Los Angeles Rams 3rd Round Draft Options

University of Houston Defensive End Payton Smith. LAFB Network Graphic.
University of Houston Defensive End Payton Smith. LAFB Network Graphic.

Los Angeles Rams 3rd Round Draft Options

The NFL awarded compensatory draft picks last Wednesday and the Rams, as is their custom, scored some additional picks. Three to be exact. Two of which are in the third round and one in the fourth. This is great news because after trading away a first, a third, and a fourth in this year’s draft to, in part, acquire Matthew Stafford and Jalen Ramsey, the Rams would have been left very little to do during the draft. A second-round pick, then a great void in which there is torment and gnashing of teeth while other teams snap up quality players, then a pick in the sixth round. 

But given the team’s success in developing coaches and players, compensatory picks are just another part of the method in Les Snead’s madness. So thanks to losing Dante Fowler, Cory Littleton and, college scouting director, Brad Holmes, the Rams will have something to do on April 30th and May 1st. 

Of course, plenty of work will be done before the draft weekend and the Rams have excelled in making the most of late-round picks. Cooper Kupp and John Johnson were third-rounders. As were, Darrell Henderson and David Long. The Rams will have to thread the needle in the third round once again to make up for their limited draft capital. 

A look back at how Snead has handled the draft in the past may shed some light on how they will approach this draft. Of course, the third round will be directly affected by what they do in the second round. Typically the Rams have invested in the offense early. Taylor Rapp and Michael Brockers are the only defensive players that Snead has taken with the team’s first pick.

On offense, the team seems pretty well stocked. There could be an opportunity to add a wide receiver or an offensive lineman, but team needs will likely buck this trend. In reality, the Rams will likely take an edge rusher or a linebacker with the 57th overall pick. The league’s prevailing sentiment values pass-rushers far more than linebackers. So assuming that holds steady for the Rams, the Rams will have to target a linebacker in the third round. 

With the remaining third-round, pick the team can then go after a gadget receiver/ special teams return man or depth behind Aaron Donald or Sebastian Joseph-Day. Two see my 2nd round mock for the Rams, you can go here.

Here are some options for the Rams in the third round.

Pete Werner – LB – Ohio State

The Rams need depth at linebacker and they need someone who can make an impact immediately. Pete Werner fulfills those needs. At Ohio State, he contributed to a defense that has been packed with talent for his entire time as a Buckeye. It’s hard to get reps when playing alongside Malik Harrison, Tuf Borland, and Baron Browning, but he was able to hold his own.

Over his four seasons, he played 1,958 snaps and he was in the top three in tackles for three seasons. He led the team in tackles and set a personal best of 6.75 tackles per game in 2020. 

He used his athleticism, work ethic, and instincts to stand out on those very talented defenses. The Rams could use a linebacker with those skills. Not only someone that can get to the ball, but can cover a lot of ground while in pursuit. 

He was also asked to fill multiple roles at Ohio State. In his sophomore season, he was used in pass protection and as a pass rusher. He racked up nine passes defended and three sacks and 7.5 tackles for loss. But for his final two seasons, he was utilized as the team’s tackling stalwart. 

While he is a reliable tackler, he will need to improve to get playing time in the NFL. He has a tendency to over-rely on his athleticism rather than his instincts. 

Both Clemson and Alabama were able to burn him with simple deception tactics that are commonplace in the NFL. The Rams have several smart inside linebackers that can diagnose scheme, so a backer that can simply chase a guy down, especially in the flat, would still add value to the position group. And that is Werner’s floor. He is a hard worker and is consistent. His ceiling is much higher but is dependent on how quickly he can adapt to the pro-level game. 

Tony Fields II – LB – West Virginia

Tony Fields would add depth to the Rams linebackers, but wouldn’t have an immediate impact like Werner. His biggest question is his size. He doesn’t have a traditional linebacker frame. He is built more like a strong safety and lacks length. But in spite of that, he used above-average speed and high football IQ to lead the Mountaineers in tackles. 

Fields plays like a guy who is constantly underestimated because he IS constantly underestimated. He wasn’t even rated in the top 500 prospects coming out of high school but received several D1 offers. As a true freshman at Arizona, he led the team in tackles and was second in sacks. He earned freshman All-American honors that season. 

He plays with his hair on fire and has great short burst speed vertically and horizontally. Despite his size, he has always been a smart, consistent, and productive tackler. That is to say, he knows where he needs to be, gets there quickly, and sells out to take down the ball carrier. This underdog playing mentality reminds one of Tyrann Mathieu’s honey badger comparison. It is what impressed scouts at the Senior Bowl Which certainly helped his draft stock rise. 

Since the comparison to safety has been made about him, it begs the question. Could Tony Fields be used in a hybrid linebacker/safety way? Teams around the league have been dabbling in this and it seems to be the next logical evolution on defense. Usually in the case of Jamal Adams, a safety with linebacker duties, but it could go in the other direction as well. With the Rams safety position stocked with good young talent, Fields could be used in some fun new ways. 

Payton Turner – DE – Houston

Morgan Fox signed with the Carolina Panthers and Michael Brockers was traded to the Detroit Lions. This makes it glaringly obvious that the Rams are thin on that side of the defensive line. 

Everything written about Payton Turner contains one of these phrases; sleeper, under the radar, underrated, deserves more buzz, etc. It could be that he played four years at Houston or that he was essentially un-recruited out of high school due to a knee injury. But the bottom line is this makes him a viable option for the Rams in the third round and he is exactly what the Rams need on the D-line. 

He’s 6’6” 270 pounds with long 35” inch arms. So he is built for the position. He is versatile, he played both interior and at the edge in college. In fact, he bulked up to 290 to move inside and then down to 270 when moved to the end. Turner isn’t the fastest lineman in the draft but makes up for it with his size and explosiveness. 

For the Rams specifically, he would be a good compliment opposite Aaron Donald. He can use his length and athleticism to contain the run and has the skill to get into the backfield to contain QB’s being flushed out of the pocket by Donald. In addition, he can be used as a pass rusher. The Rams would become quite the mismatch with Donald, an edge-rushing OLB, and Turner blasting offensive line in high percentage passing situations.  

While he is ready to contribute, he would benefit from a year of development behind someone on the depth chart. Most of his downsides are developmental. He has shown the ability to learn and adapt quickly, given his ability to play in several positions and in several techniques. 

Depending on how his development shakes out, he could also be seen as a viable backup to Donald himself. Donald’s injury in the playoffs highlighted that need. Finding a solution in the draft would be the most cost-effective way of adding depth behind him. 

Marquez Stevenson – WR – Houston

Another underrated Cougar is an option for the Rams in the third round. Stevenson is an interesting prospect for the Rams for a few reasons. One; he is fast. He has legitimate sub 4.4 speed and he doesn’t slow much when changing directions. This alone sets him apart from the receivers the Rams have on their roster, even with the addition of DeSean Jackson. With this speed and current skill level, he will give Matthew Stafford a play-making deep threat. At Houston, he averaged 15.5 yards per catch and scored 22 touchdowns in 30 games. 

The other reason to draft Steveson is to improve on special teams. The Rams were bad on special teams last season. Nsimba Webster has been mediocre and every Rams fan cringed when Cooper Kupp put his tender joints on the line to field punts. The Rams were 20th in kickoff return DVOA and 31st in punt return DVOA. Stevenson returned three kicks for touchdowns and averaged 36.3 yards per return last season. 

Stevenson isn’t without his downside. He isn’t a great route runner and can easily get bullied off the ball. But he would add a spark on offense and on special teams.