For the Los Angeles Rams, any plans to fill the hole at edge left by the off season departure of Von Miller, have went unexecuted. Looking at the current roster, LA has only four edges on contract, Leonard Floyd, Justin Hollins, Terrell Lewis, and Chris Garrett.
Floyd, Hollins, and Lewis were all acquired under Rams former defensive coordinator Brandon Staley and fit his preference for long, tall athletic edges. Garrett was drafted under Raheem Morris and is more of a speed player who turns that speed to power with violent hand work. LA will have to add at least four edge defenders for training camp, so the first question is, “What type of edge are the Rams looking for?”
Luckily, at the top of this years edge draft class there’s a little something for every fan. Whether you like ‘em big and powerful, twitchy and bendy, or long and fluid, there are a dozen top quality edge defenders. That’s the good news, but the bad news is that the Rams pick at #104 and they will all likely be off the board.
There is a second tier of prospects that have strong athletic and measurable traits. Many are raw prospects that need strength or technique work and in all honesty, are better suited to later picks. Towards the latter part of this group is where I like to work, looking for players that don’t get the spotlight, but have some traits that make them of possible value to the Rams.
Previously, I capsuled three linebacker/edge hybrids that offered athleticism and versatility in late round packages. Here are three more edge players from that are cut anatomically similar to Von Miller (6’ 3” 250), not the long, tall Brandon Staley preference.
Jeffrey Gunter- Coastal Carolina 6’ 4” 259 lbs. @ East-West Shrine Classic
A versatile, experienced and productive performer for a successful small school program. He started his college career as a special teamer, eventually earning starting role late in his freshman season. Over 48 games he played all the defensive line positions and outside linebacker from 2 and 3 point stances as well as standing up. He racked up 40 tackles for loss, 18 sacks, nine forced fumbles, and blocked two kicks.
Snagged an invite to the NFL Combine and very fared well athletically. Ran a 4.72 forty, 4.35 shuttle and 7.21 3cone. In the explosion drills he had a 10’ 2” broad jump and a 35.5 vertical. He has good length with 33 1/2” arms and a 80 1/8” wingspan. By all reports he had a solid week of workouts at the East-West Shrine Classic.
Gunter has very good acceleration/burst, his ten yard split on his forty time was 1.57, but he hasn’t shown the bend necessary or the ability to get his pad level low enough to be an elite speed rusher. His burst really shows on stunts and twists, or when charging unabated. He has a good power rush and shows a lot of other pass rush moves, they just aren’t great. He needs substantial technique refinement work.
Against the run, he plays more like an outside linebacker than defensive lineman. He has a hot motor, pursues laterally and from behind very well. He has the length and upper body strength to stack and shed, he just needs to refine his hand fighting and punch better to get off blocks. For a big man, he shows enough athleticism and agility to drop and cover in a short zone. In college, he broke up five passes and had an interception.
Although Gunter has good tape versus Kansas and BYU, his next step ia a biggie. Why I think he fits with the Rams is not because he’s some diamond in the rough. I think his best overall tape is when he played with Tarron Jackson, a 2021 draftee. Gunter strikes me as a complimentary piece who can do a lot of things fairly well and would be solid contributor next to other pros. As with most small school prospects, a year upgrading technique and professional weight/conditioning program would do wonders.
Jeffrey Gunter is a DE prospect in the 2022 draft class. He scored a 9.73 RAS out of a possible 10.00. This ranked 39 out of 1428 DE from 1987 to 2022. https://t.co/So3Xb4aEFE #RAS pic.twitter.com/iM1r9Yt0vj— Kent Lee Platte (@MathBomb) March 25, 2022
Cameron Goode- California. 6’ 3” 237 lbs. @ NFLPA Collegiate Bowl
Came to Cal as a linebacker/safety and started all 37 games in his career. Goode has used a combination of non-stop motor, smarts and athleticism playing as an off ball linebacker and edge defender. Worked out and played at the NFLPA Collegiate Bowl in both spots. After his Pro Day showout, his draft stock is rising, even though he doesn’t fit the traditional NFL edge size profile.
In the speed drills at Cal’s Pro Day, Goode ran a 4.58 forty, 4.29 shuttle, and blazing 6.91 3cone. Moving on to the explosion drills, he skyed a 39” vertical, 10’ 5” broad, and 17 reps on the bench press. Has long 34 5/8” arms and an 81” wingspan. His long and lean frame could easily put on 15 pounds of muscle without looking thick and blocky.
One area where Goode could make a difference is coverage. As you would think, he doesn’t have a smooth, low backpedal, but he hustles to get his proper depth and his hips are loose enough to quickly change direction. His eyes follow the ball constantly and shows good ball skills, having 12 official passes defended and two interceptions.
During the 2022 season, he exclusively lined up on the wide side of the field, out as a 9Tech and overall, sets a good edge, His relentless motor and lateral agility makes him solid against zone read runs and RPO’s. He has good awareness in run defense and is good tackler. He plays fast, pursues very well, and has stellar closing speed. He needs to work on keeping his head up and his hand fighting skills. With his arm length, he stacks well, but needs to work on shedding.
Elite edge players get paid by being playmakers. Goode has that potential. Although he has a quick first step, good burst and can bend around the corner, he doesn’t use the speed rush enough. Quite often, his first move is to read. I’m not sure if it’s scheme or a split second hesitancy. I wonder how his sack rate would be if turned loose. He will need to learn to combine pass rush moves in the NFL. When stalemated, he gets his long arms up and uses vision/ hand-eye coordination to swat at the ball and/or force the quarterback to redirect the pass.
Cameron Goode is an athletic, versatile football player. But at what position? If he can put on some muscle and build strength, his athletic profile screams edge. The Rams could take their time with him and could get away with stashing him away on the practice squad. But the future could be now, he played on special teams early in his career and is physically and athletically cut for this role.
Chauncey Manac- Louisiana 6’ 3” 249 lbs. @ NFLPA Collegiate Bowl
Originally signed with Georgia as a four star recruit, he left the Dawgs after his 2016 red shirt season and spent 2017 in junior college. Over his four years at UL, he had 165 tackles and 19 sacks in 31 starts.
At the Louisiana Pro Day, Manac was a letdown. In the speed drills, he ran a 4.66 forty, which is good, but backed that by shuttling 4.50, and 7.75 in the 3cone. In the explosion drills, he started well with 20 reps on the bench, then had a 30” vertical, and a 9’ 3” broad. He has nice length, 34 3/8” arms and an 81” wingspan.
For me, Manac is a polarizing prospect. When he plays fast and loose, he has a quick first step, wicked spin move, and good bull rush. He shows a good punch, hand fights well and has adequate bend to get around tackles and flatten out to the quarterback.
Too often, his motor doesn’t run hot enough. He can be lackadaisical in pursuit down the line versus zone reads and if stalemated on pass plays, he seems to give up, not even trying to get his arms up into throwing lanes.
Manac is a good tackler and willing to take on blocks to plug gaps. A quick and efficient backpedal into the flats and middle short zone coverage along with his length and ball skills makes him tough, for a big man. to throw around.
Not going real deep on this prospect, there is is a lot of tape of his play if someone wants deeper study. When he flashes, it’s bright and you can see why he was such a highly sought recruit, but his effort can be inconsistent. The Rams had had an edge named Jachai Polite who similarly gave inconsistent effort and the team gave him two years of development. Maybe LA defensive line coach Eric Henderson can bring the dawg work out in Manac’s game.
Who will man the edge opposite Leonard Floyd?
At first glance, it looks like Justin Hollins and Terrell Lewis. Hollins has been steady as a Ram and Lewis has shown flashes of playmaking potential, but both had injury problems in 2021. Fans are anxious for Chris Garrett to get a look, but he was only active in one game last season. There ares some long-in-the-tooth free agents looking for part-time work and will certainly be more roster cuts as trying camps unwind. Or in his second year, will Raheem Morris combine more four man fronts with a nickel back stepping in for an edge defender?