Meet The Los Angeles Rams UDFA’s: Defense

by Blaine Grisak
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Following the draft, the Los Angeles Rams announced the signings of 20 undrafted rookie free agents. We’re going to split this into two articles, offense and defense. The Los Angeles Rams have a long and recent history of finding contributors among that crop of players. From standouts like Cory Littleton to players just making the roster and contributing last year such as Nsimba Webster, Natrez Patrick, Troy Redder and Jake Gervase.

So, here’s a guide to familiarize yourself with the Los Angeles Rams’ undrafted class, starting with defense.

DL Eric Banks – UT-San Antonio

Banks set the all-time games started record at UTSA, having started 48 games over his four years primarily at defensive end. He finished his time as a Roadrunner with 81 tackles, 20.5 tackles for loss, 7.5 sacks, and was a key member of a defense that set UTSA single-season records for tackles for loss (96), tackles for loss per game (8.0) and sacks per game (2.2).

The Rams don’t have a ton of depth on the defensive line, therefore Banks will have an opportunity to compete for one of those final roster spots. Banks reunites with Los Angeles Rams defensive line coach Eric Henderson who coached the defensive line at UTSA back in 2016.

DL Mike Hoecht – Brown

Hoecht was apart of a Brown defense that competed with some of the best in the Ivy League. He’s extremely quick as he posted a virtual combine workout video in March that showed a 4.65-second clocking in the 40-yard dash which would have been the third-highest time at the NFL Combine.

The Brown defensive lineman is a two-year captain and was named second-team All-Ivy last season. He was also selected with the 10th pick in the second round of the CFL Draft by the Ottawa Red Blacks.

DB JuJu Hughes – Fresno St.

Hughes, a safety, played in all 52 games during his Fresno State career. Listed at 5-foot-11 and 188 pounds, Hughes was a three-time All-Mountain West honoree and tied for the conference-lead with four interceptions. The safety racked up 247 total tackles and 28 pass deflections.

According to Pro Football Focus, Hughes had a 90.3 Overall Grade in 2018 which was tied for 10th among Secondary Defenders. Hughes’ best chance to make the roster will be on special teams.

CB Dayan Ghanwoloku (Lake) – BYU

Ghanwoloku played cornerback at BYU, but if he makes the Rams roster, it will be as a special teams player. Throughout his four years at BYU, Ghanwoloku (Lake), he made plays on offense, defense, and special teams. He’s willing and able to play wherever he’s asked which will go a long ways as someone who was signed as an undrafted free agent. 

A nose for the football, Ghanwoloku finished his career with a program record seven fumble recoveries and also posted seven interceptions to rank No. 4 at BYU. His 226 interception return yards also rank No. 2 for the Cougars.

CB Tyrique McGhee – Georgia

Another defensive back for the Rams signing as an undrafted free agent. McGhee saw action in all four years at Georgia. He missed time last season due to a foot injury after also missing the season-opener the year before to injury. The Georgia defensive back played on one of the best defenses in the nation last season. While at Georgia, McGhee recorded 59 total tackles, 2 interceptions, 11 pass deflections and 2 forced fumbles.

EDGE Greg Reaves – USF

Reaves will come in and compete off the edge for the Rams. According to PFF, last season Reaves recorded an 82.9 Rush Defense Grade in 2019 (T-25th among EDGEs) and in 2017 his 83.5 Coverage Grade ranked 10th. A walk-on at Sourth Florida, Reaves passed on an appointment to the Air Force Academy because he was determined to play in the NFL.

Now, he’ll get that chance. Reaves has been a quick player off the edge at South Florida and has a non-stop motor. He’ll be an intriguing player competing in camp.

DL Sam Renner – Minnesota

Renner was a former walk-on at Minnesota and started on special teams as a red-shirt freshman/ He improved in every season, becmoing relentless on the interior with the Gophers and could fit in perfectly in the Rams’ 3-4 scheme as a defensive end. His spin-move is his bread and butter and he has good lateral movement.

He was an All-Big Ten Honorable Mention last season after tallying five sacks and eight tackles for loss. He also recorded 43 tackles.

LB Christian Rozeboom – South Dakota State

Rozeboom led the Jacks in tackles all four years at South Dakota State. He was a four-time All-MVFC First Team selection and three-time All-American. He’s the Jackrabbits’ all-time leader in tackles and according to Pro Football Focus his 90.9 Rush Defense Grade ranked sixth,  88.3 Overall Grade ranked eighth, and his 55.2 Passer Rating When Targeted ranked 11th.

Rozeboom played in the FCS, but consistently made plays all over the field. He registered double figures in tackles six times in 2019, starting with 11-tackle performance in season opener at Big-10 Minnesota. The Rams need help at linebacker and Rozeboom landed in the perfect spot to compete.

DB Levonta Taylor – Florida State

Taylor is reminscent of other Florida State defensive backs that the Rams have had over the past five years in that he’s a swiss army knife. The former No. 1 cornerback prospect coming out of high school, injuries derailed Taylor’s career with the Seminoles. He returned from a stress fracture in his back to record a career-high in tackles.

He can cover in the slot or on the outside as well as play safety if needed. He lacks size and length, but his versatility could make him a depth asset.

DL Jonah Williams – Weber State

Williams is another defensive line player that the Rams added as a UDFA. The Weber State product earned All-America honors last season and was named the Big Sky Co-Defensive MVP. Williams brings a winning culture with him as he was a part of the winningest senior class in Weber State history, winning three Big Sky titles and appeared in the FCS Playoffs four times.

Williams appeared in 54 games at Weber State, tallying 15 sacks, 28 tackles for loss, 194 total tackles, three forced fumbles and three fumble recoveries.

Players to Watch

For any undrafted free agent, making the final roster is an uphill battle, but there is a good chance 3-5 do end up making it.

  • Mike Hoecht’s speed on the interior could make him for a good depth piece or practice squad candidate.
  • Sam Renner did it all at Minnesota and just kept getting better. With NFL coaching, he’ll be a name to watch.
  • Christian Rozenboom lacks size and speed, but he’ll have a great chance to compete for a roster spot at a position in which the Rams don’t have a lot of options.
  • Dayan Ghanwoloku could become a force on special teams. The issue is that the Rams have depth at defensive back.
  • Levonta Taylor’s versatility is valuable. This is a player that has the talent, but has had injuries that have set him back. If there is a gem in this UDFA class, it might be Taylor.
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