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Who the Rams should watch in the FCS and FBS National Championships

Syndication: Online Athens Joshua L. Jones / USA TODAY NETWORK

The college football season is coming to a close this weekend as the FCS and FBS National Championships take place. North Dakota State will play South Dakota State on Sunday in Frisco, Texas while Georgia takes on TCU on Monday evening at SoFi Stadium.

Last season, the Rams had their eyes on the FCS National Championship as they drafted Daniel Hardy and signed Lance McCutcheon from Montana State.

Les Snead has selected three players from Georgia which is tied for his most from any school. The latest was Derion Kendrick last season. Snead has also dipped into the TCU pool multiple times.

With a draft pick likely inside the top-40, it would not be surprising to see the Rams draft someone from either of these games. Here are some players to keep an eye on.

North Dakota State vs. South Dakota State, Sunday @ 2 p.m. ET

TE Tucker Kraft, South Dakota State

Tucker Kraft is a fun player to watch at the tight end position. He’s a mismatch in the passing game and isn’t someone that you have to be concerned about whether or not they can block. The Rams used Ben Skowronek as a fullback this season, and while effective at times, this would work better with a player like Kraft.

Before knocking him only playing at South Dakota State, it’s worth noting that this is the same school that produced Dallas Goedert. Kraft was dominant in the FCS semifinals against Montana State, recording four catches for 69 yards and a touchdown. This is a player Sean McVay could have fun with.

OT Cody Mauch, North Dakota State

North Dakota State has produced no shortage of offensive linemen as of late. Cordell Volson was drafted by the Cincinnati Bengals in the fourth round last year and is the third-highest graded rookie guard in pass-blocking according to Pro Football Focus. Dillon Radunz was drafted by the Tennessee Titans in 2021 and is also playing well at guard, allowing just five pressures this season.

Mauch has a meanness to him in the run game and very often blocks with purpose. With how successful he’s been at left tackle, that’s where I’d like to see him at the next level. However, he could be developed into a guard. Mauch brings an attitude that the Rams offensive line has been lacking and would be a great mid-round selection.

FB Hunter Luepke, North Dakota State

The Rams tried drafting a fullback hybrid in Jake Funk and it didn’t seem to work given Funk’s injury history. Luepke, however, might be a different story. He can be a threat in the passing game, but he’s also not afraid to take on contact.

The Rams need a physical presence in the run game that they had in Sony Michel in 2021. Luepke could be good on special teams to start while working a role into the offense. Luepke isn’t going to be a starting running back at the next level, but he could be a swiss-army knife in the right offense. Luepke won’t be playing as he is hurt and out for the season, but he’s someone to watch in April.

LG Nash Jensen, North Dakota State

Let’s be clear, Cody Mauch is the North Dakota State offensive linemen that teams will want. However, Nash Jensen is someone to keep an eye on as well. He’s a player with a lot of experience as he has played 70 games in his career.

Jensen is a versatile player with NFL size and strength and likely a day three player. He’s not someone who will come in and start right away, but he would be a decent depth piece on an offensive line.

Georgia vs. TCU, Monday @ 7:30 p.m. ET

iOL Sedrick Van Pran, Georgia

If the Rams decide to go with a center with their first pick, it would not be surprising to see Snead go with the SEC product in Van Pran out of Georgia. Van Pran was inconsistent in 2022, but has enough on the physical side where he could be coached into a top center.

The Georgia center is a good finisher and moves in space well. The Rams could look to replace Brian Allen this offseason and Van Pran would be a very good replacement.

S Christopher Smith, Georgia

Smith is a fun player to watch in the secondary. It would be shocking to see the Rams take a safety as high as Smith will likely go. However, needing difference makers in the secondary and after watching Taylor Rapp this season, maybe that changes.

The Georgia safety is a physical player who can play anywhere in the secondary. Pairing Smith at safety with Jalen Ramsey could completely change how the Rams secondary performs in 2023.

OG Steve Avila, TCU

Taking on Michigan’s Mazie Smith in the College Football Playoff, Avila allowed zero pressures and was the highest-graded TCU offensive linemen in pass protection. Avila may not be the best fit for the Rams’ zone-blocking system, but he’d be a huge upgrade on the offensive line.

RB Kenny McIntosh, Georgia

The Rams could use some explosiveness at the running back position and that’s something that Kenny McIntosh brings to the table. He’s very good as a receiver out of the backfield which is an area that Cam Akers lacks.

McIntosh brings speed and a receiving ability to the position that the Rams simply don’t have right now. Outside of Akers and Kyren Williams, the Rams don’t have a lot of options at running back. McIntosh would give them a legitimate option as a versatile player.

QB Max Duggan, TCU

There’s no doubt that the Rams need to rebuild the quarterback room behind Matthew Stafford next season. If they decide to draft someone late, Duggan is someone who is flying under the radar.

Duggan may not have the prototypical size and has some footwork issues, but there are a lot of things to like as well. He has good athleticism and also shows the ability to make throws down the field. Duggan doesn’t have an elite arm, but the things that you look for in a day-three quarterback are there.

Honorable Mentions

  • OT Broderick Jones, Georgia
  • TE Darnell Washington, Georgia
  • S Mark Perry, TCU
  • S Tykee Smith, Georgia

Simply put, there is a lot of NFL talent in this game. Jones and Washington may end up being first round players, but if they drop to the top of the second, they would have to be in play for the Rams. You could argue that the Rams should trade up for a player like Jones.

At safety, Perry and Smith are players to watch. Smith plays a very physical brand of football and can line up anywhere in the secondary, whether it’s in the box in run support or as a slot cornerback.