The Rams are thin at the CB position. This isn't purely by accident. The Rams haven't invested many picks in CBs in recent drafts. A cover CB is one of the premium positions in the NFL and since the Rams have traded away many early round picks, they haven't been in position to draft the top CB prospects.
Since CB is a high team need for the Rams, doesn't it make logical sense for the Rams to make it a draft priority? On paper this might sound good, but in terms of draft strategy, this potentially could be a very, very bad idea.
To illustrate why, I went through recent drafts and looked at the CBs taken at slot 104 (the first Rams pick in 2022) or later. Based on name recognition, I selected 11 CBs to study. I chose the names based on whether I recall them being popular on TST, being hyped up by draft experts, or they were players that I liked and thought had potential. I wanted to avoid cherry picking players already knowing the results, though in the case of Desmond King, this was unavoidable, because it is well known he had good years in the league. I wanted it to be a fair study, with a representative sample size.
1. Harlan Miller (6th round 2016). Lance Zierlein gave Miller a 6.20 (eventual average starter) grade and compared him to Kevin Johnson (who was a 1st round pick). Bleacher Report used the same comp and had a 2nd round grade on him. Other scouting reports had him as a 3rd or 4th round prospect.
Miller spent most of his 2 seasons with the Cardinals on the PS. He was used as a safety. In the final game of the 2016 season, the Rams tried a double pass trick play and Pharoh Cooper's pass intended for Gurley hung up too high in the air, allowing Miller to make the interception. Miller didn't make the team at the start of his 3rd NFL season and is out of the league.
2. Kevon Seymour (6th round 2016). He spent 1 season with the Bills, but it appeared that he was about to get cut at the end of preseason in year 2, so the Bills traded him to the Panthers for a 7th round pick 2 years down the road and a similarly injured WR. He was out of the NFL in 2019. He's been a safety in the pros. He got back into the NFL with the Eagles and Ravens the last couple of years when those teams were thin at secondary and is a back of the roster type.
3. Leshaun Sims (5th round 216). He was a backup for 4 seasons with the Titans, flashing potential at some points, but struggling other times. In 2020 he made 10 starts playing for the Bengals, but played very poorly and had a 43.1 PFF grade. He didn't make the team in 2021 and is out of the NFL. Since he lasted his entire 4 year rookie contract, this is actually a decent outcome for a 5th round pick.
4. Howard Wilson (4th round 2017). He injured his knee on the 2nd day of rookie minicamp. Missed both of his first 2 seasons due to injury, then got waived and never appeared in a single game. Coincidentally, just today he was waived by a USFL team, the Houston Gamblers.
5. Damontae Kazee (5th round 2017). Well regarded by draft experts, the Falcons moved him to safety as a rookie. He tore his Achilles early in the 2020 season. A backup, he had to start almost the entire 2018 season after Keanu Neal got injured and had a 77.9 grade. He also started at safety in 2019 and with the Cowboys in 2021, but didn't grade out as well compared to 2018.
6. Desmond King (5th round 2017). Excellent college tape, but he ran slow and was projected to have to move to safety. Major draft experts had 2nd and 3rd round grades on him. He was outstanding as a rookie, playing nickel CB and an All Pro his 2nd season. He also was a good punt and kick returner. After this phenomenal start to his career, his play declined in subsequent years and he was traded to the Titans for a 6th round pick. Last year, he played for the Texans and had a 53.0 PFF grade. Of all the players on this list, the 2 most successful are King and Kazee.
7. Darius Phillips (5th round 2018). He's had some good PFF grades as a backup player (72.1 in 2020), but he's valued more as a punt and kick returner. Like Sims, he lasted all 4 seasons of his rookie deal with his original squad (the Bengals). He was injured and didn't play in the SB against the Rams.
8. Sam Beal (Supplemental 2018 draft, 3rd round). Made 3 starts in 2019, then essentially didn't play after that. Got arrested in 2020 for traffic violation and weapons charge. Waived in the middle of 2021 season. Some of the players who the NYG could have gotten with the pick they used on Beal includes Terry McLaurin, David Montgomery and Germaine Pratt.
9. Isaiah Johnson (4th rd 2019). Didn't start any games in 2 seasons with the Raiders. Was on the PS for 3 different NFL teams in 2021.
10. K'Von Wallace (4th rd 2020). He's been a mediocre backup safety for the Eagles.
11. Cam Bynum (4th rd 2021). I liked this guy. Backup safety with Vikings, he played poorly in the preseason and began the year as a ST player. When Harrison Smith missed action, Bynum filled in and performed very well (78.3 PFF grade, 3 games started).
Many of the above prospects didn't end up playing CB in the NFL, they played at safety. Very few became starters and only a small percentage lasted 4 years with their original teams. Not a single player on this list became a starting outside CB. The 2 best players made their mark at either safety or at slot CB.
In my opinion, the Rams swinging for the fences in the draft to try to get a future CB2 to play opposite of Ramsey is a foolhardy plan and statistically very likely to result in a strikeout. It is very reasonable to try to obtain a safety or a nickel CB in the middle rounds, but if that is the goal, is drafting a CB to play S any different than drafting a safety prospect to play safety? The Rams already have multiple options to play in the slot on their roster (Burgess, for example, was really a slot DB in college), so I'm not sure the actual need at slot CB is as big as Rams fans might assume.
Certainly, if you think you can draft a great slot DB, go for it, but if that is the plan the Rams need to focus on the types of CBs who have traits to fit that role. A CB who is smaller or who doesn't have good long speed can still potentially be a candidate to play inside. Targeting a bunch of tall, press man CBs who the other NFL teams all passed on in the early rounds, I don't think that's the smartest approach to trying to find a good outside CB.
I'd rather set achievable goals in the draft, not throw hail mary passes and just hope and pray they work out. Yes, the Rams do need warm bodies at CB. So, they might need to draft at least one at some point just to fill out the depth chart and get another reserve. Otherwise, they would be an injury or 2 from really being up against a wall. That doesn't mean they have to grab a CB in the 3rd or 4th round.