The Jury Has Returned
About a month ago, I wrote about TCU's backup RB, Emari Demercado, and gave him a 4th round grade, even though he is so lightly regarded as an UDFA that his name doesn't even appear on many draft boards. At the time, I mentioned that I wasn't sure what to make of TCU's interior offensive lineman, Steve Avila, because he looked outstanding on some plays, but not so great on other plays. After studying him closer, I've reached a final verdict.
My NFL comp for Avila was a player ranked by Lance Zierlein as the 2nd best guard in the 2015 NFL draft. In that draft, Brandon Scherff was the 5th overall pick in the draft. Scherff was a monster playing LT at Iowa, a nasty bully who crushed defenders with immense power and bad intentions. He was ranked 12th overall on LZ's board. The 2nd best guard was ranked 16th overall, with a grade only slightly behind Scherff's draft grade. This prospect was considered to be a powerful drive blocker, suited for a power scheme and an instant plug and play NFL starter. He had a thick frame, wide base, upper body strength, a natural knee bender, rarely bull rushed, but with only average arm length and some technique issues in pass blocking.
Most draft boards ranked this prospect as a 2nd round pick. B/R compared him to TJ Lang. Big Blue View said he was similar to Larry Warford. In Matt Miller's final mock draft, he had the Rams drafting this player instead of Jamon Brown. Very recently, this player made NFL news on the eve of free agency. Did he turn out to be a better NFL player than Brandon Scherff?
Name: Esteban Avila. Turns 24 years old in October. Redshirt senior.
Senior Bowl measurements: 6'3 1/8'' tall, 332 pounds, 32 5/8'' arms, 9 1/4'' hands, 79'' wingspan.
Combine measurements: 6'3 1/2'' tall, 332 pounds, 33'' arms, 9 1/4'' hands, 78'' wingspan.
5.21 second (40 time), 1.86 second split, 29.5'' vert jump, 8'2'' broad jump, 4.74 second shuttle, 7.85 second 3 cone, 28 bench reps.
His measurements aren't overly impressive, because he has both limited agility and average length. For example, compare him with Jamon Brown, a player the Rams drafted in the 3rd round in 2015: 6'3 5/8'' tall, 323 pounds, 34 3/8'' arms, 9 3/4'' hands, 81 5/8'' wingspan, 4.61 shuttle (pro day), 7.36 second (3 cone, pro day).
Jamon Brown had longer arms and a bigger wingspan, with slightly better agility numbers. Brown wasn't very quick or mobile by any stretch of the imagination. It would be tough to play Avila as a center in anything other than a power scheme offense. Matt Skura coming out of Duke was regarded as a phone booth center who was limited to a power scheme. He had a 4.76 second shuttle and a 7.89 second 3 cone, so Skura's agility numbers were nearly identical to Avila's times.
3 star to 4 star recruit from Grand Prairie, TX. Redshirted in 2018. In 2020 made 9 starts, 6 at center, 2 at RT and 1 at RG. Made 11 starts at center in 2021. Had 15 starts at LG in 2022. Allowed zero sacks in 2021 and 2022.
Listed at 308 pounds in 2018 and 2019, 314 pounds in 2020, 334 pounds in 2021, and 330 pounds in 2022.
As a center, he snaps the ball left handed.
The only injury info I could find was a minor ankle injury in 2021.
Team captain in 2022. In interviews he's humble and fun loving with a positive mindset.
ESPN 2nd C, 65th overall
Daniel Jeremiah 45th overall
Lance Zierlein 59th overall
PFF 41st overall
PFN (Industry) 3rd C (behind Wypler) 93rd
Drafttek 2nd C, 64th
Shane Hallam 50th
Brian Bosarge 55th
NFLDB 3rd C (behind JMS and Wypler), 81st overall
TDN 64th overall
Daniel Jeremiah: Immediate starting guard. Physically imposing guard with quick feet and power. In pass protection, quick out of stance, chops feet strong 2 handed punch. Anchors easily, looks for work as helper. Very aware, has nasty streak. Does good job staying attached to blocks. Drives opponents off LOS. Quick to replace hands. Sudden as puller. Issues redirecting in space.
Lance Zierlein: 6.30 draft grade (eventual plus starter), Chris Kemoeatu comp [Kemoeatu was a 6th round pick by the Steelers. He had a redshirt rookie season in the NFL, inactive the entire year. He didn't play much his 2nd or 3rd years. He became a starter in his 4th season, eventually becoming a good player for the Steelers, known as a powerful run blocker, but a poor pass blocker. I mentioned Kemoeatu in one of my OL weekly updates back in 2019, because he's one of the more successful 6th round interior OL draft picks.
Playing at lighter weight shouldn't be a problem if desired by his NFL team. Light on feet. Not a consistently nasty finisher. Below average hand work and ability to sustain blocks. Immediate starter. Hip snap and body control. Balanced in pass set, lateral slides. Delays in recognizing twists. Needs to improve punch accuracy in pass protection. Plays too tall at POA. Inconsistent hand usage.
NFLDB: Good speed. Versatile. Good initial burst off snap. Generates movement. Sets protections at line. Anchors vs bull rush. Elite size and power. Super strong grip. Elite drive blocker. Some nastiness in game. Panics and grabs on reach blocks. Lateral movement skills not elite. Susceptible to stunts. Struggles vs speed and quickness in pass protection. Hesitant vs twists. Limited change of direction and quickness.
TDN: 4th round grade. Natural strength to displace. Aggressive. Anchors vs power in pass protection, struggles vs speed. Stiff lower body, limited lateral movement skills. Needs protection from tight, condensed line splits. Gap scheme lineman. Lateral limitations could lead to penalties and negative plays.
Big Blue View: Massive, powerful, surprisingly nimble. Flexible lower body, plays with good leverage and wide base. Able to change directions quickly. A people mover. Has a definite nasty streak. Lacks range and foot speed to block in space. Struggles vs athletic pass rushers. Relatively short arms. Day 2 prospect.
Sports Illustrated: Huge upper body. Extremely impressive natural upper body strength. Bull rushes don't move him, protects his chest in pass protection. Quick feet for size. Explosive in short areas. Has a lot of work to do. All over the place technically. Plays very sluggishly. Needs to lose weight to play center, which could result in loss of power. Fails to find work and looks lost on film. Struggles to identify stunts, late reacting. Can't handle opponents who can bend, top heavy and plays really high, can't get low enough to stay in front of them, defenders can shoot gaps. Too slow on move. Can't sustain blocks. Raw. Doesn't have processing ability for center, could be a solid guard. Scheme limited. 5th round grade.
Steelers Depot: Massive, plays low with natural knee bend. Solid 1st step out of stance. Good pad level, leverage. Good contact balance, anchor, inside hand placement. Durable, no notable injuries. Only adequate mover in space. Marginal mental processing, doesn't see field well on move. Not quick enough to pull or move in space. Doesn't reset hands well, marginal independent hand usage. Lacks competitive toughness to finish blocks to whistle. Anchor crumbles when defenders get to his chest. Late climbing to blocks 2nd level. Doesn't generate displacement as run blocker. Rarely mauls opponents, not nasty. Larry Warford comp. 3rd round grade.
CBSSports: James Carpenter comp. Lacks athleticism in space. Strong as an ox. A mauler in phone booth. Balanced in pass protection, sues hands and feet well. Handles interior stunts. Moves DTs in run game. Gets moved backwards, but can re-anchor. Plodding mover in space on screens. Can struggle to stay engaged on run blocks.
Isn't it interesting how some experts say he's nasty and other experts say he's not nasty? It is like they are describing 2 different players. Steve Avila is not nasty. I have no clue why Daniel Jeremiah and others describe him as such. I think they are completely blind. Perhaps it is just because he's such a huge guy and he's strong, your mind just naturally goes to that place. Brandon Scherff was nasty. It's like Crocodile Dundee, you call that a knife? That's not a knife.
Prototypical size for NFL guard. Huge player. Ideal height for a guard. Excellent mass. Thick thigh muscles. Strong upper body.
Initial lateral burst out of 3 point stance is very good, both on run and pass blocks. Sufficient lateral range to get to reach blocks. Enough hip fluidity to make seal blocks.
Has good basic physical tools to anchor as pass blocker. As long as his helmet stays properly centered over his feet and he has both arms engaged, he is almost impossible to move. He becomes a boulder.
Strong ability to drive defenders sideways out of the gap on double team blocks and combo blocks.
Showed awareness to LB run blitz and protected the A gap.
Consistent effort level. Hustled on screen and knocked defender to ground. Aggressively covers ground as helper in pass pro to attack the pass rusher.
Enough mobility to execute shorter pulls, trap blocks and basic screens if not required to travel a long distance.
Showed improvement and development. He wasn't very good in 2020. While he's still a work in progress, there's at least visible signs of improvement, he didn't stay the same or regress during college. Best football could still be ahead of him.
He's scheme limited right now, because I see him as best for an inside zone scheme team and if paired with a QB who likes to throw quick, short throws so that the OL doesn't have to sustain pass blocks as long. If you could develop him, I think it could flip the other way, because he potentially could be both very strong and mobile, so he could play on both a zone scheme team and a power scheme team. Same thing with position versatility, he doesn't have enough quickness to play much at OT, but maybe if you could have him play some RT. So, I'd describe him as having upside developmental versatility.
O'Cyrus Torrence and Steve Avila have many of the same strengths and weaknesses. As a pure G, I feel that Torrence is the better prospect, but Avila has more versatility and potentially has an even higher ceiling, it just might take longer to get there. So, if you are an NFL team that wanted Torrence, but he came off the board too early for you to grab him, I view Avila as more than a viable fallback option to consider.
Has a high ceiling, but a low floor.
Clean injury history. Team captain. Has played C, G and OT in college, could be versatile backup.
Has an odd body weight distribution. Some bad weight in his middle, not toned with lean muscle in his upper body and arms, has thick thighs, but doesn't have big calves or mass in his rear. Notice that his listed weight jumped up from 314 pounds to 334 pounds in one year. In 2020 he moved better and could adjust to make blocks in space. I feel that it is a superficial way of looking at OL and say that weighing less is bad and weighing more is better, so the Rams should draft super heavy, big offensive linemen. Not all weight is good. I think Avila would be a better player if he lost weight. He needs to get physically stronger and lose some of the bad weight that his slowing him down and making him sluggish. So, I wouldn't focus so much on whether he weighs 332 pounds or 330 pounds or 334 pounds, to me that number is irrelevant. He's not playing at his "correct" weight. Or, maybe I should amend that and say he's not playing at his ideal body compensation. He could lose fat and gain muscle and weigh the same. Or more. I don't know what his final ideal weight would be, all I know is he needs to continue to physically mature. The current ratio isn't working optimally for him on the football field.
While not quite to as extreme a degree, I would cite as an example Solomon Kindley, the Georgia guard who was an early 4th round pick in 2020 by the Dolphins, exactly where I had him graded as a prospect. Early in that year's draft process, Kindley was mocked as a potential 1st round pick. Kindley was listed at 335 pounds, weighed 337 at the Combine and was last listed by the NYG at 339 pounds. At the time, I said Kindley wasn't ready to play in the NFL, he needed to redshirt and work on his body and improve his technique. Instead, Miami had him start 13 games as a rookie and things went poorly. He had a 51.3 PFF grade. A draft bust, Kindley failed to make Miami's roster his 3rd NFL season and was released. A street FA for over a month, he was later added to the NYG practice squad.
Kindley wasn't the only interior OL pick from that area of the draft to not work out. Tyre Phillips was a late 3rd round pick. He failed to make the Ravens roster to start his 3rd NFL season and was released. He has PFF grades of 47.1, 53.1 and 50.5 in his career. John Simpson was an early 4th round pick. His only season as a starter for the Raiders he had a 52.6 PFF grade. The Raiders waived him before the end of his 3rd NFL season. Logan Stenberg was a 4th round pick by the Lions. His most extensive playing time came this past season, due to injuries to other players. He had a miserable 39.3 PFF grade. Cameron Clark was a prospect I liked, a 4th round pick. He suffered a career ending spinal cord injury. Ben Bredeson was another guy I liked, I had a 3rd round grade on him. He was traded by the Ravens to the NYG after only 1 season. Unimpressive for the Giants, he had a 56.7 PFF grade last season. Jack Driscoll is a good swing backup lineman for the Eagles, playing both RG and RT. Must be nice when your OL is so strong and deep that you only need a 4th round pick to be a backup player. So, nearly all of the guards drafted from the middle of the 3rd round through the end of the 4th round in the 2020 draft failed to become even average starters. I don't know whether to even count Ben Bartch (who was a very inexperienced Division III OT in college) as a success, because his career high PFF grade is 62.1. Rams fans complain about the OL players Snead drafts and whether the coaches develop players, but hasn't it ever occurred to anyone to ever look at what happens with other NFL teams?
During the on field drills at the Combine, Avila showed average change of direction ability in the wave drill and the pass protection mirror drill. When he was lying on his back at the start of one drill, he couldn't even get up off the ground quickly and fluidly. Limited COD, struggles to mirror smaller defenders when out in space on screen passes. Not able to fluidly turn his body in a phone booth when necessary to block a 2nd level defender near the LOS. If the QB or RB scramble around and the play becomes chaotic, Avila becomes almost useless, he has no COD ability or burst to make improvised blocks, he can get turned into a spectator.
Limited lateral range leaves him vulnerable in a variety of contexts. Got ambushed and lost his edge against immediate twist off the snap. Poor foot quickness against twists. Lacks lateral range as helper in pass pro, has "build up speed", because he has to turn his body and run towards the other OL instead of sliding his feet sideways. Speed rusher attacked the LT and since the LG isn't quick enough to slide laterally this results in a gap opening up between them, so with an inside counter the EDGE could have easily split between them and gotten to the QB. This makes Avila a poor "wing man" if he's responsible for helping to protect the LT's inside gap. LT passes off OLB to LG, but the LG's slow feet prevent him from correcting his position to defend his outside shoulder, would have been beaten if not helped by the RB. On 3rd&4, a human traffic cone vs NT, zero lateral slide, helpless as NT goes right by him. Zone run, the DE dives inside of the RG, Avila as the C cannot adjust to this quick slanting movement, allows the DE to penetrate through the A gap and crash into the backfield, left in the dust by DE's quickness. DT shoots through B gap and Avila 100% whiffs on the block.
Has average length and to try to compensate has a habit of leaning forward in his stance as a pass blocker. Leaning forward makes him vulnerable to pass rush moves and it also causes him to have slow change of direction ability to react to twists. Beaten by push pull pass rush moves. Lunged forward and smoked by swim move. Whiffed on initial grab on run block, easily stacked and shed at POA. DT gets hand to middle of his chest, LG's hand placements weak, DT sheds him at POA. Doesn't just have short arms vs DL, even a LB with good arm length can bench press him and shed him at POA.
Bad hands. Below average hand accuracy, speed and grip strength. Struggles to grab and control pass rushers. Hands are passive after initial engagement. Doesn't knock down hands of the pass rusher to disrupt moves, fix weak hand placements or win hand fights, making it challenging for him to sustain blocks. NT throws his hands off, grabs the C in the chest, rips him to the side and cleanly goes past his outside shoulder. Fails to latch onto LBs at 2nd level.
Repeatedly destroyed by quick pass rush moves by DT immediately off of the snap. Especially if used at the C position where his hand has to be down to snap the ball and the DT can be right over him, if he doesn't improve his technique and hand speed, NFL defenders will eat him alive. Completely hopeless against an Aaron Donald, AD would absolutely obliterate this guy every single snap.
Slow feet in pass protection, leading to his outside edges becoming vulnerable. Too tall and sluggish, beaten by LB blitz up middle on long 3rd down, creased. Occasionally slips. Foot slipped in pass pro, nearly did the splits. He slipped during an on field drill at the Combine.
Smoked by a very basic club move, only reason it didn't result in a sack was because QB dodged the defender and scrambled upfield. Catches DE with passive hands, allows DE to get into his chest then win with push pull arm over counter.
Leaky anchor when he lets defenders get into his chest and overpower him. 3rd down, DT uses long arm technique into his chest, overwhelms him and drives through him to collapse pocket.
In their scheme and against the types of defenses they faced, he wasn't required to solo pass block too often, which covered up some of his pass blocking deficiencies. The zero sacks allowed stat is very misleading, because he's not really a great pass blocker.
Too slow as a puller to fold around opposite OT to make a pass block (both Saffold and Jonah Jackson are examples of guards who can execute this block well). Super slow on short pull on 4th&1 short yardage run, not able to make effective block (if you can't execute this block, you aren't really a gap scheme guard, because this play is a basic staple in that offense.) Insufficient short area acceleration on pull blocks, so the OLB can load up, blast him and discard at the POA.
Slow getting out on screens. Does not quickly transition from pass set to run forward, making it difficult for him to get out in front on draws and middle screens. Doesn't run fast enough to cut off moving defenders in space.
Poor timing and not enough burst to properly execute combination blocks. Unable to climb to 2nd level sometimes, because the DT grabs him and he can't disengage and get free.
Not a drive blocker. Limited forward explosion in short yardage and GL situations. 3rd&inches, no hip snap or power in his punch, unable to move the NT, so when he gets jostled from side by the other DT, he's easily shed by the NT, RB gets stuffed at POA. NT can ambush him right off the snap before he can punch.
Repeatedly gets stacked and shed at POA on run blocks. Really struggles to sustain run blocks and control his defender, almost every single time gets stacked and shed. Late punching, ambushed by NT who beats him with push pull, tackles the RB. Arms are too short and doesn't have leg drive to generate movement on solo run blocks. Combo block as LG working with C, when the C leaves to climb to the LB, the DT overpowers and sheds Avila at POA, tackles RB.
Too often, he has very poor awareness on the field. 3 man game, the LG gets caught looking completely wrong direction, 100% blind to the looping DT. Didn't help against LB blitz up the middle. Unprepared for 3 man game, LG gets washed down the LOS by the DE, opening up huge rush lanes for the NT and LB. Consistently out of position as pass pro helper, not enough depth, doesn't have angle to recover to give effective help. Immediately beaten by club and swim move, the LG looks around, completely lost as to what to do next, standing in space and not doing anything productive. His angle climbing to LB at 2nd level was poor, and when the LB beats his block the LG makes silly decision to grab the middle of the back of the LB's jersey, risking a holding penalty. 100% blind to twist, gave no help to pick it up, resulting in QB getting flushed from pocket. Caught by surprise by DT twist, smashed from side and knocked off balance. Poor reactions to slants by DL where they exchange gaps, poor reactions to twists, does not display a clear picture in his head of what is developing and a strong mental command of how to respond. On 3rd down, as help blocker, he stares and watches the DT run towards outside against his LG when he as the C should be looking back in the other direction and helping the RG. Only 3 defenders rush against 5 OL. He pushes the NT over to the LG, but then Avila as the C relaxes, not scanning properly and not at proper depth to help, so when the LT is losing to the inside, the C tries to recover coming at a poor angle, gets beaten by an inside counter and the DE nearly sacks the QB. As help blocker, caught looking forward into empty space when the C next to him clearly needed help, when the LG finally turns he isn't at the proper depth and can't do anything to help. Gets confused by zone blitzes and complex blitzes. Confused by twist, QB pressured. When he tries to give help to C, he's not at proper depth, so to help he has to turn his back to the LB, opening the door for the LB to be free and unblocked on green dog blitz that the LG wouldn't be able to see.
When playing against an attacking, fast flowing defense, it feels as if the entire game is moving too fast for Avila, both from an athletic and a mental standpoint.
Not a big fan of his personality, because he's neither a glass eater tough guy who fits the stereotype for a guard, nor is he a cerebral leader who fits the profile of an NFL center.
About a year older than a normal draft prospect.
Draft Grade and Pro Comp
4th round grade. (AJ Cann, early 3rd round 2015, Jaguars, South Carolina)
Steve Avila is a raw developmental project. He'll get targeted by NFL teams in the draft due to his basic physical tools. He has the right size to be an NFL guard and he has the necessary baseline athleticism to be successful. The problem is that his technique, consistency and awareness are all not currently good enough to be a quality NFL starter.
I don't agree with the experts who say that Avila is a Day 1, plug and play NFL starter. IMO, the best thing for him would be to have more of a redshirt season. He needs to work on his body in the weight room and training table. He needs a good OL coach to help rebuild his game and improve his hands and feet. He needs to watch film with veteran players, so that he can gain a better grasp of how to decipher the action. If you throw him to the wolves too early, I think he would struggle and that could hurt his confidence. Build him up more, if he's going to take some lumps early on, let that happen on the practice field and in preseason games.
Cann was recently cut by the Houston Texans. Disappointed by their OL play in 2022, the Texans are trying to upgrade their line and traded for Shaq Mason, only costing them a swap of late round picks in this year's draft. The trade was cheap, because Tampa intended to cut Mason for salary cap purposes if they couldn't find a trade partner. The Bucs had to make a series of moves and contract restructures to get under the salary cap.
At the Combine, Cann was 6'3'' tall, 313 pounds with 32 5/8'' arms and 10 1/4'' hands. He was listed at 320 pounds. Considered to be able to only play LG when he was coming out of South Carolina, Cann has instead been a RG for almost his entire NFL career. His season by season PFF grades: 69.5, 72.6, 57.0, 62.7, 55.3, 69.0, 47.7 and 66.6
The same year that Jamon Brown got a $6.25 million salary over 3 years to join the Falcons, Cann got $5 million per year to stay with the Jags. In other words, Cann was regarded as being slightly worse than Jamon Brown. Cann signed for an even lower salary to join the Texans in 2022.
The guard position was a complete disaster for the Houston Texans in 2021. Perhaps signing Cann in 2022 was at least an upgrade, but apparently it wasn't good enough to convince the Texans to keep him for the 2nd year of his contract.
By comparing Avila to AJ Cann, I'm essentially projecting him to be about as effective as Jamon Brown was for the Rams. Brown was a 3rd round pick, but I had him as about a 5th round player, so giving Avila a 4th round grade splits that difference.
As described above with respect to the 2020 NFL draft, the large majority of 4th round guards don't pan out in the NFL. In Cann's draft there was a guy named Jamil Douglas who I liked, he was supposed to be a good pass blocker. A 4th round pick by the Fins, they waived him in the middle of his 2nd season. Bouncing around on 8 different teams, Douglas never developed into a reliable player. Spencer Burford started as a 4th round rookie for the Niners. He had a 49.6 PFF grade. If Burford had been on the lousy 2022 Rams OL, he would have had one of the lowest PFF grades in the unit.
In 2019, one prospect I didn't like was Ben Powers out of Oklahoma, a 4th round pick. I didn't think he had great play strength. Powers just agreed to a FA contract with the Broncos with an average salary of nearly $13 million, making him one of the top 10 highest paid guards in the NFL. Powers has never had a PFF season grade of at least 67. In 2022, Powers was 10th in pass block win rate and 2nd in run block win rate among guards, per ESPN. I sure called that one, huh? Big draft bust, that Ben Powers.
Another player I considered using as Avila's comp was Manny Ramirez, who was a 4th round pick by the Detroit Lions. In order to draft Ramirez, the Lions traded up, sending 2 picks to the Rams. Ramirez was considered to be a good run blocker, but not a great pass blocker. At the Combine, he was 6'3'' tall, 326 pounds, 32 3/4'' arms, did a very impressive 40 bench press reps and ran 5.24 seconds in the 40.
Ramirez was a starter in his 3rd NFL season, which happened to be the rookie season for Matthew Stafford. The Lions went 2-14 that year. Ramirez says he was immature and his 1st run with Detroit didn't end well. Instead of entrenching himself as a starter, he slid down the depth chart and was waived early in his 4th NFL season. He was out of the NFL until the following year and was so lightly regarded that when the Broncos signed him off the street it was only on a futures contract.
Ramirez was a backup for the Broncos in 2011, barely seeing any action. The following season, he was a replacement starter at G when another player got injured. In 2013, with both JD Walton and Dan Koppen lost to injuries, the Broncos ran out of options and had to turn to Ramirez to be the starting center. He had never previously played center in an NFL game. The Broncos steamrolled through the 2013 with a record breaking offense, led by Peyton Manning, but got crushed by the Seahawks in the Super Bowl, a game that began with Ramirez snapping the ball over Peyton's head for a safety.
The following season, Ramirez struggled at center and slid back over to guard in the middle of the year. After that season, the Broncos traded him to Detroit. Reunited with Stafford, Ramirez struggled and got benched in favor of rookie Laken Tomlinson. While it was a roller coaster career for Ramirez, he at least briefly became a quality NFL starting center and nearly got a Super Bowl ring as a reward. Not bad for a player who has his NFL career nearly crash and burn in Detroit.
Steve Avila is solidly in the discussion to be either the top G or the top C taken in the draft. On Daniel Jeremiah's rankings, Avila comes in ahead of John Michael Schmitz and he's not too far behind Tippmann, Cody Mauch and Torrence. On the other hand, I'd contend that the only reason many of these linemen are ranked so high is because this year's draft isn't stronger at certain positions like WR and because there is no true "top tier" for interior OL in the 2023 draft. This year's IOL draft is more like 2020 and 2017, we don't have the same quality of prospects like we've had in the past with guys like Alijah Vera-Tucker, Isaiah Wynn, Kenyon Green, Chris Lindstrom, etc. In effect, all the rest of the OL had to get moved up half a round to a full round, because there wasn't anyone else to fill the vacuum.
This is how the draft grades for certain prospects compare:
AJ Cann 6.70
Erik McCoy 6.70
Cody Ford 6.70
Forrest Lamp 6.70
Dalton Risner 6.70
Tyler Linderbaum 6.70
Kenyon Green 6.45
Alijah Vera-Tucker 6.43
Cesar Ruiz 6.40
Quinn Meinerz 6.31
Chris Lindstrom 6.30
Steve Avila 6.30
So, even if we set aside the fact that I feel LZ has Avila graded too high and instead take his grade at face value, I'd argue that Avila isn't as good a prospect as the typical G or C you could find at the top of the 2nd round. McCoy was the 48th overall pick. Risner went 41st overall. Creed Humphrey wasn't taken until the very end of the 2nd round. Quinn Meinerz wasn't selected until almost the end of the 3rd round. In a stronger draft class, I'd project Avila to be a 3rd round pick the way LZ has him graded. As it stands, LZ has him ranked overall in what would be the late 2nd round area.
Consequently, I feel that the Rams drafting Avila 36th overall would be a risky pick. You'd be drafting a player who is raw and needs additional development, gambling on the upside that as he progresses he'll turn into a high quality starter. I can see doing that for a premium position like QB, WR, outside CB and EDGE, but we're talking about drafting a raw interior OL prospect. In my opinion, that is too early to draft someone who fits that profile. That is why I have Avila with only a middle round grade. If Avila is still available later in the draft, he could be worth considering, but I wouldn't reach for him too early for the Rams.