When it comes to the Los Angeles Rams over the last two years in the NFL Draft they’ve drafted more for future need than immediate need. Being able to do so has shown just how great of a job general manager Les Snead has done building this Rams team because not every organization has the luxury of doing so.
Last season Snead prepared for the departures of Rodger Saffold and John Sullivan by drafting Joseph Noteboom and Brian Allen to replace them on the offensive line. Well, that’s exactly what happened and instead of being thrown into the fire as rookies, both Noteboom and Allen will have had a year in the system under their belt while learning from two veterans who found success in the NFL.
The Rams took a very similar approach this offseason when they drafted cornerback David Long in the third round. Both Aqib Talib and Marcus Peters are on the final year of their deals. It’s very possible that the team loses one, if not both, in free agency next season. Heck, the Rams did the same thing when they brought in Eric Weddle and drafted Taylor Rapp.
At 33-years of age, Talib could very well retire while Peters is going to demand a large deal that the Rams may not be able to afford with the probably contract extensions of John Johnson III, Jared Goff, and others looming.
At Michigan, Long was the definition of a shutdown cornerback. He allowed just 29% of passes thrown his way to be completed and gave up just nine receptions last season at Michigan.
Long more favors replacing Talib as the two players have very similar playing styles. Both are sticky man-to-man corners, but Long is slightly undersized at 5’11 while Talib is the prototypical 6’1. That could also be a reason for replacing Peters, however, as the former Kansas City Chiefs All-Pro cornerback struggled in the first half of last season due to the man-centric defensive scheme that Wade Phillips likes to play. Given his lack of size and elite short-area quickness, it would not be surprising to see Long get some action at a nickel cornerback given Nickell Robey-Coleman-Coleman’s expiring contract in two years as well.
Either way, like Noteboom and Allen did a year ago, it’s going to be beneficial for Long to sit back behind literally two of the best cornerbacks in the game and get a full year in the system, especially Talib.
Michigan CB David Long has legit route recognition and is a nonstop pain to WRs. Fiesty. I like it.
You don’t see many DBs undercut these type of routes, especially when the WR stems that far inside. Really good rep here pic.twitter.com/RFCnjAay67
— KP 🏁 (@KP_Show) April 15, 2019
The play above feels a lot like Talib. You can see just how ‘sticky’ Long is. The wide receiver initially lines up on the outside, but motions in to the slot. Long had the best three-cone time at the combine and you can see why. Because of his ability to quickly move his hips to adjust to the inside release, he’s able to run with the wide receiver and get the pass breakup.
CB David Long showing off some of his zone chops. Shows press man with a man-turn on the snap but then drops to zone coverage. Great job of getting his eyes on the QB and reading the route combination. pic.twitter.com/SX5S6y3T6D
— Cover 1 (@Cover_1_) April 17, 2019
While Long excels in press coverage, here he shows off his ability to play in zone as well. He keeps his eyes on the quarterback and is able to tip the pass and force the interception.
Given that Talib was a first round player drafted 20th overall and Long was taken in the third round, 59 picks later it’s hard to say that the two prospects are all that similar. However, they did have similar styles.
Coming out of Kansas, Talib had very good ball skills and showcased his ability to play physical which would end ups giving receivers fits in the NFL. He was also a risk-taker, often reading the quarterback for the chance to cut underneath the route. His only true negative was his acceleration and catch-up speed which caused several touchdowns throughout his career.
Similarly, Long doesn’t have high end acceleration, and combined with his height means the potential is there to get beaten by fast, athletic wide receivers in the NFL. However, like Talib at Kansas, Long excels in the shallow, underneath area of the field. His nose for the ball and confidence in that area is outstanding.
As mentioned, this does not mean that Long will end up the player that Talib is. He was drafted in the third round, meaning he has some developing to do. The Rams got a very good player in the third-round – someone who was a shutdown cornerback with the Wolverines.
Talib has never started all 16 games in a season in his career and four times has missed more than four games. Long was drafted into a perfect situation in Los Angeles where he won’t be expected to start right away and will have the ability to learn behind a future Hall of Famer. Long’s time will come, but when it does, he’ll be ready.