DTR Draft Chronicles: Day 2 EDGE Defenders

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There has been a lot of noise made by the Los Angeles Rams this off-season. It’s why this new series of Draft Chronicles is only geared at the day two and day three section of the draft. In this series, I will show you a spotlight on the position and every potential draft-able player that is a realistic option for the Rams in between their span of picks.  

 

For the first piece in this mini-series, I bring you the EDGE defenders. The Rams right now have Samson Ebukam, Matt Longacre, Garrett Sickels, Carlos Thompson & Ejuan Price on the roster that can play outside linebacker. With that being said, it’s pretty obvious due to the fact the team has yet to re-sign Connor Barwin and the fact they traded away Robert Quinn, the team will be looking for EDGE help in this draft. Of the officially confirmed pre-draft visits for the Rams, five of them are EDGE guys. So here we go…

 

Potential Round 3 Targets

Players that are more late 2nd-round picks than 3rd-round.

 

Arden Key, LSU (6-foot-6, 238 pounds)

Someone that was once considered a pre-season top-five pick could possibly find himself falling into day two? Yeah, and part of that is due to some off-field issues but furthermore Key just didn’t put great stuff on his 2017 tape it’s that simple. 

 

The Good

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A physical freak, he has the ability to be a star someday in the NFL with the right coaching and as long as he’s able to keep a consistently positive attitude. Key shows consistently on his prior 2016 tape that he has no problem timing the snap and exploding off the edge. He shows quickness, decisiveness and short-area burst to gobble up the running back or even a scrambling QB. As you see in the clip above, Key has a high-energy and explosive way of how he plays the game. He practically hits the QB with a bulldog wrestling move on this sack here.

 

The Bad

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Off-field issues, a poor 40-yard dash time at his pro day (which I don’t really even care about) and serious drop-off on film from his 2016 tape to his 2017 tape. The above clip is a nice representation of how Key looked in his 2016 season and unfortunately this one is a good representation of 2017.

 

Conclusion 

 

Key absolutely makes sense for the Rams who do not have a first or second-round pick. Look, at the end of the day, a 40-yard time for an edge defender won’t truly help you. It’s no secret Key ran a slow 4.89-4.91 at his Pro Day but again, when will that matter? When chasing down a ball-carrier that gets through the second-level? Big deal. For a team that doesn’t pick until 87th-overall, Key would be a close-to-dream scenario for Wade Phillips as he completely finishes his transformation of the defense. Was his 2017 tape concerning? Absolutely. However, being out of the first and second rounds, these are types of players you are going to need to hit on. 

 

Josh Sweat, Florida State (6-foot-4, 251 pounds)

An elite athletic profile is the name of the game for Josh Sweat. Looking for a player that should be a much better pro than he was a college player? Look no further than Josh Sweat. 

 

The Good

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Unbelievably athletic in every way. Offers ideal size, speed and strength for the position. Shows relentless pursuit (as shown in the clip above), moves as smooth as any player at his position in this class, sets the edge well and displays the awareness and the overall ability to drop into coverage and help his team. You can definitely add “scheme versatile” to his resume which makes him a fit anywhere in the National Football League.

 

The Bad 

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While Sweat is extremely athletic, he still has plenty of growth to do and plenty of mishaps. He’s a talented but raw prospect. As you can see in this clip here Sweat falls asleep on the line of scrimmage and by the time he breaks out of his stance the Alabama WR Calvin Ridley has already crossed the line of scrimmage. With Sweat, there are injury concerns for sure, he passed all his combine medical testing but it’s still worrisome that he tore his ACL and has dislocated his knee before. You can see Sweat will over-pursue at times and take himself out of the play. He’s not a natural pass rusher, does not have natural pass rusher bend and so he will need to learn how to use his body more. 

 

Conclusion

 

Sweat is going to be a work in progress for the coaching staff, he’s going to have times that makes coaches want to rip their hair out but this is a similar type of player as Danielle Hunter and with everything in his arsenal and how large his potential meter is, it’s a no-brainer that if Josh Sweat is at 87th overall for the Rams they will have a tough decision to make if they even consider passing on him. Sweat can come in and immediately challenge for a starting job and it helps he would have Wade Phillips as his coordinator and a ton of talent around him. 

 

Lorenzo Carter, Georgia (6-foot-6, 250 pounds)

The former elite high school recruit Lorenzo Carter never quite lived up to the hype at Georgia, but that doesn’t mean he’s not a talented player that is going to make noise in the NFL. 

 

The Good

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Lorenzo Carter’s strength to me is the way he’s able to set the edge. As you can see in the clip above, Carter sets the edge which forces the running QB Wimbush to have to take his run inside instead of bouncing outside. Carter initiates the contact with his blocker and is able to use his hands to gain leverage to crash back inside and make the play. Carter is extremely rangy and shows the awareness to make run defensive stops. Due to the fact he has incredible speed, he is able to win off the edge as a rusher with just pure speed. 

 

The Bad

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I do like what Carter brings to the table as a third-round selection but this could be a serious issue at the next level. He gets manhandled by bigger guys like this Kentucky RT in the clip above. Carter struggles evidently against bigger offensive lineman with a stable base. Since Carter doesn’t convert speed to power well, he is going to have to develop better methods of beating the bigger man. What you need to see at the next level is a Lorenzo Carter that is more active with his hands earlier in the engagement with his assignment and someone that learns to develop more than one speed pass rush move. He also does struggle with downhill tackling which might prevent him from making the position change to inside backer if needed.

 

Conclusion

 

Another option and a good one at that for the Rams. He’s going to be another work in progress but Lorenzo Carter has a lot to make you excited. Once again, it goes back to the coaching. If this was an inexperienced coaching staff coming off of a 0-16 season, I wouldn’t have faith that the said coaching staff could develop someone like Carter. He would likely start when the season began or shortly after the beginning of the season and that’s not a bad pick if that’s the case. 

 

Dorance Armstrong Jr, Kansas (6-foot-4, 257 pounds)

The Kansas star pass rusher Dorance Armstrong saw his stock rise as the season started but a lot like previously mentioned Arden Key, Armstrong saw his stock start to slip after an inconsistent 2017 follow-up season to his impressive 2016 campaign. 

 

The Good

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Armstrong presents the ability to use multiple moves to get to the passer. In this clip, he displays his inside spin move that works to absolute perfection in sacking Baker Mayfield. Armstrong has a combination of quickness and power, he displays solid hand usage and an excellent motor. Despite Kansas continuous struggles and blowout losses, Armstrong never wavered and never quit. Teams will like what Armstrong brings to the table and have a chance to develop him into a 15 sack per season guy. 

 

The Bad

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Relentless pursuit here from Armstrong but as you see, effort is there but it’s not effective. Armstrong continues to pursue with a move that is simply not going to work in this scenario. In this situation Armstrong needs to disengage his bull rush move and try an outside spin move. This throw from Wil Grier ended up being intercepted but with that clean of a pocket, Armstrong’s lack of success with this bull rush could have been killer for the Jayhawks. 

 

Conclusion 

 

Sure, Armstrong Jr. dipped in production in 2017, he might not be the most polished player but he has loads of potential, he’s very crafty and has a motor that is going to make him a consistent force in the league as a pass rusher. Wade Phillips once coached for Kansas on the defensive line in 1975, I don’t know if that or having coached Kansas legends Aqib Talib and Chris Harris Jr. will be enough of a connection to bring Armstrong to Los Angeles but regardless, he would be a stellar option for the Rams to develop and feature as their guy on the edge. 

 

Likely Round 3 Targets

Players that will be there for the Rams or barely miss their pick

 

Uchenna Nwosu, USC (6-foot-3, 251 pounds) 

The former USC Trojan captain has the versatility to play either inside backer or on the outside. The blue collar linebacker is going to be a problem at the next level. 

 

The Good 

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Uchenna Nwosu is just a total workhorse. QB’s are going to hate him regardless of what league he plays in, just look at this clip above with Luke Falk having a pass batted six yards behind the line of scrimmage and picked off. Nwosu plays with a high motor but he’s very intelligent. He reads QB’s well and does know when to drop back and block a QB’s throwing lane. This is his forte and it’s something he does better than anyone in this draft. As a pass rusher, Nwosu is very solid but will need fine-tuning at the next level to ascend. 

 

The Bad

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The excellent get-off the line of scrimmage is not the issue obviously, it’s the fact that in this clip you see Nwosu’s aggression take himself out of the play here. It’s not to say if he doesn’t fall he ends up with the sack, but he had no chance as soon as he went down. Nwosu is guilty of losing his balance at times off the edge and is inconsistent with his counter moves against blockers. He has the moves to be an every-down pass rusher but it’s about using them consistently which is something he struggles with at this point in time. 

 

Conclusion

 

Nwosu is a tighter hipped edge defender with a lack of bend but he has a lot of the things you look for. He had batted down 19 passes between his last two seasons and has continued to improve as a player. He does not have tons of football experience so he’s still learning the intricacies of the game. Nwosu was a captain at USC and showed off the ability to be a game-breaker when the team needed him to be one. The Rams want turnovers and they have a need on the edge, Wade Phillips would certainly love Nwosu and Samson Ebukam in the same lineup together. If he’s there it makes a lot of sense for the Rams to make Nwosu the new Trojan Ram.  

 

Duke Ejiofor, Wake Forest (6-foot-4, 270 pounds)

One of the more polished pass rushers in this class has a lot to offer but is limited athletically and has had some recent injury problems. 

 

The Good

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Duke Ejiofor is likely one of the most NFL-ready rushers in this class. He has a plethora of pass rushing maneuvers as you can see here he’s quick and is able to explode right through his assignment’s left inside shoulder. Ejiofor is also a powerful tackler that has the ability to force turnovers just off his contact alone. He’s a smart football player that is instantly going to improve any team’s pass rush that spends their pick on him. 

 

The Bad

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Duke is not a fast player and you can see in this clip how his speed rush turns into a wasted effort. The only true issues with Ejiofor lie with his athletic ability and his injuries (mainly concussions). He’s been labeled as a 4-3 defensive end but I believe he still can play as an outside linebacker in a 3-4. The number of cons to Ejiofor’s game are slim but athletic ability might hinder his ceiling.

Conclusion

 

Ejiofor would be a valuable piece for the Rams if drafted. He visited the team recently so there is an evident interest but will the Rams pull the trigger on the less athletic guy? With the Rams needing pass rusher help after losing both edge starters Robert Quinn and likely Connor Barwin, the team might decide to go for the player with the highest floor and draft another with a high ceiling. Ejiofor would be perfect for any team that wants immediate value. This crafty pass rusher is certainly going to be a finalist to go to the Rams with their third-round pick. 

 

Kemoko Turay, Rutgers (6-foot-5, 252 pounds)

The Rutgers Senior Bowl standout pass rusher had a nice week in mobile and his stock has been rising in the coming weeks of the draft.  

 

The Good

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In this clip, Kemoko Turay displays his ability as a natural mover as he re-adjusts to scan and find the open lane up the middle and he charges and almost gets the sack. Turay is able to drop into coverage and is a sound tackler in space. Turay is extremely fast for his position and shows great closing speed. 

 

The Bad

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The inconsistent usage of hands and lack of dip and bend for Kemoko Turay is his biggest weakness. He can get completely taken out of the play because he doesn’t have the arsenal of moves to get himself out of trouble. This is a speed rusher through and through that shows the potential to develop into an all-around dominant pass rusher but he will need to learn to get lower coming off the edge. His stiffness and how upright he is coming off the edge makes blocking him easier than it should be. 

 

Conclusion

 

Turay might be a little too rich for the Rams here in the third. I like him but there are limitations to his game that would push him into the fourth-round for me personally. The Rams would still love to get a player like him as he has great NFL size, speed and provides major disruption for the QB. He will need to work on building up a bigger arsenal of rush moves but he has a nice base to get teams excited. 

 

Ogbonnia Okoronkwo, Oklahoma (6-foot-1, 242 pounds)

Another Senior Bowl standout, Ogbo Okoronkwo is a bit undersized but shows the quickness and mental processing needed to play on the edge or even as a linebacker. He has a toolbox of pass rushing moves but he is short and didn’t run well at the combine.

 

The Good

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Okoronkwo is quick and skilled off the edge. Here in this clip he beats the right tackle with an outside spin move and even while being held he’s able to complete is turn and sack the QB. Okoronkwo excels in coverage and even deep coverage at that as well as the fact his motor is always running. His versatility would allow him to play the edge position or slide inside as an inside linebacker in the NFL. His range and acceleration allow him to really help in the run game as well. 

 

The Bad

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Not only does Okoronkwo over-pursue here but he does an inside spin move which leaves no one on the outside to set the edge and avoid the giant run J.T. Barrett picks up on this play. Okoronkwo has to have controlled aggression, it’s okay to be aggressive and honestly, it’s encouraged. However, you have to stay in control and avoid this from happening. This was a 3rd and 6 play that goes for chunk yardage. The big-time offensive lineman will take advantage of his lack of frame.

 

Conclusion

 

Okoronkwo is a fun prospect and the Rams have met with him a couple of times already so they are interested. He displays the ability to become a monster pass rusher but due to his frame being so small he needs to work extra hard than the average player. Ogbo is going to need to be more controlled because in the NFL if he is a liability when setting the edge he will be reduced to just a sub-package and situational pass rusher type of player. You can see the fit but will the Rams make Okoronkwo their pick? He could possibly be there with their early fourth-round pick.

 

Chad Thomas, Miami (6-foot-6, 275 pounds)

Chad Thomas was a story of someone who was underachieving and so he stayed one more year and school and really helped his draft stock. The Miami Hurricane is a pass rusher that has tons of range to his game.

 

The Good

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Chad Thomas has an NFL body, he has loose hips and he’s trouble off the edge. In this clip, just watch as Thomas gets around the right tackle with ease and then is able to chase down the escaping QB and force a turnover. Notice when Thomas first misses the QB he shows no hesitation recovering and charging to make the big hit on the QB. Thomas shows the ability in run support, he has the athleticism and range to drop into coverage when needed and he’s versatile in the fact he can play on the edge, linebacker or even lineup inside at times. Thomas has no issue converting his speed to power.

 

The Bad 

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Thomas really struggles with hand usage. There are times like this clip, where Thomas just lets himself lose the matchup and does not try to win or shift weight with hands. He recently ran a slow combine and did not test as the athlete many thought he was. He’s a bigger edge guy so he will absolutely need to refine his technique so he can overpower his opponents. The fact with Thomas is this, he had good college speed but he will need to become less predictable in the NFL if he wants to sustain a long career. 

 

Conclusion

 

Chad Thomas is an intriguing prospect that would rank as my lowest on this list here. He might be a better fit for the 4-3. He does not have the pass rushing skillset of a Duke Ejiofor and because of that, he is going to need some serious coaching. All of these prospects have holes in their game which is why they aren’t all top 10 picks but Thomas’ holes won’t really stand out until the NFL. He did get by in college with his athleticism and will now need to do extra to have a successful career at the professional level. 

So there you have it, the first part of this EDGE Draft Chronicles brought you all you need to know about 87. The next piece will be all about the day three guys that you need to know come Saturday, April 29th!

 

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