Los Angeles Rams 90-Man Roster Preview: Cornerback Donte Deayon

by Jake Ellenbogen
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Donte Deayon almost won a Super Bowl after being signed onto the Los Angeles Rams practice squad. This year, he has an opportunity to compete for a spot on the Rams roster. Will the “undersized” cornerback be able to do enough to join the Super Bowl contender Rams? I will take a look at Deayon and what he brings to the table.

2018 Season

Deayon suited up for four games with the New York Giants last season. He racked up two pass breakups, six tackles and even recovered a fumble. The Giants went through a bevy of injuries so they needed to free up space to add replacements. Unfortunately, the Giants had to let go of Deayon to make room for newly-signed wide receiver Bennie Fowler. Following the Giants waiving Deayon, the Rams signed him onto their practice squad.

Deayon never saw the Rams roster. However, he did spend valuable time in a building with a winning culture and around marquee players at his position. The former Giant didn’t play the rest of the season, but he did reside with a Super Bowl team. Meanwhile, the Giants were focusing in on a potential rebuild.

The Rams signed the 25-year-old Boise State product to a futures contract following their Super Bowl loss. Deayon because of this would have the opportunity to fight for a 53-man roster spot when the new season came around.

Roster Battle

This is going to be a huge feat for Donte Deayon. Last year, it’s worth mentioning, Deayon was able to see the field with the Giants due to lack of depth. The fact that 3rd-round Supplemental draft selection Sam Beal was ruled out for the rest of the season, helped as well. Deayon isn’t in that same boat. Today, he faces a roadblock. Last year, his competition was Janoris Jenkins, Eli Apple, William Gay, Sam Beal, Teddy Williams, Chris Lewis-Harris, Grant Haley and B.W. Webb. This year, however, it’s more set in stone with players like Marcus Peters, Aqib Talib, Nickell Robey-Coleman, David Long and recently-extended Troy Hill.

After that, it’s not even a guarantee the Rams keep another cornerback. If they do, Deayon will have to fend off Darious Williams, Dominique Hatfield and Kevin Peterson. The one big-time advantage Deayon possesses is his ability as a nickel corner. With Blake Countess venturing over to the Philadelphia Eagles, the Rams literally have no one behind Robey-Coleman in that role. You could argue Hatfield or even safety Ramon Richards but aside from that, there’s no one.

Deayon won’t have an easy battle and that’s because of how deep the Rams already are set up for this year.

Three Plays On Tape

This is not a great read by the quarterback Danny Etling but Donte Deayon has ball skills, anticipates well and has speed. All of which, are demonstrated on this play. He doesn’t even start this play off well at all as he gets caught guessing at the line of scrimmage. However, he does a beautiful job to recover. Again, this pass to Devin Lucien isn’t very good, but there’s a reason Deayon came down with quite a few interceptions in his preseason career. That, right there is why.

I love this play, it’s good coverage by Deayon on the receiver Greg Little. However, Little, who is way more physically imposing simply out-muscles Deayon for the ball and the touchdown. Oh wait, he doesn’t. It’s quite the opposite because Deayon doesn’t give up on the play and he is able to force the incompletion at the end of this catch. Again, the coverage is good, he isn’t as tall as the other guy but Deayon’s no-quit attitude saves a touchdown.

Here’s another interception I absolutely love from Deayon. DeShone Kiser is trying to convert this 3rd-down play to Josh Boyce. Kiser thinks he has Boyce near the sideline but a great play by Deayon spoils that thought. Deayon stuck with Boyce like glue throughout this rep and he is able to show off his above-average ball skills with the interception here. Not only does Deayon pick off the pass but he also has the wherewithal to get his two feet in bounds. This play didn’t count due to a defensive penalty but it’s still a great rep out of Deayon nonetheless.

Biggest Question

Can Deayon make the Los Angeles Rams 53-man roster?

This may seem crazy because I believe he can. However, that doesn’t mean that this isn’t a big question mark. It’s one of the most interesting stories coming in because he has more in-game NFL experience than the likes of David Long, Kevin Peterson and is likely a better player than Dominique Hatfield. Those guys are his competition in reality. The problem is that Long is a third-round draft pick and by default, he’s a lock to make the roster. Peterson and Deayon might be equally talented so it’s going to be a dog fight.

There is a reason the Los Angeles Rams did not go out and sign any UDFA cornerbacks onto this roster. This is the reason, there is a healthy amount of cornerback competition and overall depth on the roster already. Deayon is a player that can return punts though which might appeal to the coaching staff and make him even more valuable. With just one season on the practice squad and only eight total games played, Deayon has one more year of practice squad eligibility, so that could be the route the Rams decide to go.

Either way, Deayon is going to have to prove to the Rams he’s worth keeping over the likes of guys that have suited up for most of the season. Deayon’s stock is all dependent on how he plays in the preseason. This is someone that has displayed the tendency to make the big-time interception and he will likely do it once or twice this summer. The preseason still remains the best way for Deayon to sneak onto this roster.

2019 Outlook and Role

I think Deayon has a 50-50 shot at making the roster. If he doesn’t though, why would the Los Angeles Rams not give him another stint on the practice squad? When you look at the roster and at the position, the only bubble guys that intrigue me are Deayon and Kevin Peterson. I think Deayon’s age, the fact he’s played in eight NFL games and has produced in the preseason makes him a legitimate option to keep. Although, the Rams are probably only keeping five on the roster and so if they do I’m going to assume that Deayon’s role is either a Rams practice squad member or on another roster.

This becomes interesting and it’s the same situation I brought up in regards to Steven Parker. Will Donte Deayon “suck it up” and potentially spend another season on the Rams practice squad in an effort to be a part of the long-term plan. Or will he refuse to sign onto the Rams practice squad in the event he could sign somewhere else and potentially have a role on defense this year but on a lesser team. That is the question that most of these bubble players will need to answer for themselves. This is ultimately what happens when you are a Super Bowl-caliber team that has more than 53 very talented and intriguing players.

Chances of Making Final Roster

It’s a 50% chance in my opinion. Deayon is talented enough to be a starting nickel corner tomorrow. However, he’s vying for an opportunity to play for the Los Angeles Rams. A team that won 13 games last year and landed in the Super Bowl. It’s not a cakewalk and Deayon knows this. Practice squad seems very likely but with the lack of depth at the nickel cornerback spot, Deayon has the inside track if the Rams need a backup for Robey-Coleman.

Would the Rams be making a mistake if they kept Deayon? Absolutely not. As a matter of fact, I think if they keep Deayon they will have a feisty, youthful and versatile cornerback with ball skills that will be on the cheap side as the team enters the post-Goff contract extension era. Things are little easier now for the Rams with Jared Goff on a rookie contract. As time goes on, that won’t be the case. Jared Goff will need to be extended and a franchise quarterback on a Super Bowl team is going to receive a ton of money. Because of that, guys like Deayon will be beneficial to keep around for the long-term. Will they do it though? That remains to be seen.

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