The Los Angeles Rams have come a long way over the past few seasons. After finishing 4-12 in 2016, they vaulted to 11-5 in 2017 and 13-3 last season, which included an NFC Championship before losing to the Patriots in the Super Bowl. The Rams were second in the league in scoring at 32.9 points per game, but were only 20th in points allowed at 24 per game. They addressed a defensive need with their first pick of the NFL draft. Let’s examine the Rams top six selections.
Round 2 (61st) Taylor Rapp (DB) Washington
Rapp played through his freshman season wearing a cast on his broken left hand. In 2016, he started ten games and intercepted four passes along with 53 tackles. As a sophomore, Rapp was first-team All-Pac 12 after recording 59 tackles, two sacks and an interception. An outstanding season in 2018 in which Rapp had five sacks, two interceptions, three fumble recoveries and 59 tackles earned him first-team All- Pac 12.
There were some initial questions about Rapp’s health after a hip enjoy prior to the Rose Bowl, but Rapp assured everyone that was not an issue and the Rams took a calculated chance on him at number 61. He likely will start as a back up, as Eric Weddle currently holds the starting job at safety. However, Rapp is likely to make a contribution and possibly become a starter sooner instead of later.
Round 3 (70th) Darrell Henderson (RB) Memphis
Henderson made an immediate impact as a freshman, averaging 5.5 yards on 87 carries with five touchdowns and an additional three touchdowns receiving. In 2017, he averaged an eye-popping 8.9 yards per carry and rushed for 1154 yards and nine touchdowns. Last season, Henderson was named AP first-team All-American and first-team All-American Athletic Conference after rushing for 1909 yards and 22 touchdowns, averaging 8.9 per carry.
Although Todd Gurley is the starting running back, there are questions about his knee issues, so grabbing a talent like Henderson was a smart choice. The Rams traded up with Tampa Bay to snatch Henderson, who will likely start the season third on the depth chart. However, a strong training camp and preseason could earn Henderson playing time as the back up. He has the potential to be a starter down the road.
Round 3 (79th) David Long (CB) Michigan
Long played in only four games in 2016, without making a tackle. In 13 starts the following season, Long had two interceptions and 21 tackles. Last season, he had eight passes knocked down, with an interceptions and 17 tackles. His efforts were good enough to be named first-team All-Big Ten.
Long wont be pressed into a starting role as he returns to his Los Angeles roots, but will be good added depth at cornerback. The future at the position for the Rams is iffy with potential contract issues coming up for both starters Aqib Talib and Marcus Peters. If Long can develop quickly, he has a chance to see significant time this season and possibly start in 2020.
Round 3 (97th) Bobby Evans (OT) Oklahoma
Evans started 12 games in 2016 despite being a redshirt freshman, earning honorable mention all-conference. He repeated the honors the following season, starting all 14 games. In 2018, Evans was filling the shoes of the departed Orlando Brown. More than successful at left tackle that season, Evans started every game and was named second-team All-Big 12.
Evans provides versatility, having played both tackle positions are Oklahoma. The Rams clearly needed to address the offensive line after losing two starters. It’s not clear whether or not Evans will be asked to step into a starter’s role this season, could be a lot to ask of a 4th round pick. However, he will add depth and has a solid chance of developing into a starter down the road.
Round 4 (134th) Greg Gaines (DL)Washington
A redshirt freshman in 2014, Gaines played in 13 games in 2015, starting six. After making 28 tackles, he was honorable-mention All-Pac 12. Receiving identical honors in 2016, Gaines made 35 tackles and 3.5 sacks. Noted for his play in 2017 as second-team all-conference, Gaines made 55 tackles in 2018 with 3.5 sacks and an interception, earning first team honors.
The Rams had a big hole in the middle of the defensive line to fill after losing Ndamukong Suh. The Rams traded up in order to draft Gaines and he will at least be a situational back up this season. If he develops quickly, Gaines could step into the starting role at nose tackle.
Round 5 (169th) David Edwards (OT) Wisconsin
Edwards started seven games at right tackle in 2016 and was second-team All-Big Ten in 2017, staring all 14 games. Injuring his right shoulder prior to the start of last season, Edwards pressed forward and started ten games at right tackle. His grit, determination and raw ability earned him another second-team All-Big Ten honor.
The Rams added plenty of depth on the offensive line with the selections of Edwards and Bobby Evans. It’s not likely that Edwards will make a significant impact this season, unless he plays due to injury. However, he can improve his craft and perhaps move into a more significant role next year and beyond.