With No. 1 overall Jared Goff under their belt, the Los Angeles Rams on Saturday made their final five selections in the NFL Draft. As they’ve done traditionally, the Rams had an offense-heavy draft.
No. 110: Tyler Higbee (6’5, 259 lbs.)
The Rams outside Universal Studios announced their No. 110 pick as Western Kentucky tight end Tyler Higbee, who racked up a pair of 100-yard receiving games last year. He likely would have been drafted earlier than the fourth round had he not run into some trouble off the field.
The native of Clearwater, Florida, on April 10 was charged with second-degree assault, second-degree evading of police and public intoxication after an altercation outside bar in Bowling Green, Kentucky. He is scheduled to be arraigned in court on May 5 and his attorney reported he plans to plead not guilty.
“I can’t let it define me,” Higbee said from Florida on a conference call with media at the Courtyard Los Angeles L.A. LIVE hotel. “It’s kind of a legal matter right now, I’m not allowed to speak on it.”
Higbee added that it was “an exciting day, probably the best day of my life to be honest,” and that his legal situation will not impact his ability to participate in rookie camp next week.
The tight end, a starter as a senior who appeared in nine games with eight starts and in the first four games of the year scored four touchdowns, brushed off the possibility that his charges earlier this month pushed his selection down.
“I’ve just been trying to keep my mind focus and start working,” said Higbee, adding that the Rams had interviewed him and “expressed more interest than other teams.”
Higbee’s career highlights include 11 receptions and 109 yards at Indiana on Sept. 19 and three touchdowns at Marshall on Nov. 28, 2014.
By drafting Higbee, and on Thursday Goff, the Rams clearly are trying to build up their offensive side. The team back in Los Angeles after two decades has not made the playoffs since 2004, has not finished above .500 since 2003, and finished last in total and passing offense last year.
Higbee said he plans to improve his blocking technique and is “ready to learn, go in ther and stick my nose in there.”
“I think I can create some mismatches with the linebackers and safety, get out there and get physical with the smaller guys and use some of my speed with the bigger guys,” he said. “I’m just excited to be getting out there, getting to work with Jared.”
In the final draft press conference at the Courtyard Los Angeles L.A. LIVE on Saturday afternoon, Rams head coach Jeff Fisher said he saw a sense of urgency in Higbee’s game and that he showed physical domination at times.
The head coach also said the Rams organization did research Higbee’s charges and are well aware of the implications.
“I spoke to him this morning on the phone. It’s an ongoing issue. We’re working past this. It’s going to be worked out,” Fisher said. “We wouldn’t have him around (otherwise).”Rams general manager Les Snead added, “When you go from college to the NFL, you have behavior you have to clean up.”
No. 117: Pharoh Cooper (5’11, 203 lbs.)
For their second and last pick in round four, the Rams, announced next to a costumed Marilyn Monroe, that they selected South Carolina wide receiver Pharoh Cooper as their No. 117 overall.
The North Carolina native in a conference call from home admitted, “It caught me by surprise.”
Cooper said he had no interviews with the Rams and in fact didn’t speak to their recruiters at all. A special teams coordinator asked if he had any film, and that was the extent of interaction prior to the draft.
It’s been a long weekend for Cooper, who earned first-team All-SEC honors by the league’s coaches as a wide receiver as well as an all-purpose back, and didn’t expect to slip to the third day of the draft.
“Honestly, I was expecting to get a call yesterday but it didn’t pan out,” he said. “God has a plan and this is where I’m supposed to be and I’m excited to be part of the Rams organization.”
Cooper said he is especially excited to begin working with Goff.
“Oh it’s going to be great. Jared, I threw him in the combine, he’s a great quarterback. Just going out there and working with the No. 1 draft overall is going to be great, starting to build a chemistry with him when I get there,” he said.
Last year, Cooper was ranked second in the league with 81.1 receiving yards and fifth with 5.5 catches per game. He caught 35 percent of his team’s passes for 39 percent of the yards thrown.
Cooper said he will try his best to excel wherever the Rams choose to play him and that his greatest asset is making plays after the kick.
“One I catch the ball, I can easily get another five to ten yards,” he said. “If they need me to throw the ball, I’ll throw the ball for them. Whatever they need me to do, I’ll do it.”
South Carolina played Cooper similarly to how the Rams have played wide receiver Tavon Austin. The possibility of playing with Austin intrigued Cooper but he’s not coming to Los Angeles banking on it.
“If we both come in the starting lineup it would be great, but I’m not going to go in there and say I should be starting right away,” Cooper said. “I’m going to have to prove to the coaches that I’m worthy and I’m going to work hard, that’s the main thing.”
Though Cooper did not hear from the Rams prior to his selection, Fisher said he had been watched for the past couple of years.
“He’s (South Carolina’s) favorite, their best player. They figure out how to get him the ball,” Fisher said. “He would give us an additional target inside.”
No. 177: Temarrick Hemingway (6’5, 244 lbs.)
The Rams selected another tight end, Temarrick Hemingway from South Carolina State, at No. 177.
When the Loris, South Carolina, native found out the Rams picked him, he said during a conference call, “I cried immediately.”
“It was just happiness,” he said. “This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity that nobody hardly gets.”
Hemingway earned first-team All-MEAC honors last year and was the Bulldogs’ second-leading receiver with 38 receptions for 418 yards and one touchdown.
He performed well in the NFL combine, coming in second in the 40-yard dash at 4.71 seconds. After that, Hemingway said he knew interest from teams including the Rams spiked.
Growing from a receiver his freshman year to a physical tight end, Hemingway highlighted some of the qualities he has to offer to the Rams.
“I catch the ball in traffic. Immediately after I get the ball, I immediately look for extra yards,” he said. “I really have this ‘never die’ attitude.”
Though already a big guy, Hemingway said he aims to gain 10 more pounds of muscle and is excited to help the Rams offense alongside Goff.
“It was a really special class and it should be exciting to watch and to be a part of it,” Hemingway said.
Snead said Hemingway has gained some weight and “went to the combine and ran well.”
No. 190: Josh Forrest (6’3, 255 lbs.)
The Rams set out to draft offensive players, building weapons around Goff, but they chose Kentucky linebacker Josh Forrest as their No. 190 overall pick.
To be the lone defensive guy to be drafted “is a blessing,” Forrest said during a conference call.
The Paducah, Kentucky, native played basketball and didn’t start playing football until his junior year in high school. He arrived at the University of Kentucky as a wide receiver and switched to a linebacker during the 2011 season.
“It’s unbelievable almost, just because you hardly ever see receivers turn into linebackers and get drafted into the NFL,” said Forrest, adding. “I got goose bumps.”
He was awarded all-SEC third team by Phil Steele’s College Football in 2014 and led the team in tackles.
Forrest said he modeled his transition to the linebacker position after Danny Trevathan, who also played for the University of Kentucky. Through diet and a regimen, Forrest got from 205 to 250 pounds.
Snead said Forrest didn’t run very fast in the combine but has the ability to.
“As a former basketball player, he’s plucked the ball out of the air when someone is covering him,” Snead said.
No. 206: Michael Thomas (6’1, 200 lbs.)
With their last pick, the Rams took Southern Mississippi wide receiver Michael Thomas, No. 206 of 253 players drafted.
The Chicago native who got honorable mention in the All-Conference USA in 2014 was not invited to the combine. Thomas said that came as a surprise to him, but didn’t stop him from pursuing a spot in the pros.
“I felt like there was a reason for it, I just didn’t know why, but all the people I talked to, they said don’t worry about not getting invited to the combine. Just stay focused, just keep working,” Thomas said.
Thomas, who had 71 receptions for 1,391 yards and 14 touchdowns last year, said he anticipated being drafted between the second and fourth rounds instead of the seventh, but stayed patient.
He didn’t have much contact with the Rams prior to getting the phone call on Saturday.
“I can make things happen. I can make plays, execute plays and that’s what I’m looking forward to doing with the Rams,” Thomas said. “Keep making plays, executing and winning games.”
Thomas added that being drafted into the team with the No. 1 overall quarterback “means a lot to me” and he looks forward to working with Goff.
Fisher said the new Rams players will be evaluated physically and brought up to speed with their teammates in the NFL during rookie orientation next week.
The Rams drafted as expected, selecting offensive players with four of their five picks. “There was definitely defenders on the board,” Snead said, but the organization was looking to “add some weapons and blocks.”
“These guys are going to be together for a long time,” Fisher said. “It was important for us to build and to build with youth, so these guys can grow together.”
Top photo of Jeff Fisher and Les Snead by Jessica Kwong
Jessica is a Los Angeles native who grew up speaking Spanish, Cantonese, and English in that order. Journalism has taken her across Northern and Southern California, Texas and Latin America, to English and Spanish-language publications. She has spent most of her career as a news reporter at major daily newspapers in the U.S., and also worked as a sports writer and producer for Time Warner Cable Sports covering the Los Angeles Lakers. The 2015 NBA Finals, 2014 World Series, NHL playoffs, and the final NFL game at Candlestick Park in San Francisco are some of the big sports events she’s reported on. Jessica graduated from UC Berkeley with a double-major in Comparative Literature in English and Spanish, and Mass Communications. When she’s not working, she loves to travel.