The Los Angeles Rams need more talent on the edge of their defense to pair with standout Byron Young and the answer could be someone who is already on the roster: Rookie Ochaun Mathis, who is set to return from injured reserve after missing the first four games. Expect him to play a lot, too.
Ochaun Mathis was drafted by the Los Angeles Rams in the sixth-round of the 2023 NFL Draft and he has yet to play in a game, regular season or preseason, however there is a reason for that: Mathis suffered an injury in camp that kept him off the field for quite awhile.
The curious thing the Rams did though was keep Mathis on their initial 53-man roster. This allowed the Rams to secure Mathis for a later season reinstatement off of injured reserve and Mathis was activated this earlier this week with the hope that he could maybe even suit up and make his debut this Sunday against the Eagles.
The intriguing thing about Mathis is that a source with knowledge of the situation tells me that the Rams like the rookie enough that “(the team) sees him getting significant reps for sure this year.”
The Rams clearly like him enough to get him on the field sooner than later.
Mathis was drafted out of Nebraska after transferring from the TCU football program. He stands at 6-foot-5 and weighs 250 pounds. He has 35 1⁄4 inch arms, 10 3⁄4 inch hands and he ran a 4.74 forty-yard dash with an impressive 10-yard split of 1.64. Mathis is a very good athlete who fits the bill of what the Rams have valued in the past at edge defender. He has length and athleticism to build on.
That quote right there leads me to believe that Young was indeed battling it out with Mathis for the starting spot on the defensive front. This might be a small sample size but its worth mentioning that Sean McVay talked about being excited for him to come back on the Sean McVay Show.
With all this hype for a sixth-rounder if it was any other team you might feel less likely to believe it. However, this is a team that has picked some genuine starters and key contributors in the later rounds and especially the sixth round. Just to name a handful: Sebastian Joseph-Day (2018), Jordan Fuller (2020), Derion Kendrick (2022) and Quentin Lake (2022) — not to mention Puka Nacua who was a fifth-rounder in this class. The point is that while the Rams traded away a bunch of picks, they eventually learned to draft and find value in the later day three portion of the draft.
The Rams since 2018 have found three starters in the sixth round and all of them have been on the defensive side of the ball. It isn’t a guarantee that Mathis becomes quite honestly anything. However, the resume is there, the traits are there, the size is there, he has the coaching staff and the running mates in Young and Aaron Donald to boot. Mathis is in a great position to actually make something out of this potential opportunity.
Lance Zierlein after he was selected in the 2023 NFL Draft called him a lottery ticket the Rams scratched off to see if they had something in him in 2-to-3 years like what he looked like at TCU. While Mathis did fall off after transferring from TCU, I believe it was more so due to a lousy fit at Nebraska, with proper NFL coaching and the right guys around him, Mathis can be something in this league. I get what Zierlein was trying to say but the truth is there is a very good chance number 32 is something way before the 2-to-3 year mark of his career.
One thing is for certain. If the Rams seriously found another key contributor from this draft in Mathis, it might be sooner than later that we admit that Les Snead and Sean McVay had their best draft class in 2023 at the time where they needed to produce quality players more than ever. If that is indeed the case, this draft class could kickstart a golden age that allows the Rams to compete beyond Matthew Stafford’s shelf life.