The Los Angeles Rams roster is littered with prospects from the NFLPA Bowl. Starters Nick Scott and Brandon Powell both played in the collegiate all-star game. Last season, they added Lance McCutcheon and Daniel Hardy. They were also on the game’s rosters.
The Rams rely on scouting and developing late-round diamonds in the rough. And that is exactly what populates the roster of this NFLPA Bowl roster. Here are a few standouts on the defensive side. The offensive Rams Draft Prospects can be read about here.
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Defensive Rams Draft Prospects From The NFLPA Bowl
Thomas Rush, Edge Rusher, Minnesota
Thomas Rush was a part of the great 2021 Minnesota Golden Gophers defensive line that finished as the third-best defense by yards allowed. It was his first year playing as an edge rusher and he flourished in his new spot. He racked up 31 tackles, 7.5 tackles for loss, and 5.5 sacks. His sack total was tied for 12th best in the Big Ten. He also played alongside two future NFL defensive linemen; Boye Mafe and Esezi Otomewo.
Last season, with those two departed, Rush took a step back in his quarterback pressure production, but he also had his best season as a tackler and on a whole, the Minnesota defense stayed one of the best in their conference.
Rush wasn’t a stand-out during the NFLPA practices, but he would have won the award for defensive player of the game (had that award existed) He had four tackles, two sacks, and one tackle for loss. It was one of those games where every time a play is made, he was in the vicinity.
Playing alongside Mafe had an outsized influence on how Rush plays the game. Rush told the Minneapolis Star-Tribune, “… What I took from him was being able to be in what we would call ‘fit ball’ and play football at the same time. You know your role; you know your responsibility. Just go play and be natural and let loose a bit.”
This sounds a lot like two Rams defenders, in particular; Ernest Jones and even more so, Bobby Wagner. Mafe is freakishly athletic and that made him a second-round talent. Rush isn’t that guy, but he is a very smart and darn-good football player. Getting him in the proximity of Wagner and Jones would give him the ideal place to develop.
The Rams are in desperate need of edge rushing depth. They will likely add this in free agency, earlier in the draft, and perhaps even by trade, but they will definitely take a flier on a very late-round edge rusher as well.
C.J. Coldon, CB, Oklahoma
It isn’t usually the case that when a player transfers from a school in a small conference to a power five school they stand out among the dearth of talent. But that’s what happened to C.J. Coldon when he transferred from Wyoming to Oklahoma. What made the difference? Raised expectations. One of the questions head coach Brent Venables asked him during the recruiting process is if he enjoyed ‘hard coaching.’ To which Coldon answered in the affirmative with a smile. Although he did qualify that by admitting he didn’t realize just how hard it would be.
Over the two seasons, he had a combined 99 tackles, 16 passes defended, four interceptions, and a sack. All four of those interceptions came last season with the Sooners.
Since taking on a starting role in 2021, Coldon has proven to be a great combination of physical and athletic. He doesn’t mind jamming a bigger receiver at the line of scrimmage but can keep up with him down the sideline and his aggressive style makes it hard for the pass-catcher everywhere in between.
The Rams have some uncertainty with the depth at cornerback. Troy Hill is a free agent and Robert Rochell didn’t take a big step forward. Both Derion Kendrick and Cobie Durant have plenty of potential, but neither had consistent rookie efforts. The Rams will have to continue to address the secondary in the draft until one of their prospects develops into a legitimate starter, but even with that, they will need to continue to add depth around Jalen Ramsey.
Coldon has a Kendrick quality about him, but with more of a lunchpail mentality.
Macon Clark, DB, Tulane
Macon Clark’s nickname is ‘Savage.’ Do I need to say anything else?
My editors are telling me I do.
Clark has played a lot of football, 35 games over the last three seasons. 46 games in his five years at Tulane. In his three seasons as a starter, he has 183 tackles, 19.5 tackles for loss, five sacks, eight interceptions, and four forced fumbles.
He isn’t just a brute force tackler, he is also skilled in coverage. While in general, Clark is listed as a safety, last season he played a good amount in slot coverage. This season, he became Louisiana’s first defensive multi-week winner for the Louisiana Sports Writers Association College Football Players of the Week. He was also named to the first-team All-American Athletic Conference. Clark seems like the kind of player that needs a bigger stage before anyone will appreciate just how talented he is.
Both Taylor Rapp and Nick Scott played more than 95 percent of defensive snaps for the team last season and they both just so happen to be free agents next season. Assuming he comes back fully from injury, that leaves Jordan Fuller, Russ Yeast, and Quentin Lake on the depth chart. Those three combined played less than 25 percent of defensive snaps last season. So the Rams will definitely be looking for a few safeties in the draft.
The Rams will appreciate Clark’s versatility. If Rapp departs in free agency, they will be lacking a tough physical presence at safety. Clark could fill that role.