Sunday, April 30, 2023

Los Angeles Rams 2023 NFL Draft Grades Roundup

The 2023 NFL Draft is now in the rearview mirror, and we have compiled a consensus ranking using NFL draft grades from a variety of sites.

What draft grades have the media given to the Los Angeles Rams? What are they saying about the Rams' 2023 draft haul?

MORE: 2023 NFL Strength of Schedule - Grade: A-

Super Bowl-winning quarterback Matthew Stafford functioned as the Rams' first-round pick again this year. The team added more picks through various Day 2 trades. Adding Avila bolsters the interior of the offensive line, while Young's closing ability gives him a chance to become an effective edge defender. Turner was a productive player at Richmond and Wake Forest but went a bit earlier than projected.

Bennett was underrated as a prospect and has enough physical tools and the confidence to be a starter after Stafford retires if he can mature. Hampton and Mathis fit the team's need at edge, Tomlinson plays stronger than his diminutive size would portend, and McClendon, Allen, Nacua and Evans were all solid picks despite the veterans already on the depth chart. The team had no specialists coming into the draft, so they picked Evans instead of fighting for him as a free agent.

ESPN - Grade: B

The Rams blew up their roster this offseason -- Jalen Ramsey, Bobby Wagner, Taylor Rapp, Leonard Floyd and Troy Hill are among the defenders no longer on the team -- and clearly are entering a rebuild. And with their first-round pick gone to Detroit, they're starting that rebuild at a disadvantage. Still, general manager Les Snead had a bunch of picks to work with on Friday and Saturday. So how'd he do?

Steve Avila (36) is a plug-and-play starter at guard, while edge rusher Byron Young (77) is stellar value on my board. I have Young No. 51 overall. As I mentioned Friday night, defensive tackle Kobie Turner (89) was the first player outside my top 200 to be drafted. That's extremely high for a player I don't think has starter-level tools.

I thought I was high on quarterback Stetson Bennett (128), but I had heard he was more likely to go in Rounds 5 or 6. He'll be a nice backup for Matthew Stafford, but I'm not sure how high his ceiling is overall. Wideout Puka Nacua (177), tight end Davis Allen (175) and edge rusher Ochaun Mathis (189) were all reaches on my board, and L.A. ended up taking my sixth-ranked punter Ethan Evans (223).

This is a bit of a mixed bag overall, but the top two picks were excellent value.

SI - Grade: B

The Rams were smart to add depth to the offensive line after the starting unit was decimated by injuries in 2022. Avila could compete for a guard spot next year and possibly become the center of the future. L.A. followed with another smart decision, addressing its pass-rushing need by selecting Young, who could provide that after recording seven sacks last season. Turner lacks ideal size as a defensive tackle, but he's a polished pass rusher and will get to learn from Aaron Donald. The Rams made noise on Day 3 after selecting Bennett to be the backup for Matthew Stafford.

PFF - Grade: A-

Day 2: Avila was the model of consistency in pass protection during TCU's Cinderella run in 2022. He averaged less than one pressure allowed per game last season and surrendered just one pressure to a vaunted Georgia defensive line in a blowout national championship loss.

The Rams have quickly become really thin along the defensive front around Aaron Donald. Young projects as a good fit in Los Angeles' defense, and he's one of the most explosive edge prospects in this class off the edge. He is by no means a finished product, as he falls into the 25th percentile in PFF pass-rush grade over the last two seasons, but he has traits worth betting on at this stage of the draft.

The Rams grab one of the most underrated players in the class. After producing at an elite level in the FCS for Richmond, Turner transferred to the Demon Deacons and earned a 92.2 PFF grade in 2022 — the second-best mark in the Power Five, behind only Georgia's Jalen Carter. Turner plays with excellent leverage and possesses strong hands and quicks.

Day 3: Stetson Bennett comes off the board in the fourth round after helping Georgia win back-to-back national championships in college. He put up an elite 90.9 passing grade when he was kept clean from pressure, and he now lands in a situation where he can develop. This gives him one of the best chances to succeed in the NFL, whether as a future starter or backup.

McClendon wasn't much of a run blocker in college, though he did grade far better on zone plays than gap plays. He did post 70.0-plus PFF grades in each of the past three seasons while seeing at least 595 snaps on the field in all three years. The intriguing developmental point here is that he recorded an 82.1 PFF pass-blocking grade in 2022.

A solid athlete on the edge at just 236 pounds, Hampton is likely ticketed for a rotational pass-rusher role. He'll need to add 10-15 pounds even for that role. He is explosive enough to disrupt quarterbacks though, as evidenced by his three sacks and 82.8 grade against North Carolina this past year.

The Rams needed reinforcements in their secondary, and they've done well to get the most out of smaller defensive backs like Darious Williams over the years, and Tomlinson can hopefully be the next in line, falling because of his 5-foot-8 stature. The TCU product earned a 78.4 grade in 2022 with five interceptions and has three years of starting experience, projecting as a solid slot option for the Rams. He plays like he's 6-foot-2 and if he can overcome the lack of size in a zone-heavy Rams scheme this could be a steal.

Mathis is an experienced prospect with four seasons with at least 500 defensive snaps in his college career — three at TCU and one after transferring to Nebraska. Mathis is a long edge rusher at 6-foot-5 with 35-plus inch arms and is coming off a career-high 77.6 PFF pass-rushing grade in 2022.

A former five-star recruit, Evans never quite lived up to that billing in college. He was still productive, though, and earned an 84.5 PFF rushing grade on gap plays in 2022. He averaged at least 6.5 yards per carry in each of the past three seasons.

Evans is a Division II punter, although he was the top punter on PFF's big board.

This is the stage of the draft where it makes sense to take chances on athletes. Taylor fits into that bucket with 90th percentile results or higher in the 10-yard split, vertical jump and broad jump as a 204-pound safety. And Taylor pairs that with a decent grading profile, including 72.0-plus PFF grades in each of the past two seasons as a starter.

Mr. Irrelevant of the 2023 NFL Draft! Johnson was on the field for 726 snaps in 2022 and produced PFF pass-rushing and run-defense grades above 85.0. A little undersized, he won 17.6% of his pass-rushing attempts and registered a tackle resulting in a defensive stop on 8.7% of his snaps in run defense.

Fox Sports - Grade: B

The Rams had several needs to fill, particularly on the defensive side, where Aaron Donald is one of the few starters sticking around. Tennessee edge rusher Byron Young should help replace the production left vacant by the departure of Leonard Floyd. TCU product Steve Avila helps bolster an offense that started 14 different offensive-line combinations in 2022. Georgia quarterback Stetson Bennett should be a solid backup for the aging Matthew Stafford.

The Rams had 13 picks in all and need players all over their roster after basically sitting out free agency due to salary cap restraints. Los Angeles also got this year's Mr. Irrelevant, Toledo defensive tackle Desjuan Johnson. After Brock Purdy's emergence, there will be more expected out of Johnson than perhaps is fair.

USA Today - Grade: B

Bad as last season was, the 2021 trade for QB Matthew Stafford was worth it — and the Super Bowl 56 champs are now scheduled to make their first Round 1 pick since 2016 ... next year. This draft was mostly about replenishing needed depth, though second-round G Steve Avila should be a plug-and-play starter. Should be fun watching fourth-round QB Stetson Bennett, a UGA alum like Stafford, proving he can play at this level during the preseason.

The Ringer - Grade: C+

The Rams had a lot of picks, finishing up the draft with a 14-man class. The team led things off with TCU guard Steve Avila, who could be a starter from day one. Tennessee edge rusher Byron Davis is an older prospect (25 years old), but he's an athletic marvel, bringing first-step burst as a rusher. Former Georgia quarterback Stetson Bennett, drafted in the fourth round, gives Sean McVay a developmental backup to work with, and it wouldn't be too surprising if he sees some snaps playing behind the less-than-fully-reliable Matthew Stafford in 2023. I'm also a fan of day-three role players Clemson tight end Davis Allen, BYU pass-catcher Puka Nakua, and Ole Miss running back Zach Evans, the latter of whom could push Cam Akers for carries early on. This wasn't the flashiest group of players for the Rams, and I'm not sure I see a star. But L.A.'s got to rebuild the depth of their roster—and this was a solid start.

Sporting News - Grade: B-

The Rams, for a change, loaded up on draft picks after not having a first-rounder again. There's a lot of volume here, with Avila, Young, McLendon, Hodges-Tomlinson and Zach Evans standing out as the most valuable picks for Les Snead and Sean McVay. Bennett was a major reach early, as were Allen and Nacua for the offense. It's a mixed bag with limited star power, but it does the trick of stockpiling for a big rebuild ahead.

Touchdown Wire - Grade: B

I love the addition of Steve Avila up top — he's a natural power blocker who will work his way into that depleted offensive line right away. And Tennessee's Byron Young is a hybrid-sized (6-foot-2, 250-pound) rusher who had nine sacks and 42 total pressures last season. The fifth round was a value round for the Rams — Warren McClendon Jr. was a personal favorite as was Puka Nacua, Davis Allen should thrive in Sean McVay's offense, and if Tre'Vius Hodges-Tomlinson was six feet tall and weighed 200 pounds, we'd have been talking about him as we were talking about Devon Witherspoon, Christian Gonzalez, and Joey Porter Jr. At 5-foot-8 and 178 pounds, he puts me in mind of Antoine Winfield Sr., and don't be surprised if he's a difference-maker sooner than later. Getting Zach Evans in the sixth round is another steal — he'll add to that offense with his speed and shiftiness.

I'm not at all sure what McVay and GM Les Snead were thinking with the fourth-round selection of Stetson Bennett — maybe the back-to-back championships clouded the tape — but maybe they see something I don't. In any event, the "F them picks" Rams did a lot of good business in the later rounds, which bumps up the grade.

More: 2023 NFL Draft Grade Roundups

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