Kevin Hanson over at Sports Illustrated released a three-round mock following the first huge wave of free agent signings and he’s got the Rams selecting two elite athletes within their first three picks.
The free-agent signings of Leonard Floyd and A’Shawn Robinson were fine, but nothing spectacular. Floyd essentially replaces Fowler and has a little more potential stopping the run while adding some length in potential coverage situations. A’Shawn Robinson is another massive body to help plug-up the interior of the defensive line in the same manner that Michael Brockers did.
The Rams still need a linebacker, another cornerback opposite Jalen Ramsey, and another piece along the offensive line. After signing Andrew Whitworth to a new three-year deal, that need specifically becomes an offensive guard or center depending on where the team would like Austin Blythe to play.
Contrary to what I think the team should do, Hanson decided to take the team in a different direction, especially when he picked an offensive linemen in the second round.
Here are his selections for picks 52, 84, and 104 in the 2020 NFL Draft:
52.) Ezra Cleveland, OT, Boise State
Cleveland this late into the second round is actually really good value but seeing how the board played out, I would have gone elsewhere. An interior offensive linemen is the greater need in the immediate with Bobby Evans already a reserve/swing tackle. Auburn’s Noah Igbinoghene, one of the more feisty and physical cornerbacks in this class and a guy I liked for the Rams, was taken with the very next pick. Guys like Louisiana’s Robert Hunt and Fresno State’s Netane Muti will be available when the Rams pick early in the middle of the third round and I think that’d be the time to jump on an offensive linemen.
Ezra Cleveland, OT, Boise State:— Jordan Reid (@JReidNFL) March 3, 2020
• Testing athleticism matches up
• Patient + Poised pass sets (++)
• Calculated second level climbs
• Efficient punch w/either hand
• Above average anchor strength (+)
• Excellent zone-scheme fit
• Trial and error early NFL starter pic.twitter.com/Ol8OZbXGeJ
At any rate, Cleveland was right up there with Iowa’s Tristan Wirfs as one of the most-athletic offensive linemen in the entire class. He’s a true 6’6 and weights 310+ pounds. I think he’s a perfect fit for McVay’s zone-heavy run scheme and could easily be the long-term option once Whitworth decides to call it a career in like....10 more years.
84. Curtis Weaver, EDGE, Boise State
The Rams went with back-to-back picks from the same school by selecting edge-rusher Curtis Weaver in the middle of the third. While Weaver is excellent at putting pressure on opposing quarterbacks, he’s not as adept at stopping the run. He also didn’t test in the forty-yard dash and didn’t perform terribly well in the tests he did participate in.
Weaver would likely slide right in opposite Floyd at outside after being one of the most dominant edge threats in the nation this past season. He was named a second-team All-American and the Mountain West Conference Defensive Player of the Year after totaling 52 tackles, 18.5 tackles-for-loss, 13.5 sacks, one interception, and three pass breakups.
While he was successful as a stand-up defensive end, I’m not sure if he will be suited for coverage responsibilities at the next level. At almost 270 pounds on a 6’2 frame, Weaver might end up getting kicked inside, especially due to a lack of elite speed and bend off the edge. Either way, he’s a proven and productive player, regardless of elite physical traits. He wins with masterful counter moves and crafty set-ups in his pass-rush plan.
104. Willie Gay Jr., LB, Mississippi State
Gay Jr. was one of the biggest winners from this year’s NFL combine. He wasn’t terribly known throughout draft circles but he certainly put himself on the map with an incredible display of physical feats for someone of his size. He unfortunately saw his junior season cut short when he was suspended from all football-related activities following a physical altercation involving an academic tutor.
In five games, playing in a reserve role, Gay Jr. finished with 28 tackles, 3.5 tackles-for-loss, and a single interception. He did have a promising sophomore, though. In 2018 he totaled 48 tackles, 5.5 for a loss, five sacks, and two interceptions while starting just six games.
At 6’1 and almost 250 pounds, Gay Jr. ran an incredible 4.46 forty-yard dash and then went on to jump 39.5 inches in the vertical and 11’4 in the broad jump. Astounding numbers for someone his size.
Gay Jr. is best described as having an erratic style of play where he’s easy to notice due to his arms flailing around like mad while he runs around the field. He’s got a lot of thump behind his pads when he’s able to square-up on a ball-carrier, as well. Lance Zierlein believes he’s best suited at an outside linebacker spot since he doesn’t think he’s sharp enough mentally to handle being in the middle of the defense.
He’s a bit of a wild child right now but Gay Jr. has got all the God-give physical talent that a coach would want in a linebacker.