By John Turney
Jordan Fuller was taken in the sixth round by the Rams in the 2020 NFL draft and the purported reason he was taken low in the draft as opposed to perhaps in the third- or fourth-round was a slow (for his position) forty-yard dash time of 4.67.
Still, though the truncated camp and overall weirdness of 2020 Fuller earned the right safety position for the Rams. He is the third sixth-round pick to earn a starting position for the Rams since the NFL common draft began in 1967.
|E. J. Gaines|
The other two were EJ Gaines in 2014 and Sebastian Joseph-Day in 2019. Gaines was All-Rookie in 2014 and Joseph-Day was a solid nose-tackle for the Rams last season.
Gaines made 70 tackles, picked off two passes, and defended 14 passes. Joseph-Day had 44 tackles and two sacks, but more importantly, plugged the middle and did the dirty work and still holds the starting job this year.
Oddly, Gaines was traded, along with a 2018 second-round pick to the Buffalo Bills for Sammy Watkins and a 2018 sixth-round pick which turned out to be Sebastian Joseph-Day. (To complete the trade string Watkins signed with the Chiefs and the Rams received a third-round compensatory pick for him that became Terrell Burgess).
Fuller, for all intents and purposes, beat out Taylor Rapp, a second-round (61st overall) pick of the 2019 NFL Draft who had a fine rookie season totaling 100 tackles, two picks, 8 passes defended playing strong safety in base (after John Johnson III went down) and linebacker in nickel and some in the slot.
So, Fuller didn’t walk into a wide-open position. Rapp was nicked during camp but he won the competition outright, however. Rapp, now, is playing some linebacker in nickel, and in their long-distance nickel he’s playing some safety and now that Fuller has been out a week and a half (missing today's game against the Giants), he’s filled in for him at right safety but when Fuller is well he is expected to be the starter again.
Fuller made a huge stop in the Dallas game on 4th down and has several other big plays for a solid Ran defense. New defensive coordinator Brandon Staley is using a lot of what is called “robber” calls, showing a two-deep look but having one of the safeties, rather than covering half the field in a deep zone coming up in the middle looking for a pick or disruption of a play, an aggressive ploy and both Fuller and John Johnson III have been executing it well. One can only imagine how well it will work if the Rams can get some edge pressure, which has been lacking.
So, again, we’ll monitor the progress of Fuller but the Rams have gone to the well in the sixth round and for the third time in the last seven years they have come up sixes. Les Snead and his staff deserve kudos for these three.