clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

Will the Rams use the draft to makeover their offensive line?

Three late round draft prospects that fit LA’s wide zone running scheme

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: AUG 28 Nebraska at Illinois Photo by James Black/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

This offseason, there is a distinct possibility that the Los Angeles Rams could lose three of their starting five offensive linemen as well as a top reserve. Andrew Whitworth, although under contract for next season, may decide a Super Bowl ring is the perfect way to call it a career. Center Brian Allen and guard Austin Corbett are both free agents, adding an NFL title to their resumes may bring a bevy of suitors and backup tackle Joseph Noteboom’s second NFL contract could easily be for starter money, pricing him out of Los Angeles.

Conventional thinking supposes that LA could, and should, use one of their earliest picks to fill in any possible departures. The problem with that is that at the position in which the Rams draft, the top offensive linemen may very well be picked over: LA has already traded away its first, second, and third round picks, making their earliest selection in the 97-102 compensatory range as awarded for the Lions hiring Brad Holmes as general manager in 2021.

The Rams may be better served to wait and find a later round developmental player along the offensive line.

If LA decides that they can afford to wait, it will be because of their wide zone run schemes. As a general rule, this scheme does not require dominant blockers for success. Athleticism, technique, and coach-ability are the skill sets that set up a player for success.

Jeff Grimes, Baylor Offensive Coordinator and long-time, successful coach/proponent of the wide zone weighed in on a press conference last spring,

“It’s something that I feel like, as long as you have guys that are coachable and athletic you don’t necessarily have to have a guy that can completely dominate a three-technique in the B-gap or a nose guard or a running back that runs a 4.3 forty. You have to have guys that can move their feet, that can be coachable, and that can move fast.”

Here a a capsule look at three interior offensive linemen that fit into the late round category and have some positive traits fit into the Rams philosophy.

Nick Ford- Utah, 6’ 5” 315lbs.

This kid is a conundrum. On one side, he’s a very nice package of strength, athleticism, and length. A first team All-Pac-12 in 2020 and 2021 selection and has played multiple snaps at center, guard, and tackle. On the other, he received no post season all-star invites, ditto the NFL Combine, and I could not find his name in any of the leading top 150 player rankings. I have him with a fourth round grade.

On combination blocks, Ford transitions from the double-team to the second level very well, he has the upper body strength to lock up and turn defenders at the point of attack and the lower body power to drive opponents. He does need to make better use of his punch, by using it more, it is good but he seems to like to get his body on defenders. When he latches on though, he is doesn’t let go. He plays through the whistle with an edge but doesn’t strike me as a “nasty” competitor. He is strong enough in his lower half to anchor against bullrushes and uses defenders momentum to herd them out of play.

Like many developmental interior players at this point in their careers, he is better in the run game than as a pass blocker. Utah runs a quick passing offense and Ford will have to work on sustaining his blocks. This is where development with his hands will come into play, improving and sustaining. He is strong enough in his lower half to anchor against bullrushes and uses defenders momentum to herd them out of play.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: DEC 06 Pac-12 Championship Game Photo by Cody Glenn/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Doug Kramer- Illinois, 6’2” 301 lbs.

He has all the prototypical traits of a Big 10 offensive lineman, except one. Size. He is relatively short and stocky, but is powerful in the run game, has a true mean streak and plays every game. In fact he logged 51 starts for the Illini. Kramer’s ability in the pivot kept Pittsburg Steelers starting center and third round draft choice Kendrick Green at the guard position at Illinois.

Kramer has shown he moves well laterally in Illinois wide zone running game and is just as adept at stacking and turning defenders when sealing on inside zone runs. He can pull and effortlessly moves to the second level, when uncovered and on combo blocks as well.

Although his arm length is not great, he has a good punch and uses it. His low center of gravity helps him anchor, but he will need to add few pounds and put in some lower body weight work to compete against big aggressive nose tackles at the NFL level. When a defender gets the the upper hand, he is strong enough and experienced enough to recover.

I have a sixth round grade on Kramer. A lot of fans will compare him, and fairly I think, to the LA Rams current starter Brian Allen. I would argue that coming out of college, Kramer is more aggressive, powerful and adept in the wide zone scheme. His leadership was respected at Illinois, he was a three-year Ilini captain and played under three different head coaches.

Keegan Cryder-Wyoming 6’ 4” 310 lbs.

Durable, versatile, and athletic. Started every game of his college career, 43 consecutive games, at both guard positions as well as center in a run oriented offensive scheme. Cryder was named to the freshman All-American team and has been on both the Outland Trophy (top college offensive lineman in NCAA) and Remington Award (top center in NCAA) watch lists.

Cryder is more of a traditional drive blocker, but he moves well enough to run the wide zone. He pulls well out of the pivot and gets to the second level with ease on both combo blocks and when uncovered. Good grip strength allows him to turn and seal defenders and he gets good push by playing low and balanced. He sustains his blocks and takes opponents to the ground. He is not a mauler, more of a technician, but still recorded over 100 knock down blocks.

In pass protection, he sets into a wide base with good knee bend. He gets his hands up fast for an accurate punch and latches on well and these tendencies allow him to set a good anchor vs. power. He keeps his head on a swivel and reacts well to blitzing, stunts and twists. If no defender enters his area he will seek out someone to hit.

Keegan Cryder has a stellar football IQ and has committed very few penalties or allowed many sacks over his college snaps, I have him with a fourth round grade and most of the experts rank him in the late round/undrafted range.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: OCT 12 Wyoming at San Diego State Photo by Alan Smith/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Who could/should the Rams select?

Nick Ford has the highest ceiling and may garner the most interest. Doug Kramer is experienced in the wide zone run game and excelled against tough competition. Keegan Cryder is an underrated workhorse who could play right away and has the highest floor.

I think Cryder would offer the best value at in the later rounds. His movement and technical skills fit a need and allows the Rams the versatility to use their earlier picks on a talent that might unexpectedly drop into their sphere.

But, the Rams would do well to add any one of these prospects. All three are versatile, smart and 100-percent effort players. An NFL weight training and conditioning program would benefit them all. None of the three were invited to the Combine so they may very well stay under the draft radar.