The NFL Draft starts next week, with the first round starting on April 29. However, fans will have to wait until day 2 to meet the Rams’ first pick. The team traded away their first-round pick in the 2021 draft to the Jacksonville Jaguars in exchange for cornerback Jalen Ramsey. In this year’s draft, the Jaguars pick four times before the Rams.
With all that time, there are sure to be some incredible talent already off the board. So it stands to ask: who are some of the best defensive players the Rams can draft with their first pick?
The Rams couldn’t retain a lot of their stars on defense this offseason. Many of them, including John Johnson, Samson Ebukam, and Troy Hill, moved on to other teams. Luckily the Rams were able to resign Leonard Floyd to a four-year $64 million deal. There are some spots the Rams could address in this year’s draft. Here are some of the best players slotted to go late in the second round.
Elijah Molden, CB, Washington (Position Rank 7, Overall 50)
Elijah Molden, to some, is too short and stocky to play nickel or safety. However, to some, the Washington cornerback prospect has the versatility to play either as a slot corner. The Rams don’t need him to play nickel because the Rams have a few options to play nickel. But the Rams are a little short in cornerback position, and adding a cornerback will go a long way.
Molden comes from Washington as an exceptional tackler, with 153 tackles over his four years and an eye for the football with five interceptions. Many of his weaknesses are coachable and but he has time to develop. However, many scouts and analysts have noticed his elite football IQ.
“You start to like him more and more with the more tape you watch because you see how smart and instinctive he is,” one NFC team told NFL Network.
Molden’s work ethic coupled with his potential to play nickel or safety makes him a steal late in the second round.
Jabril Cox, LB, LSU (Position Rank 5, Overall 45)
After resigning Floyd to solidify the strong side, the Rams should focus their attention inside. According to ESPN’s depth chart, the Rams only have two players at right inside linebacker. They don’t absolutely need someone to step in right away because that’s Micah Kiser’s position. However, he’s a free agent next season and could part for another team next season.
Looking to bring in a replacement now would be a key for new defensive coordinator Raheem Moris. The Rams could be looking at Jabril Cox as their first pick in the draft. Cox’s will have to develop as a pass rusher, but his run defense is top-notch. For his first three years, he averaged 86 tackles per season at North Dakota State. While he staggered when he transferred to LSU, he still managed 58 tackles his senior year and three interceptions. He also has nine interceptions during his college career. While he was overshadowed in the LSU defense compared to his explosiveness at North Dakota State, he stepped up to the challenge and showed he’s ready to step up to the NFL. It might be in a few seasons, though.
Joseph Ossai, Edge, Texas (Position Rank 4, Overall 80)
Joseph Ossai is a very versatile defender who’s coming into the draft playing only one season as an edge rusher which positions him perfectly for the Rams draft. There isn’t an immediate plug-and-play need at either defensive end or linebacker. However, he adds depth to all three positions.
Luckily both the Longhorns and Rams run 3-4 defenses which means he will continue to develop as an edge rusher. Coaches and scouts have noted his coachability. Getting him with players like Aaron Donald and Floyd is sure to help him develop his game as an edge rusher.
He might take time to develop those edge skills; however, the Rams have time. While he’s a reach at 80 overall, but with the shallow depth in the position, he might move up the board quickly as other top-rated edge rushers come off. Considering the Rams’ next pick doesn’t come until 80 overall, it might be wise to steal him now if they’re eyeing him as the edge rusher of the future.
Carlos Basham, DE, Wake Forest, (Position Rank 7, Overall 46)
Carlos Basham out of Wake Forest is a true defensive end perfect to play opposite the 2020 Defensive Player of the Year Aaron Donald. He might take a year to develop. However, he can play as a backup if he’s called on as a rookie, especially considering the departure of Morgan Fox in free agency.
Basham has a tackle for a loss in each of his last 23 games, averaged 43 tackles in each of his four-season, record 20.5 sacks and seven forced fumbles in his last 19 games.
While his stats and tape are impressive, he will need to slim down slightly according to an NFC teams personnel director. Basham is 6’5” 285 lbs.; however, he still has impressive speed to chase down quarterbacks and running backs. However, his big frame gives his game a high level of ferociousness. Imagine getting him with Aaron Donald tutelage, and he should prosper into a great addition to the defensive line.
Feature Image: Steven Bisig / USA TODAY Sports