Rams aim to get tougher in trenches with Day 2 picks
By DAN GREENSPAN
TARZANA, Calif. (AP) When Los Angeles Rams coach Sean McVay and general manager Les Snead asked Aaron Donald what traits the 2023 draft class should have, the historically great defensive lineman had one reply.
“‘Just make sure they care,’” Snead said.
The Rams took that to heart in drafting TCU guard Steve Avila in the second round and two defensive players in the third round of the NFL draft on Friday night to address glaring needs on both lines of scrimmage.
“There was definitely an intent that we could definitely take offensive line, interior D-line, outside linebacker type help. But we let the board kind of dictate when we took, when we traded back, things like that,” Snead said.
No position group had more to do with the Rams’ dismal defense of their Super Bowl title than an offensive line decimated by injuries last season, using 13 different starting combinations with only right tackle Rob Havenstein playing in every game.
Avila, who was taken with the 36th overall pick, played every position except left tackle during his five seasons with the Horned Frogs. He earned consensus All-America honors at left guard as a redshirt senior in 2022.
“I couldn’t really tell you where the versatility comes from,” Avila said in a video teleconference from Fort Worth, Texas. “I know it started right when I got to college because that whole year I was playing right tackle for the scout team. … It’s great, you know, for an organization that can have an offensive lineman that can move around, and I take very much pride in doing so.”
A key piece up front during TCU’s unexpected run to the College Football Playoff title game, which it lost to Georgia, Avila did not allow a sack during his last two seasons in college.
McVay said the Rams valued Avila’s versatility, which was highlighted after a change in the coaching staff going into his final season at TCU, and could see him contributing at center or either guard position.
“We want to be able to create competition on this roster,” McVay said. “We’ll see how that unfolds, but want to be able to have enough guys that can snap the football. But, yeah, I think he can play any of those interior spots.”
By taking Tennessee outside linebacker Byron Young and Wake Forest defensive tackle Kobie Turner in the third round, there was a clear emphasis on generating more negative plays from a unit in transition.
After years of relying on stars like cornerback Jalen Ramsey and outside linebacker Leonard Floyd, Snead hopes the defense can return to previous heights with an influx of grit.
Young, the 77th overall pick, was an effective pass rusher in college, getting 12 1/2 sacks and 23 1/2 tackles for loss in 24 FBS games.
“The guy was working at Dollar General to make it go,” Snead said. "But he loved football, and he found a way to walk on at, what, a military school in Georgia. And here we are, drafted.”
Turner, selected 89th overall, went from walk-on to all-conference performer at Richmond before joining the Demon Deacons as a sixth-year senior. While he lacks the typical mass of an interior defender, the 24-year-old showed a knack for creating negative plays.
“Kobie is one of those guys, too,” Snead said. “He said, ‘I did a lot at Richmond, I’m gonna try to make it at the next level.’ … When you watch him play, there’s no plays off.”
The Rams did not have a first-round pick because of a January 2021 trade with Detroit for quarterback Matthew Stafford, who directed the win in Super Bowl LVI in their home stadium.
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Updated April 29, 2023