The sophomore year can be make-or-break for many players in the NFL. After the excitement of the draft, there are those who had outstanding rookie seasons and hope to progress to the next level. There are others who need an impressive second season to give themselves a chance to extend contracts. Below we evaluate the sophomore season of the 2016 Rams rookies.
Jared Goff (Quarterback)
Drafted in Round One, first overall pick.
The Rams sold the family jewels to acquire Jared Goff as the No. 1 pick in the 2016 draft. Suffice to say, his rookie season was not good. Starting as the backup quarterback to Case Keenum, Goff first saw action in week 10. In his seven games as the starter, he threw five touchdown passes and seven interceptions for a 63.6 quarterback rating.
To say there has been an improvement this season under Sean McVay and Matt Le Fleur would be an understatement. In his 15 games as a starter, Goff threw for 3,804 yards and a whopping 28 touchdowns. His passer rating increased to 100.5.
There are still some doubts about whether he will rise to “elite” status as his decision making has been suspect at times, particularly when chasing a win.
2016 – C
2017 – B+
Tyler Higbee (Tight End)
Drafted in Round Four, 110th overall pick.
Higbee made an appearance in all games in 2016. He hauled in 11 receptions from 29 targets. Lance Kendricks started every game at tight end and was third for the Rams in terms of targets and receptions. This limited Higbee’s effectiveness in the passing game.
When Kendricks was released in March 2017, Higbee took over the starters job. He had his best career game in week 5 against the Seahawks when recording 98 years of 4 receptions. His performance and production tailed off as the season went on and he saw little action as a receiver in the final five games of the season.
2016 – C
2017 – C
Pharoh Cooper (Wide Receiver)
Drafted in Round Four, 117th overall pick.
Drafted from South Carolina, primarily as a receiver, Cooper was targeted 20 times for 14 catches and 106 yards in 2016. Cooper also got returning duties. For kick returns, he had 14 returns for 323 yards, but for punt returns, he returned his five returns for just one yard.
In 2017, he was named the Rams’ kick returner and in week 6 the punt-returning job became his. He made the position of returner his own and was voted into the Pro Bowl. He averaged 27.4 yards for kick-returns and 12.5 yards for punt-returns, contributing highly to good field position for the Rams’ offense.
His performance in the play-off defeat to Atlanta was not one he will want to watch again. He will learn from this, but a lot of his game is trying to get great field position so he holds onto the ball longer than many other returners.
2016 – C
2017 – B+
Temarrick Hemingway (Tight End)
Drafted in Round Six, 177th overall pick
Temarrick Hemingway was only on the field for 15 snaps during 2016 and a broken leg sustained in a pre-season game against the Chargers ended his 2017 season. Hemingway hasn’t had an opportunity to show what he can do for the Rams. Even if fully fit he is likely to be third choice tight end behind Tyler Higbee and 2017 second-round pick Gerald Everett.
2016 – Ungraded
2017 – Ungraded
Josh Forrest (Linebacker)
Drafted in Round Six, 190th overall pick
The linebacker from the University of Kentucky competed with Alec Ogletree and Mark Barron in 2016 and saw little action. He suffered injuries and was placed on injured reserve in November 2016 and released in September 2017.
2016 – D
2017 – N/A
Mike Thomas (Wide Receiver)
Drafted in Round Six, 206th overall pick
Mike Thomas played in 15 games in 2016 and was involved in 100 snaps (less than 10%). He was only targeted nine times and he made three catches for 37 yards. 2017 wasn’t much better as he didn’t play his first game until Week 11. With Sammy Watkins, Cooper Kupp, Robert Woods and Josh Reynolds ahead of him in the pecking order, his immediate prospects do not look good.
2016 – D
2017 – D
Outlook For 2016 Draft Class
Out of the six players drafted in 2016, two (Goff and Cooper) have matured into starters and will continue to play a vital part for the Rams going forward. The jury is out on the two tight ends (Higbee and Hemmingway), although it looks like Higbee will remain with the team. Hemmingway may get another chance, but a draft pick at tight end would put him further down the depth chart. Forrest didn’t have a chance with injuries and is now on the Seahawks roster. Mike Thomas didn’t show enough to take anything away from the 2017 new additions and is unlikely to do so going forward.
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