In the second, the deep safety would have recognized the post and broke on the ball. This is why it is so important for Everett to develop early on in his NFL career.
The offense that Everett is joining needs to be taken into consideration as well. Washington persistently tried to establish the run last year, with limited success. In Los Angeles, the running game should be better; Todd Gurley’s down year does not make him a less talented back than those McVay had in Washington.
As Everett arrives to fill that Reed role, other offensive players will be used similarly to the gameplan in Washington. Tavon Austin, for instance, provides the speed to be able to clear out space for Everett underneath or on switch concepts. Crowder was often tasked with this responsibility in Washington. Note, though, that Austin is missing OTAs with a left wrist injury.
An intriguing aspect of the Everett selection is what will happen to Tyler Higbee. The Rams’ 2016 fourth rounder will still be a part of the offense but, though he is more of a conventional tight end, he is still in the “‘move”’ mold rather than being an “‘inline”’ type. Reassuringly, McVay managed to scheme the most offensive yards for tight ends last season in Washington, where Vernon Davis managed to experience a mini-resurgence. This was despite Washington running two or more tight end sets for only 26.26% of their offensive snaps, which placed 18th in the league (league average of 25.41%). NFL Network’s Steve Wyche eported an increased amount of two tight end sets in OTAs, with the Rams planning to run more of a tight end-focused passing attack in 2017.
The overall situation on offense is just plain embarrassing though. The Rams over-drafted Cooper Kupp and Josh Reynolds in an attempt to improve their mediocre wide receiving corps. On the offensive line, the signing of the ageing Andrew Whitworth will not cover all the pores. Yet the biggest issue remains under center, where 2016’s #1 pick Jared Goff severely underwhelmed. Goff showed a lack of accuracy, footwork issues, and struggles with mental processing at the NFL level. Even McVay will struggle to scheme around that, particularly as the 31-year-old deals with the added rigors of his first year as a head coach.