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2017 Rams Roster Preview: LB Cassanova McKinzy Seeks A New Home

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Yet another Auburn player has joined the Rams’ roster trying to make good.

Los Angeles Rams OLB Cassanova McKinzy
Los Angeles Rams OLB Cassanova McKinzy
Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

Cassanova McKinzy was one of the most productive defenders at Auburn in his four-year career.

As a sophomore starter in 2013, McKinzy helped propel the Tigers to the BCS Championship though they ultimately lost to Jameis Winston’s Florida State Seminoles. And after watching teammates OT Greg Robinson and RB Tre Mason get drafted by the St. Louis Rams in the 2014 NFL Draft, McKinzy starred in the Auburn defense the next two seasons with 165 tackles, 22 of which were for a loss.

McKinzy went undrafted in the 2016 NFL Draft landing as a UDFA with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, though they released him a week in advance of the deadline to trim the roster from 90 to 75 players. The Rams then signed him in January on a Reserve/Futures contract.

Can the former college standout break through the NFL wall with the Auburn-friendly Rams in 2017?

Roster Battle

The OLB spots in new Defensive Coordinator Wade Phillips 2017 defense look very questionable. Robert Quinn is moving back to a stand up pass rush spot after six years as a 4-3 down lineman. Injuries have halved each of his last two seasons, but the depth at DE had been strong in recent years with Chris Long, William Hayes and Eugene Sims. All three of those supporting cast members are gone. In is 30-year old free agent signing OLB Connor Barwin who played for two years under Phillips with the Houston Texans in 2011 and 2012. Suffice to say, that’s a starting combo that may surface concerns.

Beyond Quinn and Barwin, it’s a crowded depth field, and that’s where McKinzy will need to stand out. Two of the Rams’ 2017 NFL Draft class will certainly be popular options in Samson Ebukam and Ejuan Price. We’ll have to see if any of the listed DEs bounces out to OLB; I’ll note here that the Rams’ official team roster lists Price as a DE. Similarly, Phillips may kick an inside LB outside; again, the official team roster lists Cory Littleton, the Rams’ 2016 Rookie of the Year, as an OLB. Otherwise, the only other options are Carlos Thompson and McKinzy.

Expectations

Relatively low overall, but the lack of proven depth behind Quinn and Barwin and their lack of dependability perhaps pushes McKinzy’s expectations up a tad along with his SEC pedigree, though any player tied to Tre Mason and Greg Robinson probably isn’t enjoying much benefit from that right now.

Overall as a second-year UDFA who spent most of the 2016 season unemployed, he shouldn’t be a candidate for high expectations.

Chances of Making Final Roster (3.5/10)

I vacillated between a 3 and a 4, so I’m sticking with a 3.5 and off to vacillate elsewhere.