Marqui Christian made an unlikely jump to the NFL.
As a Division II player, Christian had to be a stud at that level of football to even get a look by the NFL, and he was just that. Christian made the First-Team Division II All-American roster in 2015. His accolades were enough to get him drafted by the Arizona Cardinals in the fifth round of the 2016 NFL Draft.
Rams claim safety Marqui Christian, the fifth-round pick the Cardinals just cut yesterday. https://t.co/LDIlM1byX7— Jack Wang (@thejackwang) September 28, 2016
Christian never officially suited up for the Cardinals as a rookie in 2016, but following his release that year, the Los Angeles Rams poached him off of their division rival. Christian played special teams for the Rams and racked up a couple of tackles.
Versatility is a premium. When filling out a depth chart, teams seldom want to retain players who need specific roles or can only play one position. Christian’s position flexibility could earn him a roster spot once again.
At cornerback, Trumaine Johnson, E.J. Gaines, Nickell Robey-Coleman, and Kayvon Webster are locks. Mo Alexander, Lamarcus Joyner, and rookie John Johnson are the likely top guys at safety. Those seven fill out most of the defensive back depth chart, but the Rams carried eight or nine defensive backs in a given week last season, leaving room for someone like Christian to sneak in.
Christian is going to have to upset someone who has more tenure with the Rams and more live experience than himself. Safety Cody Davis is entering his fifth year with the Rams. In each season, Davis has primarily served as a special teamer and an emergency safety. He is replaceable, but his tenure likely secures him a spot over Christian.
Likewise, cornerback Troy Hill has a couple of advantages over Christian. Hill is more of a veteran, both with the Rams and in the NFL as a whole. While the results were poor, Hill started and played a handful of games for the Rams last season, and the familiarity with him in a bigger role may lend to the Rams leaning his way instead of Christian’s.
Christian needs to show that instead of being a guy who can play multiple positions, that he can excel at multiple positions. Christian is a quick, fairly explosive athlete who has yet to harness his athletic ability into anything tangible. When playing Division II college ball, Christian could get away with simply being a better athlete than everyone else, but that won’t fly in the NFL, even for the most elite athletes.
In short zones and last-second reactions scenarios, Christian has the quickness to hold his own. However, everything else, from footwork to ball skills, is a question for Christian. He has to become more football player than athlete.
Christian should fight for the last defensive back spot, but he isn’t someone to bet on as part of the initial 53-man roster.
Chances of Making Final Roster (3/10)
Given his year of NFL experience and short tenure with the Rams, Christian should last deep into training camp and cuts, but there is not a clear path to him grabbing a roster spot. The Rams added a handful of new defensive backs this offseason, both via free agency and valuable draft picks.
Christian was able to sneak into the back end of a poor defensive back group last year, but this defensive back room may be a bit too crowded for Christian to fit in.