Snead’s Snacks: Who the Rams may target at cornerback in the 2021 NFL Draft

by Blaine Grisak
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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.

Last year I started a series called “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. The focus for today’s edition of “Snead’s Snacks” will be on one of the Rams’ biggest positions of need, the cornerback position.

After losing Troy Hill in free agency, the Rams need a CB 2/3. They need someone with an ability to start as well as add depth. With Darious Williams set to hit free agency next season, having someone ready to go in case the Rams are unable to bring him back is ideal.

As we know, the Rams don’t have a selection in the first round. This most likely takes out guys like Greg Newsome II, Caleb Farley, and other top defensive backs. The Rams also haven’t targeted tall cornerbacks in the past, therefore I eliminated players such as Benjamin St. Juste and Israel Mukuamu who are each 6’3.

Notable Past Rams Drafted Players

David Long, CB, Michigan – 3rd Round

Size: 5’10, 196-lbs

Measurables: 
Arm Length: 30.875 inches
Shuttle: 3.97 sec
Broad Jump: 10.00 feet.
3-cone: 6.45 sec
40-yard dash: 4.45
Vertical: 39.5 sec

Size Grade: Good
Speed Grade: Good
RAS: 9.2 – Elite

Traits: 

  • Physical
  • Fast
  • Competitor
  • Plays bigger than his size

Overview of Pick

David Long was drafted in the third round of the 2018 NFL Draft. He has yet to make much of an impact and it’s because of that the Rams are in need of finding another number two cornerback. It was thought that might be long, but he has yet to show that ability.

EJ Gaines, CB, Mizzou – 6th Round

Size: 5’9, 190-lbs.

Measurables: 
Arm Length: 30.375 inches
Shuttle: 4.28 sec
Broad Jump: 9.07 feet
3-cone: 7.13 sec
40-yard dash: 4.51
Vertical: 31.5 inches

Size Grade: Poor
Speed Grade: Good
RAS: 3.52 Poor

Traits:

  • Strong, physical
  • Good tackler
  • Plays bigger than size

Overview of Pick

For a sixth round pick, EJ Gaines was very good. He was traded to the Buffalo Bills during the Sammy Watkins trade, but prior to that, he was a solid depth cornerback. He even spent some time as the team’s number two cornerback. For a sixth round pick, this was a steal.

Brandon McGee, CB, Miami – 5th Round

Size: 5’11, 193-lbs

Measurables: 
Arm Length: 32 inches
Shuttle: 4.18 sec
Broad Jump: 9.11 feet
3-cone: 6.71 sec
40-yard dash: 4.4
Vertical: 33.5 inches

Size Grade: Good
Speed Grade: Great
RAS: 8.11 – Elite

Traits:

  • Fast
  • Competitor
  • Sound Tackler

Overview of Pick

Brandon McGree had the size, but never showed it on the field. He was on the Rams for two years before finally getting cut. Not all day three picks pan out. However, McGee had the size and athleticism that is worth taking a chance on late.

Janoris Jenkins, CB, Florida – 2nd Round

Size: 5’10, 193-lbs.

Measurables: 
Arm Length: 32 inches
Shuttle: 4.13 sec
Broad Jump: 10.01 feet
3-cone: 6.95 sec
40-yard dash: 4.46 sec
Vertical: 33.5 inches

Size Grade: Okay
Speed Grade: Great
RAS: 7.23 – Good

Traits:

  • Plays bigger than his size
  • Good tackler
  • Fast

Overview of Pick

There’s a reason Janoris Jenkins is still in the league and it’s because he’s a very talented player. Coming out of college, there weren’t questions about his talent as much as his character. Thus far into his NFL career, many would say the same. Jenkins was a good pick for the Rams and it’s worth wondering if the team should have brought him back on a second contract instead of Trumaine Johnson.

Trumaine Johnson, CB, Montana – 3rd Round

Size: 6’1, 204-lbs

Measurables: 
Arm Length: 33.25 inches
Shuttle: 4.15 sec
Broad Jump: 10.02 feet
3-cone: 7.2
40-yard dash: 4.61
Vertical: 35.5

Size Grade: Elite
Speed Grade: Poor
RAS: 5.81 – Good

Traits:

  • Good size
  • Good ball skills
  • Physical

Overview of Pick

Trumaine Johnson had the size, but never showed the ability to be a true tp cornerback in the NFL. He proved that when he signed his large contract with the New York Jets. Johnson was able to make up for his lack of speed and consistency with his size and length.

Notable Past Rams Undrafted Players

Troy Hill, CB, Oregon – 2015 UDFA

Size: 5’10, 182-lbs

Measurables: 
Arm Length: 29.5 inches
Shuttle: 4.15
Broad Jump: 10.02 feet
3-cone: 6.65
40-yard dash: 4.54
Vertical: 34 inches

Size Grade: Poor
Speed Grade: Okay
RAS: 2.91 – Poor

Traits:

  • Competitor
  • Physical tackler
  • Good ball skills

Overview of Pick

Troy Hill was inconsistent, but for an undrafted free agent, he put in a very solid tenure with the Rams. Not many undrafted free agents work their way up to the number two cornerback role on a roster. Hill did just that and it’s because of that competitiveness that he showed throughout his college career.

Darious Williams, CB, UAB – 2018 UDFA

Size: 5’9, 184-lbs

Measurables: 
Arm Length: 30.75 inches
Shuttle: 4.34 sec
Broad Jump: 10.02 feet
3-cone: 6.85 sec
40-yard dash: 4.44 sec
Vertical: 39 inches

Size Grade: Poor
Speed Grade: Great
RAS: 7.26 – Good

Traits:

  • Plays bigger than his size
  • Good ball skills
  • Fast

Overview of Pick

Darious Williams isn’t the biggest defensive back, but he plays a lot bigger than his size. That’s showed by how he played against one of the NFL’s most physically imposing wide receivers in DK Metcalf last season. The Rams would have loved to bring back Hill, but Williams is a big reason why they were able to let him walk.

Common Traits The Rams Look For in Cornerbacks

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

  • Unlike some positions, the Rams have shown that they value the cornerback spot and don’t mind taking one in the second or third round. Therefore, a cornerback at 57 isn’t totally out of the question. In fact, three of the notable cornerbacks on this list were taken in the third round or sooner.
  • The Rams tend to like cornerbacks with good ball skills. Darious Williams intercepted five passes and broke up 19 during his senior year at UAB. Troy Hill was third in the country in passes broke up when the Rams signed him. Truman Johnson consistently showed the ability to intercept the ball at Montana.
  • Les Snead seems to like physical cornerbacks who play with an edge. Nearly all of the players on this list have “competitiveness” listed as one of their intangibles.
  • There seems to be a narrative that the Rams like big, lengthy cornerbacks. While that’s not necessarily false, they simply like cornerbacks who play big. Williams, Gaines, Jenkins, and Long all played bigger than their size in college. Contrarily though, only three of the cornerbacks drafted had arms longer than 32 inches and only Johnson and McGee were taller than 5’10.
  • The Rams seem to value speed. Outside of Trumaine Johnson, all the cornerbacks on this list ran a sub-4.6 40-time and four of them ran sub-4.5. Johnson was the only cornerback who tested poorly in speed drills as well.

2021 Players Who Fit The Rams

1) Asante Samuel Jr. – Florida State

Asante Samuel Jr. is a near perfect fit for what the Rams look for in their cornerbacks. He’s 5’10, 184-lbs, but plays bigger than that size would indicate. Samuel Jr. is a physical cornerback and several draft profiles list him as being a competitor. He led the ACC with 14 pass breakups in 2019 and led his team once again last season. With an RAS of 7.46, he earned an elite composite speed grade as he ran a 4.41 40-time at his pro day.

While we’ve discussed that the Rams don’t necessarily look at arm length, all but one of their cornerbacks – Troy Hill – had arms longer than 30 inches. Samuel Jr. also meets that threshold.

Draft Grade: 2nd Round

2) Paulson Adebo – Stanford

Adebo is an intriguing prospect. He finished with a 9.56 RAS in testing with a good composite speed grade. Adebo ran a 4.45 40-time which is right in the area that the Rams usually target. He tallied eight interceptions and 30 passes defended in his career, proving his ball skills and competitiveness when the ball is in the air.

There are a lot of tall, lengthy cornerbacks in this draft. While that build is becoming more popular in the NFL, it’s not something that the Rams look for necessarily. Jalen Ramsey is only 6’1 and Johnson was the only cornerback above the 6’0 threshold that the Rams have drafted. Adebo is 6’1 and has 31 inch arms. He’ll be a good CB 2/3 that can develop into a CB2 by his second year.

Draft Grade: 2nd-3rd Round

3) Ifeatu Melifanwu – Syracuse

If the Rams are looking for the Trumaine Johnson mold at cornerback, Melifonwu fits that bill. Like Johnson, his length and athletic size make up for areas in which he’s deficient. However, unlike Johnson, Melifonwu has the speed that Johnson lacked. He ran a 4.48 40-yard dash and with an RAS of 9.7, he built a great composite speed grade.

Melifonwu doesn’t have the proven ball skills that Johnson had with only three interceptions in college, but if the Rams are looking for that big, lengthy corner that they targeted once in the past and had success with, Melifonwu fits the bill. He’s just a lot bigger than what the Rams have typically drafted. Even Ramsey is only 6’1.

The tall, lengthy cornerbacks are becoming more and more popular, but it’s just not something that the Rams have necessarily targeted. They value physicality, proven ball skills, and speed.

Draft Grade: 2nd Round

4) Robert Rochell – Central Arkansas

Robert Rochell is a late day two or early day three prospect that the Rams could most certainly have their eye on. He tested extremely well at his pro-day, running a 4.39 40-time and turned out a great composite speed grade. At 6’0, he has 32 inch arms and has 12 career take-aways and 38 career pass breakups. Put him in the SEC, and he might very well be an early day-2 pick.

He’s not necessarily physical, but he’s a more than willing tackler. This is someone who can start on special teams and work his way into a starting role which is exactly what the Rams are looking for. His testing makes him intriguing for most teams. He’ll be one to watch because he could go as early as the second round or as late as mid-day 3. He didn’t have a great senior bowl, but as someone who can develop with good coaches, he’s an intriguing prospect given his athleticism and ball-skills.

Draft Grade: 3rd-4th Round

Honorable Mentions for the Rams

These are players that I wouldn’t be surprised if the Rams targeted later in the draft or as undrafted free agents.

Bryan Mills – NC Central

  • Plays bigger than his slender frame
  • Physical at the point of attack
  • 4.55 40-time

Kary Vincent Jr. – LSU

  • 4.39 40-time
  • Hit speeds of 24 miles per hour
  • Some of the best ball skills in the draft.

Thomas Graham Jr. – Oregon

  • Impressive ball production
  • Physical
  • 4.49 40-time

 

 

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