Between early contributions by Puka Nacua, Steve Avila, Kobie Turner, and even punter Ethan Evans, the L.A. Rams 2023 draft class is already looking like it has the potential to be one of the best in franchise history. These young players are all looking like long-term starters for the team and pillars of the future.
While those players have all worked out great so far, one of the most important selections of the draft class was taking a player to truly complement Aaron Donald on the defensive line, something LA has lacked since losing Von Miller in free agency two years ago and the position became an even higher priority when the Rams released their top two sack contributors Leonard Floyd and Bobby Wagner this past offseason.
That’s where third round linebacker Byron Young comes in, a player out of Tennessee who is starting to look like one of the best edge rushers taken in the entire class, and maybe the surprise gem of the Rams draft.
Through six games, Young has the most quarterback pressures of any rookie in the NFL with 25, and the most quarterback hits with eight. The website ProFootballFocus has given him a pass rush grade of 74.2, which is ranked fourth best of any rookie defender, and his overall grade of 71.6 is in the top-10 of all first-year players.
On the year, Young has 24 total tackles with three sacks and a forced fumble, including this past weekend where he had six tackles, five pressures, a strip-sack against the Arizona Cardinals. This led to a PFF score of 87.3 for the game- the highest score among all rookies for the week with at least 25 snaps.
After the Cardinals game, Rams head coach Sean McVay made sure to note how well his defensive line performed at his post-game press conference saying:
“I thought we were able to affect and influence (Cardinals quarterback Joshua) Dobbs all day,” McVay said during the post-game press conference. “I thought the rush did a good job. We rushed with integrity. I thought we really played 11 as one on defense and to be able to get a couple of those turnovers. I’m really proud of our guys.”
The LA defense was effective vs Arizona, only giving up three field goals and no touchdowns while pitching a second half shut out, including Young’s fourth quarter strip sack on Cardinals QB Josh Dobbs.
Byron Young is a rare find, as he can combine his size and strength with 4.43 speed, which was the second-best among all edge rushers in the 2023 draft, and according to NFL.com, helped rank him as their third-most athletic EDGE rusher in the class. He is incredibly explosive at the point of attack, and while some knocked him for already being 25, that may have worked in the Rams favor as they were able to select him all the way down in the third round because of it.
Young will face a Pittsburgh Steelers offensive line in Week 7 that has struggled in pass protection and may be without their starting left tackle Dan Moore Jr. again, after he missed Week 5 due to a sprained MCL and still is not 100% heading into the game. If that’s the case, it could bode well for Young’s production against the Steelers and for the future of the L.A. Rams defense.