Snead’s Snacks: Who Could The Rams Draft at Linebacker to Replace Cory Littleton?

The Los Angeles Rams lost Cory Littleton in free agency. Who are some players that Les Snead could look at in the NFL Draft in April?

NFL Draft

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The Los Angeles Rams enter a crucial year when it comes to the NFL draft. With limited cap space (and limited draft picks for that matter), it’s going to be more important than ever to build depth through the draft and than means hitting on the majority of their picks.

All of Rams fans’ fears came to fruition on Tuesday when the team lost linebacker Cory Littleton to the Las Vegas Raiders on a three-year deal. While the Rams do have linebackers like Travin Howard and Micah Kiser on the roster, it’s going to be very difficult to replace Littleton and the draft might be the best place to do so.

As a new series on Downtown Rams, we’ve started “Snead’s Snacks”. In other words, we’re going to find and look at common themes and traits of previous Les Snead draft picks and see which players in the upcoming NFL Draft fit the mold for the Rams.

Notable Past Rams Drafted Players

Aaron Brown, LB, Hawaii – 7th Round

Size: 6’0, 237

Measurables: N/A

Overview of Pick

The Rams selected Aaron Brown out of Hawaii in the seventh round in Snead’s first draft in 2012. Brown didn’t make the roster.

Alec Ogletree, LB, Georgia – 1st Round

Size: 6’2, 242

Measurables: 
Arm Length: 33-1/2
40-yard dash: 4.70
Bench Press: 20
3-cone: 7.16
20-yard shuttle: 4.39

Overview of Pick

Ogletree was the Rams’ second selection in the first round in 2014. Ogletree had outstanding athleticism coming out of Georgia and was extremely fast for the position. He played the position like a safety with the frame of a linebacker. Ogletree was on the Rams roster until the team traded him to the Giants prior to the 2017 season.

Bryce Hager, LB, Baylor – 7th Round

Size: 6’1, 234

Measurables: 
Arm Length: 31-3/8
40-yard dash: 4.60
Bench Press: 26
3-cone: 7.15
20-yard shuttle: 4.36

Overview of Pick

Hager was a very athletic linebacker and was an explosive player coming out of Baylor. He moved very well laterally and was expected to test well in speed drills at the combine, which he did. Hager remains on the roster.

Josh Forrest, LB, Kentucky – 6th Round

Size: 6’3, 249

Measurables: 
Arm Length: 33-1/2
40-yard dash: 4.91
Bench Press: 11
3-cone: N/A
20-yard shuttle: 4.38

Overview of Pick

Forrest was an athletic linebacker that was all over the field at Kentucky. He was seen to have good later quickness and change of direction. Forrest spent the 2016 season on injured reserve and was cut in 2017.

Micah Kister, LB, Virginia – 5th Round

Size: 6’0, 238

Measurables: 
Arm Length: 32
40-yard dash: 4.66
Bench Press: N/A
3-cone: 7.05
20-yard shuttle: 4.24

Overview of Pick

Kiser was seen as a steal in the fifth round of the 2018 NFL Draft. He was a quick diagnoser and willing tackler with the Cavaliers. Kiser spent 2018 on the sideline before tearing his pectoral muscle last season – one in which he was expected to start.

Travin Howard, LB, TCU – 7th Round

Size: 6’1, 232

Measurables: 
Arm Length: 31-1/2
40-yard dash: 4.56
Bench Press: N/A
3-cone: N/A
20-yard shuttle: 4.2

Overview of Pick

Howard was an interesting pick. He played linebacker at TCU but was built and played like a safety. As he is built like a safety, Howard was a very fast player. He spent last season on the Rams’ practice squad, but was called up the active roster and made his first tackle against the Falcons.

Dakota Allen, LB, Texas Tech – 7th Round

Measurables: 
Arm Length: 31-1/4
40-yard dash: 4.77
Bench Press: 23
3-cone: 6.88
20-yard shuttle: 4.04

Overview of Pick

Allen is most known for his time in Last Chance U. The Rams made him a success story and drafted Allen in the seventh round in the 2019 NFL Draft. The linebacker out of Texas Tech had decent athleticism and good short-area quickness but lacked the speed and instincts required for the position. Allen was signed to the team’s practice squad before he was picked up by the Raiders.

Common Traits Rams Look For

Here are the common traits that can help us build a rough mold of what Snead might look for in rookie linebackers:

  • Snead values players with athleticism at the linebacker position. Ogletree, Hager, Forrest, and Allen were all seen with athleticism that many considered a strength.
  • Outside of Ogletree, the Rams didn’t take a single linebacker on days two or three of the draft. The Rams believe that they can draft linebackers late and develop them.
  • Snead seems to look at speed drills when it comes to the linebacker position. While some general managers may value size, it is clear Snead values speed more than anything. Each of these players were seen as fast and with good straight-line speed. For linebackers, anything sub-4.2 in the 20-yard shuttle, sub-7.2 in the 3-cone, and sub-4.8 in the 40-yard dash is seen as fast. Each player that Snead drafted check that box in the 3-cone and 40-yard dash.
  • The Rams don’t tend to look at school and conference as much at linebacker. In fact, there are a decent amount of small school players on this list.

2020 Players Who Fit the Rams

Because the Rams don’t select until No. 52 overall (and there’s no guarantee they will), it doesn’t really make a lot of sense to look at players ranked inside the consensus top-25 or 30.

Given the team’s history, it doesn’t seem likely that they’ll take a linebacker before day three. While there are always exceptions, I’ll look at a player that fits the Rams that could be available on day two, but for the most part, I’ll be looking at day three players. With guys like Kiser, Howard, and Hager on the roster, it is of my belief that the Rams would like to sign a veteran player and draft someone on day three.

1) Malik Harriston, LB, Ohio State

Harrison is one of the more athletic linebackers in this class and would be a perfect fit to step right in and take Littleton’s spot. This issue is that the Rams most likely would have to take him in the second round and given Snead’s history, it’s just not something that I see him doing.

Harrison checks the box in the 3-cone where he ran the fastest time at the combine and he also ran a 4.66-40. He’s a solid tackler but needs to get better in coverage. Harrison next to Kiser would be a very good 1-2 duo on the inside.

The Ohio State linebacker competed in the Senior Bowl as well which is somewhere the Rams have looked at in the past.

2) Troy Dye, LB, Oregon

Dye is the second player that the Rams would most likely have to take in the second round, but could possibly wait until the third. He’s a little on the smaller side, but Snead has shown that he doesn’t take that into account and prefers players that have athleticism and are fast, both of which are two of Dye’s best traits.

When it comes to linebackers that would be the best fit for the Rams and most fit Snead’s mold, it is Dye. He didn’t test at the combine, but his film shows that he most likely would have tested well. This is a sideline to sideline player that can play all three downs right away. You can’t ask for anything better than that for a rookie.

3) Logan Wilson, LB, Wyoming

Wilson is your typical day three linebacker that comes in and plays special teams right away but eventually becomes a contributor on defense. He ran a 7.07-second 3-cone drill and a 4.63-second 40-yard dash which checks both of Snead’s boxes.

Wilson is a former defensive back and a smart player. He’s going to bring that speed and playmaking ability that the Rams lost with Littleton.

4) Mykal Walker, LB, Fresno State

Walker ran one of the fastest 20-yard shuttles at the combine in February and like Wilson is your typical day-three linebacker. The Fresno State linebacker is an intriguing prospect as he is somewhat reminiscent of Samson Ebukam. Walker played defensive end and MIKE with the Bulldogs which would give him the versatility to play EDGE if the Rams needed him to.

That’s not to say he is an EDGE or that’s where he should play, but it would give the Rams another tool in the toolbox. He’s very athletic but needs to be coached to harness that a little bit. Starting on special teams would be perfect for him.

5) Shaun Bradley, LB, Temple

It’s called Temple Tough for a reason. Bradley is a tough linebacker and is also very athletic. He has true sideline to sideline ability but needs to get better on his reads to be trusted with a role on defense.

 

Bradley is another player that the Rams could draft in the seventh round or possibly pick up as an undrafted free agent and develop him.

 

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