Rams draft analysis: Specialty running back could be among picks

Les Snead, #2\
Rams general manager Les Snead speaks during a news conference at the NFL scouting combine in Indianapolis on Feb. 28.
(Michael Conroy / Associated Press)

As the Rams prepare for the NFL draft, The Times will examine their roster. Part 8 of 8: Running backs.

Along with star Todd Gurley, the Rams apparently liked what they had at running back the last two seasons.

That was the verdict after the Rams did not re-sign C.J. Anderson, opting instead to match an offer sheet that restricted free agent Malcolm Brown signed with the Detroit Lions.

Brown once again will back up Gurley, a role that could grow in the aftermath of a season that ended with questions about the durability of Gurley’s left knee.


Gurley was the 10th pick in the 2015 draft. Brown joined the Rams the same year as an undrafted free agent.

“He’s always been reliable,” Gurley said of Brown last week at the start of offseason workouts. “If I go out, he’s doing the exact same thing if not … better.”

Brown is coming off a surgery to repair a broken clavicle. The late-season injury precipitated the signing of Anderson after Gurley’s left knee required medical attention during a December loss to the Philadelphia Eagles. Gurley sat out the next two games.

Anderson provided a boost, rushing for more than 100 yards in three consecutive games. But Brown’s versatility as a special teams stalwart made him too valuable to lose.


Third-year pro Justin Davis and second-year pro John Kelly also are on the roster, but that won’t preclude the Rams from possibly searching for what general manager Les Snead and coach Sean McVay described as a “change of pace” in the NFL draft, which begins Thursday.

The Rams could seek a player who can run specialized routes.

“We’ll look to see if there’s a player that adds some value at that position,” McVay said. “When that would be is hard to say, but I think you’re always looking for more playmakers.”

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The Rams thought they had such a back when they signed Lance Dunbar before the 2017 season. But Dunbar could not get past a knee injury.

Davis, an undrafted free agent from USC, has shown growth, and Kelly, a sixth-round draft pick in 2018,flashed during the preseason.

Under contract for 2019: Todd Gurley ($9.2 million), Malcolm Brown ($2.1 million), Justin Davis ($650,000), John Kelly ($617,073).

Free agents: After the Rams matched the offer sheet Brown signed with the Detroit Lions as a restricted free agent, Anderson, an unrestricted free agent, signed with the Lions.


Draft: The Rams have seven picks, including the 31st overall. A running back is more likely to be sought among the later rounds. The Rams have six picks in rounds three through seven.

Roster decisions: The massive extension Gurley signed before last season keeps him under contract through the 2023 season. Brown is signed through 2020. If the Rams draft a running back, there will be competition among the rookie, Davis and Kelly for a roster spot. They should get plenty of opportunities if McVay once again holds out key players from preseason games.

Follow Gary Klein on Twitter @latimesklein