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Rams boost pass rush in Dane Brugler’s two-round mock draft

Could Nolan Smith from Georgia help the Rams pass rush?

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NCAA Football: Auburn at Georgia Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

From now until the 2023 NFL Draft, most mock drafts will only include the first 31 selection of the first round. However, occasionally a few will delve into the second round where the Los Angeles Rams hold the 36th overall pick.

The Athletic’s Dane Brugler released his second mock draft of the season which included the first two rounds of the draft. With the 36th overall pick, Brugler gave Aaron Donald and Leonard Floyd some help on the edge with Georgia’s Nolan Smith.

In his preseason scouting report of Smith, Brugler said,

Smith plays with explosive athleticism, functional length and the instincts to always be around the football. In addition to his on-field impact, several Georgia players I spoke with identified Smith as the proverbial heart and soul of the locker room. His exact positional fit might look different from scheme to scheme, which will lead to varying draft grades. But as an edge defender who can stand up in space, Smith displays the explosive qualities and intangibles to be an NFL difference-maker.

Smith would be a fantastic selection for the Rams at the top of the second round. With their first pick in the top-50 since 2017, Les Snead would be looking to add a difference-maker. Getting that on the edge and boosting the Rams pass-rush would be a great move. That’s especially when you consider that they almost traded for a top pass-rusher at the trade deadline.

It’s worth noting in Brugler’s mock that Texas running back Bijan Robinson went to the Eagles at 31. Cody Mauch from North Dakota State was a second-round offensive lineman that went to the New York Jets at 43. Matthew Bergeron from Syracuse is someone that the Rams could have interest in and he went to the Pittsburgh Steelers at 49. Not a single center was selected.

Smith finished with three sacks last season and seven tackles for loss in just eight games. He’s Pro Football Focus’ 22nd rated prospect in the upcoming draft. PFF says,

“Smith is a modern undersized edge-rusher who at only 235 pounds can still be a three-down player. In fact, he earned a 90.0-plus run-defense grade over the past two seasons. He needs more power elements in his pass-rushing arsenal, but he’s a high-end athlete who can win with speed.”

Many young edge rushers need to work on their run defense. However, Smith is already a polished run-defender which is something that the Rams value. After cutting both Justin Hollins and Terrell Lewis in the middle of the season, the Rams need to add an edge rusher this offseason. Drafting someone like Smith could provide the difference-maker that they need.