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Rams’ 2019 draft reflects production over measurables: A player-by-player look

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  • Rams’ 2019 draft reflects production over measurables: A player-by-player look

    Rams’ 2019 draft board reflects emphasis on production over measurables: A player-by-player look
    By Vincent Bonsignore Apr 27, 2019 6

    The​ Rams came into the​ 2019​ draft​ holding their only​ first-round pick since​ 2016 and​ with various​ holes to fill​ both presently​​ and for the future.

    They never got around to pulling the trigger on their first-round selection, opting to trade it away instead. They poured the assets they got in return into a handful of subsequent trades to steer themselves up and down the draft board to acquire eight players they believe will not only compete for roster spots but also lock down important roles.

    The common thread among them — and characteristics the Rams put a particular emphasis on at the earliest stage of the draft-evaluation process — is intelligent, tough, productive players with a passion to play football.

    Players who consistently show up on tape, if not always in physical measurables.

    So much so that general manager Les Snead has a written reminder to that effect on an office whiteboard.

    “The answers to your questions are basically right in front of you when you sit down and watch the kids play football on film when you do it December and April,” Snead said. “Take the testing — you always go back to the tape, right, and watch him play football.”

    It may sound cliché, but as a Rams source told The Athletic, “It’s where we’ve had so much success the past few years.”

    Their draft board this year reflects the emphasis they put on production over measurables.

    Washington safety Tayler Rapp ran a pedestrian 40 at his pro day. But his game tape showcased a hard-nosed, instinctual defensive playmaker. The Rams took him in the second round and believe he’ll compete for immediate playing time.

    Rapp’s teammate, Huskies defensive lineman Greg Gaines, is on the shorter side at just 6-foot-1. But he was one of the best run-stuffers in the Pac-12 and dominated against his peers at the Senior Bowl. The Rams traded up in the fourth round on Saturday to select him with the 134th pick overall and have already pegged him as their starting nose tackle in the base 3-4 defense.

    Their last pick, Texas Tech inside linebacker Dakota Allen, was kicked out of college after being arrested for burglary, then worked his way back to Lubbock after all charges were eventually dropped, and he has been a model citizen and productive player ever since.

    Where some teams removed Allen from their board altogether, the Rams sat down with him face-to-face and reached out to the people who know him best at Texas Tech.

    They were satisfied with how Allen owned his mistakes and impressed with how ardently people vouched for him. On tape, he was a tackling machine who they believe will add special teams flair and has the potential to start eventually at inside linebacker.

    The Rams are counting on that process leading them to players they can count on as early as next season.

    “I think the thing you feel so good about coming out of this weekend is that there’s a vision for all eight of these guys and how they fit in the framework of our roster,” said Rams head coach Sean McVay. “Immediately, all these guys are going to have to come in and compete, but you can at least feel like, ‘All right, if this works out the way we project, these are guys we anticipate being Rams a long time.’”

    Here is a player-by-player look at the Rams’ draft class:

    Tayler Rapp, second round, No. 61 overall
    School: Washington

    Position: Safety

    Vitals: 6-foot, 208 pounds

    What’s good: Rapp was being mocked as a first-rounder before running a 4.7 40 at his pro day, a mark that could have been affected by a hip injury he suffered late in the 2018 season. The Rams benefited from the resulting fall and landed a great value pick. Rapp fills a future need at one of the safety spots but will likely get on the field early in sub-packages thanks to his advanced ability to diagnose plays and be a factor in run support and pass defense.

    What’s bad: His overall speed could cause issues in certain pass-coverage matchups, and while he packs a punch physically, it can sometimes leave him vulnerable to injury.

    Short-term impact: Rapp will be a Day 1 contributor in sub-packages when the Rams play three-safety sets and will likely make an impact as a rookie.

    Long-term impact: With the clock ticking on veteran Eric Weddle, Rapp provides an organic procession plan to ultimately replace him in a year or two.

    What they’re saying: “I think when you watch the tape, obviously, Les (Snead) had been a huge fan. He and his group had really looked at him, and he’s one of the top-rated players that we had in terms of just a guy who’s showing up, making a lot of different plays, showing a versatile skill set. And then once the coaches started to really look at him, he’s one of the guys that jumps off the screen. He’s got unbelievable instincts.” — McVay

    Grade: B+

    Darrell Henderson, third round, No. 70 overall
    School: Memphis

    Position: Running back

    Vitals: 5-foot-8, 208 pounds

    What’s good: Henderson was one of the most dynamic, productive running backs in this draft class after rushing for 1,909 yards, scoring 22 touchdowns and averaging 8.9 yards per carry. There is little reason to believe his combination of speed, quickness, power and vision won’t immediately translate to the NFL.

    What’s bad: He can sometimes play too fast for his own good in terms of setting up blocks and maneuvering around defenders. He might be a bit smallish relative to being a carry-the-load back. Blocking on pass downs could be a wrinkle to iron out.

    Short-term impact: Henderson offers so much in terms of speed and home-run potential as a runner or pass-catcher; it seems natural that McVay will scheme up ways for him to make an immediate impact as a change-of-pace weapon.

    Long-term impact: Depending on the status of Todd Gurley’s left knee, Henderson could turn out to be the long-range replacement answer for Gurley or the copilot who shares a significant amount of duties.

    What they’re saying: “He was a player that we identified as a unique playmaker. He can obviously do some things as a runner, but the versatility that he provides and some of the things that he can do are what was so enticing about him for us.” — McVay

    Grade: A-

    David Long, third round, No. 79 overall
    School: Michigan

    Position: Cornerback

    Vitals: 5-foot-11, 195 pounds

    What’s good: Rams defensive coordinator Wade Phillips prefers tough, physical, athletic corners who can jam receivers at the line of scrimmage and provide tight, effective man coverage. And Long perfectly fits that profile.

    What’s bad: He isn’t the tallest corner, and he’ll likely play in the slot early on in his career, which will be an adjustment for a player so accustomed to lining up outside.

    Short-term impact: Depending on how the situations of Troy Hill and Kevin Peterson play out, Long has a good chance to earn a role in nickel- and dime-coverage packages as a rookie.

    Long-term impact: Aqib Talib and Marcus Peters are both entering the final year of their contracts, and given the ideal skill set Peters brings as a press-cover corner, there is a good chance he will be in the mix for a starting role by the 2020 season.

    What they’re saying: “When you get into David Long, the character is off the charts, and he is a guy that has a skill set, the ability to come off and play man coverage, be able to play physical and be able to stay in guys’ back hips and mirror. You can see he is able to cancel routes out as he goes, and he just shows up and in a really, really productive defense over the last couple years. This was one of the best corners based off a production standpoint and another guy that loves football.” — McVay

    Grade: B

    Bobby Evans, third round, No. 97 overall
    School: Oklahoma

    Position: Tackle

    Vitals: 6-foot-5, 295 pounds

    What’s good: Evans was a three-year starter at both right and left tackle at Oklahoma, and his body type, power and skill set suggest a capability to move to guard if need be. That versatility is critical on a Rams offensive line that prefers prospects who can cross-train at multiple line positions.

    What’s bad: He isn’t the best athlete, and at 6-5, he’s on the short side for a tackle. His average athletic ability could pose problems against athletic edge rushers.

    Short-term impact: Barring an injury, the Rams don’t have any starting-job openings at tackle or guard, enabling Evans to learn, grow and develop as a rookie while providing insurance as a short-term starter if need be.

    Long-term impact: Rams left tackle Andrew Whitworth might be playing his final year in 2019, and with current left guard Joe Noteboom likely moving back to tackle to replace him, Evans could be in the mix as Noteboom’s eventual replacement at guard. Worst-case scenario: The Rams have a quality backup who can fill in at both tackle and guard spots in relief.

    What they’re saying: “A tackle that has some versatility, some athleticism. Playing the left tackle position, I think you saw him do a lot of really good things on an excellent offense this past year, and we have full confidence that he is a guy that really can play across the line, both the left and the right side; he might be able to play in that guard spot as well. When you look at where we are at offensively, we feel really good about Brian Allen and Joe Noteboom stepping up into big-time roles this year, and we feel like Bobby is going to provide some depth and continue to learn and develop under the leadership.” — McVay

    Grade: C+

    Greg Gaines, fourth round, No. 134 overall
    School: Washington

    Position: Defensive tackle

    Vitals: 6-foot-1, 300 pounds

    What’s good: Gaines was a personal favorite of Rams GM Les Snead, who was on the lookout for a true run-stuffing nose tackle content with manning his gap and stonewalling the run — as opposed to players more focused on the pass rush at the expense of their run responsibility. Gaines played that role at an extremely high level at Washington, and his relentlessness and passion for football make him a likely candidate to make a seamless transition to the NFL.

    What’s bad: He needs to immediately win one-on-one battles to avoid being overwhelmed by bigger opponents. He’s still a developing pass-rusher who might not add much to that part of the game early on. Lacks massive size and arm length.

    Short-term impact: Gaines is a relentless, instinctive run defender who could forge an early role on run-down situations.

    Long-term impact: If Gaines can develop some counter pass-rush moves, he has the capability to be a big-time contributor as a 3-4 nose guard.

    What they’re saying: “He’s a guy we identified that we feel like will really do a great job as a nose guard in our base package. He was an outstanding, productive player for Washington, but then when you get a chance to really watch the Senior Bowl, where he’s going against some of the best interior linemen in this draft, guys that we really thought highly of, I think you got a sense for what a competitive player he is — a guy that loves football kind of in the mold of what we talk about. But what Greg was able to do at Washington, and then when you see the production he had at the Senior Bowl, that was what we felt strongly about.” — McVay

    Grade: B+

    David Edwards, fifth round, No. 169 overall
    School: Wisconsin

    Position: OT

    Vitals: 6-foot-6, 308 pounds

    What’s good: A former high school quarterback and college freshman tight end, Edwards has great feet for the tackle position and an easy, natural fluidity to his movement.

    What’s bad: Edwards lacks great core strength and power, and in spite of the three years he spent as a starting tackle at Wisconsin, he is still a work-in-progress in terms of the technical aspects of offensive line play.

    Short-term impact: Edwards will likely spend his rookie season as a redshirt candidate able to learn, grow and develop under the tutelage of respected Rams offensive line coach Aaron Kromer.

    Long-term impact: All the attributes are there for Edwards to be developed under Kromer into a dependable backup able to swing from guard to tackle.

    What they’re saying: “The last tackle we really, really desired, and thought we could put him in the hands of (offensive line coach Aaron Kromer) and start the development process.” — Snead

    Grade: C

    Nick Scott, seventh round, No. 243 overall
    School: Penn State

    Position: Safety

    Vitals: 5-foot-11, 200 pounds

    What’s good: A standout special-teams ace at Penn State, Scott is willing and able to pridefully and productively play that role. Has blazing speed, toughness and instincts to be a valued special-teams contributor.

    What’s bad: Didn’t play much aside from special teams until his senior year, when he made 12 starts at safety.

    Short-term impact: Scott has a good chance of cracking the regular roster as a rookie special-teams player.

    Long-term impact: Scott has a ways to go in terms of making an eventual mark outside of special teams, but he’s got enough speed and athletic ability to turn himself into a useful reserve over his career while being a standout on special teams.

    What they’re saying: “One of (special-teams coach John Fassel’s) favorite ever special-teams players that he’s ever graded. He’s probably been our No. 1 priority since Bones brought the POA to me.” — Snead

    Grade: C

    Dakota Allen, seventh round, No. 251 overall
    School: Texas Tech

    Position: Linebacker

    Vitals: 6-foot-1, 232 pounds

    What’s good: Allen is a productive and instinctive tackler at a position of major need for the Rams, who go into next season needing a replacement for Mark Barron. Fits all the traits needed to be a run-stuffing ILB in terms of adequate-enough speed and toughness and instincts.

    What’s bad: Was dismissed from Texas Tech after his freshman year after getting arrested for home burglary, so there is some obvious baggage. All the charges were eventually dropped, and Allen worked his way back to Texas Tech after spending time at a community college. Allen still has some refining in terms of fighting off blocks and flowing to action.

    Short-term impact: Has a chance to earn an immediate role on special teams while competing for the open job at inside linebacker.

    Long-term impact: Fits the profile of a Wade Phillips-type 3-4 ILB and likely would have been drafted higher without the baggage from Texas Tech. If he continues to grow and develop, he will put himself into consideration for a starting job.

    What they’re saying: “What was really neat, going through the process, was the mistake he made at Texas Tech — there were people at Texas Tech who definitely fought for him to get a second chance based on who he was. Great phone call today; I think it was one of our favorites because you could tell he was definitely appreciative to get this opportunity. Fun football player to watch.” — Snead

    Grade: B –

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