Snead’s Snacks: Who could the Rams draft at linebacker?

The Los Angeles Rams are in need of a linebacker on defense. Who are some linebackers that the Rams could target in the 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.

The Rams made it last year with a combination of Micah Kiser, Troy Reeder, and Kenny Young at linebacker. Last season after losing Cory Littleton, Snead didn’t draft a linebacker until his last pick. Will the Rams do the same this year or will they draft a linebacker earlier than day three for the first time since taking Alec Ogletree?

As a continued series on Downtown Rams, we have “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-lbs

Measurables: N/A

Traits:

  • Explosive

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-lbs

Measurables: 
Arm Length: 33.5 inches
40-yard dash: 4.70 sec
Broad Jump: 10.02 feet
Bench Press: 20
3-cone: 7.16 sec
20-yard shuttle: 4.39 sec
Vertical: 33.5

RAS: 7.24
Size Grade: Good
Speed Grade: Good
Explosive Grade: Good

Traits:

  • Elite Athlete
  • Safety converted linebacker, strong in coverage
  • Excellent combination of length and speed
  • Good college production

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-lbs

Measurables: 
Arm Length: 31.375 inches
40-yard dash: 4.60 sec
Broad Jump: 9.09 feet
Bench Press: 26
3-cone: 7.15 sec
20-yard shuttle: 4.36 sec
Vertical: 35 inches

RAS: 7.62
Size Grade: Poor
Speed Grade: Great
Explosive Grade: Good

Traits:

  • Good playing speed
  • Solid college production
  • Shows good range in coverage

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-lbs

Measurables: 
Arm Length: 33.5 inches
40-yard dash: 4.91 sec
Broad Jump: 9.1 feet
Bench Press: 11
3-cone: N/A
20-yard shuttle: 4.38 sec
Vertical: 30.5 inches

RAS: 3.37
Size Grade: Great
Speed Grade: Very Poor
Explosive Grade: Okay

Traits:

  • Lengthy athlete, good in coverage
  • Plays faster than his tested times
  • Playmaker

Overview of Pick

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

Micah Kiser, LB, Virginia – 5th Round

Size: 6’0, 238-lbs

Measurables: 
Arm Length: 32 inches
40-yard dash: 4.66 sec
Broad Jump: 10.01 feet
Bench Press: N/A
3-cone: 7.05 sec
20-yard shuttle: 4.24 sec
Vertical: 35.5 inches

RAS: 8.43 – Good
Size Grade: Poor
Speed Grade: Good
Explosive Grade: Great

Traits:

  • Good college production
  • Relentless motor
  • Disciplined tackler

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 his second season. Kiser started the majority of 2020, tallying a career-high 77 tackles.

Travin Howard, LB, TCU – 7th Round

Size: 6’1, 232-lbs

Measurables: 
Arm Length: 31.5 inches
40-yard dash: 4.56 sec
Broad jump: 10.04 feet
Bench Press: N/A
3-cone: N/A
20-yard shuttle: 4.2 sec
Vertical: 35.5 inches

RAS: 8.03
Size Grade: Very Poor
Speed Grade: Elite
Explosive Grade: Great

Traits:

  • Linebacker/safety hybrid
  • Good speed
  • Solid college production

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. After being expected to compete for a starting role last year, he spent the season on IR.

Dakota Allen, LB, Texas Tech – 7th Round

Size: 6’0, 232-lbs

Measurables: 
Arm Length: 31.25 inches
40-yard dash: 4.77 sec
Broad Jump: 9.08 feet
Bench Press: 23
3-cone: 6.88 sec
20-yard shuttle: 4.04 sec
Vertical: 31.5 inches

RAS: 6.03
Size Grade: Poor
Speed Grade: Okay
Explosive Grade: Okay

Traits:

  • Plays with toughness and has intangibles
  • Comfortable in coverage
  • Good short-area quickness

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.

Clay Johnston, LB, Baylor – 7th Round

Size: 6’1, 227-lbs

Measurables: 6’1, 227-lbs
Arm Length: 30.5 inches
40-yard dash: N/A
Bench Press: 18
3-cone: N/A
20-yard shuttle: N/A

RAS: N/A
Size Grade: Poor
Speed Grade: N/A
Explosive Grade: N/A

Traits:

  • Good short-area quickness
  • Competitive toughness
  • Physical tackler

Notable Past Rams Undrafted Players

Cory Littleton, LB, Washington

Size: 6’3, 238-lbs

Measurables: 
Arm Length: 33.375 inches
40-yard dash: 4.73
Broad Jump: 9.06 feet
Bench Press: 17
3-cone: 7.11
20-yard shuttle: 4.32
Vertical: 29.5 inches

RAS: 5.04
Size Grade: Good
Speed Grade: Okay
Explosive Grade: Poor

Traits:

  • Lengthy athlete
  • Moderate college production
  • Good closing speed

Troy Reeder, LB, Delaware

Size: 6’1, 235-lbs

Measurables: 
Arm Length: 29.875 inches
40-yard dash: 4.73 sec
Broad Jump: 10.02
Bench Press: 27
3-cone: 7 sec
20-yard shuttle: 4.14 sec
Vertical: 37.5

RAS: 9.35
Size Grade: Okay
Speed Grade: Okay
Explosive Grade: Great

Traits:

  • Excellent tackler
  • Good lateral movement
  • Solid college production

Common Traits Rams Look For in Linebackers

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

  • Outside of Ogletree, the Rams didn’t take a single linebacker prior to day three of the NFL Draft. Will that trend continue?
  • The Rams seem to like lengthy linebackers. Four players on this list had arms of at least 32 inches in length. All but one – Troy Reeder – had arms longer than 30 inches.
  • College production seems to be important. Players like Micah Kiser were tackling machines in college.
  • I think it’s worth noting that the Rams seem to like players with some safety experience. Ogletree was a former safety. Mark Barron was a converted NFL safety turned linebacker. Travin Howard was a hybrid linebacker/safety at TCU. They like that speed and ability in coverage.
  • The Rams seem to like their linebackers to be explosive. All but three earned good or great explosive grades and all but four put up 10+ feet in the broad jump. Four linebackers on the list also had vertical jumps higher than 35 inches.

2021 Players who fit the Rams

The Rams don’t select until 57 and therefore it doesn’t make a lot of sense to look at linebackers who are projected to go higher than that. While the Rams do have a need for linebacker, you could make the case that they have needed a linebacker since 2018. With that said, the Rams have drafted exactly one linebacker prior to day three. Therefore, every linebacker on this list will be players who are projected to go on day three and most likely the fifth, sixth or seventh round.

1) Buddy Johnson – Texas A&M

Buddy Johnson is almost exactly what the Rams look for in their linebackers. He’s extremely athletic as he scored a 9.22 RAS, he’s projected to go on day three, and he scored an elite composite explosive grade. He jumped 38.5 inches in the vertical and had a 10.08 broad jump. He’s a physical tackler and has experience with 23 starts and 47 appearances. The Rams will look to develop him in coverage before making him a three-down player.

Draft Grade: Round 7-UDFA

2) Ernest Jones – South Carolina

Ernest Jones might be the perfect fit for the Rams. If there is one guy at linebacker that I had to put my money on the Rams drafting, it’s Jones. He put up elite scores in the vertical and broad jump during his testing, jumping 38.5 inches in the vertical and 10.06 feet in the broad jump. He’s also extremely lengthy with 33.375 inch arms. He’s a disciplined tackles and actually compares very well to Micah Kiser in that area. He’ll need to develop in coverage, but he can be an early contributor with a good training camp.

Draft Grade: Round 6-7

3) Nick Niemann – Iowa

Nick Niemann is extremely athletic and shows elite short-area quickness. He’s explosive as he jumped 10.01 feet in the broad jump. His vertical good be better, but his 33.5 vertical matches Alec Ogletree. He’s a sure tackler that would immediately contribute on special teams and could eventually challenge for starting reps. Niemann is the long, rangy linebacker that the Rams have looked for in the past, but he needs to improve his ability in coverage.

Draft Grade: Round 5-7

Honorable Mentions For the Rams

Pete Werner – Ohio State

  • Lengthy athlete
  • Physical tackler
  • Good explosiveness

Garrett Wallow – TCU

  • Former safety
  • Good explosiveness (10.02 broad jump)
  • Excellent college production

 

 

 

 

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