Latest Los Angeles Rams 1st Round Mock Draft Seeks to Do the Impossible, Replace Aaron Donald

Credit: Aaron E. Martinez/American-Statesman / USA TODAY NETWORK

In Mel Kiper’s updated Round 1 predictions for ESPN, he adds a new positional need for the Los Angeles Rams, defensive tackle, in light of Aaron Donald‘s retirement. Of course, attempting to replace the eight-time All-Pro future Hall of Famer is a fool’s errand, his departure does create a chasm at the position on an already spotty defense.

Kiper’s pick for the Rams at 19 is Texas DT, Byron Murphy II. Kiper acknowledges the shortcomings of the attempt, but likes the pick regardless,

“Murphy is the best interior pass-rusher in this class,” Kiper writes, “At 6-foot-1, 297 pounds, he has a similar build to Donald. I’m not saying he will become a perennially All-Pro, but he has intriguing tools at the position. He had five sacks and created 33 pressures last season.”

Comparing Donald And Murphy

How Murphy is similar to Donald is in his size and athleticism. Here are their Relative Athletic Scores side by side:

Los Angeles Rams, Aaron Donald
Latest Los Angeles Rams 1st Round Mock Draft Seeks to Do the Impossible, Replace Aaron Donald 4

While they are quite similar in those terms, Donald’s collegiate production dwarfs Murphy’s. In his final season, Donald had 59 tackles, 43 of which were solo, 28.5 tackles for loss 11 sacks, three passes defended, and four forced fumbles. Murphy had 29 tackles, eight for loss, and five sacks.

What set Aaron Donald apart was his incredible work ethic that extended throughout his career. As an intangible measure, we won’t know if Murphy can meet that high of a bar.

Los Angeles Rams Very Apparent Need at the Position

NFL: Los Angeles Rams at Arizona Cardinals
Nov 26, 2023; Glendale, Arizona, USA; Los Angeles Rams defensive tackle Kobie Turner (91) with linebacker Byron Young (0) and defensive tackle Aaron Donald (99) against the Arizona Cardinals at State Farm Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Having missed out on the high-end defensive line free agents, adding a difference-making veteran at this point isn’t an option, so using a high draft pick to address the need is the next best move. And they will have to add to the position. Period.

At the very least, the Los Angeles Rams will have to replace Donald’s playing time, of 916 snaps. Jonah Williams was also picked up in free agency by the Minnesota Vikings despite being a restricted free agent, another 636 snaps. They also will potentially have to make up for Larrell Murchison‘s playing time, 261 snaps as he is a free agent. That is a combined 1813 snaps gone.

Those who remain are Kobie Turner, the rookie standout, (729 snaps) and Bobby Brown III, who struggled to get on the field in the back half of last season (335). The Rams also have Desjuan Johnson and Cory Durden, both will be in their second season with the team and have a combined 149 snaps played.

NCAA Football: Big 12 Football Championship-Oklahoma State at Texas
Dec 2, 2023; Arlington, TX, USA; Texas Longhorns defensive lineman T’Vondre Sweat (93) celebrates his touchdown catch with teammate defensive lineman Byron Murphy II (90) during the first quarter at AT&T Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Andrew Dieb-USA TODAY Sports