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Should the Rams consider these unique draft prospects?

Three under the radar players with divergent skill sets

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: SEP 17 Old Dominion at Virginia
Keytaon Thompson stiff arms a would-be tackler
Photo by Lee Coleman/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

A full training camp roster for the Los Angeles Rams consists of 90 players, normally an eclectic mix of veterans, draftees, and undrafted rookies (UDFA). As of today, the Rams have 44 veteran players under contract and another 11 draft picks yet to be brought into the fold. By my simple country-ass math, that leaves a grip (35, actually) of street free agents, cast offs, retreads, and non-conscripted rookies that need to be signed to start camp.

The list of possible UDFA players is just as large as the prospects with draftable grades. After priority free agents are negotiated, the undrafted far sector remains. Developmental players with upsides are the rule, it could be athleticism, football IQ, a red-hot motor, or past onfield production. Here are three players who are unique to most players in the non-draft grade pool and fly way under the radar. Can they help the Rams at all? Hard to say, but certainly, some value can be squeezed out of good special teams play and positional versatility.

Keytaon Thompson, Virginia - Tight end/wide receiver/quarterback

Another wide receiver? C’mon man, the cupboard is fully stocked. Thompson began his college days as an SEC quarterback at Mississippi State. After three years (one redshirt), he transferred Virginia in 2020, moved to wideout, and was lined up all over the Cavaliers backfield, as well as splitting out wide.

Combines brawn at 6’ 4” and 217 lbs. with brains making both SEC and ACC honor rolls and currently working on his Masters Degree. Pro Football Focus ranked Thompson as one of the top 10 receivers entering 2022, but he was slowed battling an ankle injury. Over his career, he caught passes for 1675 yards, rushed for 1178 yards, and threw for 842 yards. He also chipped in 22 touchdowns, 18 running and four receiving.

He’s a work in progress as a receiver and best with the ball in his hands. A natural runner with vision, instincts, the ability to cut at speed. Does not show plus speed or burst, but has good contact balance and enough power to break arm tackles. Used primarily in the short passing game and out of the backfield, so his route tree is limited. Uses big hands to catch away from his body, and transitions from catch to run well. Not afraid to stretch out over the middle or take tacklers on.

I’m on record with wanting the Rams, if they have to scratch that itch, to add a burner/returner to the receiver room, and that hasn’t changed. Putting Thompson at tight end is a role that easy to project and like. He still learning the nuances of a receiver, is a physical player, and has the frame to add some good weight. Not a lot of film of his blocking, but he is always willing to mix it up in other areas of the field and will need play strength work as a pro anyway. The Rams recent history doesn’t show much of a “block first” attitude amongst their tight end additions. 15 lbs. would scale him at nearly the same size/length as former-Ram Johnny Mundt, 230-235 lbs.

Jack Colletto, Oregon State - linebacker/fullback/quarterback

It’s not unusual to read about college players who switch positions, Since the 70’s, high school safeties were moved linebacker, tight ends to offensive line, and quarterback to wherever, etc., etc. 2023 prospect Jack Colletto, has swung freely between quarterback, linebacker, and fullback.

It all started innocently enough, Colletto was a run/throw dual threat quarterback and spent a year playing junior college ball before joining the Beavers in 2018. He got one start at QB that sophomore year. Took a redshirt year (four games) in 2019, while morphing from QB to linebacker. The last three years in Corvallis were spent toiling on offense (quarterback and fullback), defense (linebacker), and special teams (all units). His career concluded with the Paul Hornung Award for high-level, versatile college football play.

Over 43 games, Colletto tallied up 401 yards rushing, 254 yards passing, 37 yards receiving and 23 touchdowns. On defense he corralled 51 tackles, 1.5 for loss, two passes defended, and one interception. Modest stats indeed, but he also worked on all special teams units, recording a blocked kick, two forced fumbles, and even three kickoff returns.

Now about his game. The ultimate team player who do anything to help the team win and does it with intensity. Whether it carrying the football, lead blocking, or charging down field on special teams. Colletto will never be mistaken for a track guy, but has decent burst and fair long speed for a big guy. Good-sized lower body and play strength looks pretty solid too, for the college game. For the pro’s, he will need some work, but so many do. He had a couple of breakaway runs during his college tenure, but was primarily used as a short yardage wildcat QB, blocking fullback, and short area receiver. Catches the ball with his hands away from his body and shows good vision when running.

While the Rams have not utilized a fullback much recently, Colletto fits the FB/TE hybrid. He’s big enough at 6’3 239 lbs., athletic, and loves to bang heads. The Beavers had their pro day earlier this week and although not all results are posted, Colletto had a 36.5” vertical and pushed 17 reps on the bench. Playing linebacker at the NFL level is likely a bridge too far, but he easily projects as a heady (he has a degree in mechanical engineering) special teamer with the versatility to play fullback and/or tight end in situational roles. There’s some value there, without spending a draft pick.

Carlton Martial, Troy - off ball linebacker/overhang safety

How about a 5’ 7” 210 lb. linebacker? No way? What if you add that he’s the FBS all-time tackle leader? Still have concerns? Hard to make a case for a player of his diminutive size to play linebacker in the NFL, let alone be of value. But as an undrafted special teams demon, there may be an argument to be heard.

Came to Troy as a walk-on because he wanted to compete at D1. Sixth-year senior was a 2017 redshirt and turns 24 next month. Began 2018 on the bench and played his way to All-American status. Over 59 games Martial racked up 577 tackles, 50.5 for loss, 10.5 sacks, 15 passes defended, eight forced fumbles, and six interceptions.

Martial wins based on his ability to read and react. He shows patience at the snap and then explodes to the ball. Great instincts for shooting gaps and taking the proper angles. Not a thumper, more of a chase and drag tackler, but still very physical for his size. He has a natural low center of gravity and understands that keeping his pad level down and playing behind them creates leverage. He beats bigger blockers with subtle movement in the gaps, a natural low-man slipperiness, and good contact balance.

Good in short area zone coverage, smooth backpedal, reads quarterback, and has good ball skills. Lack of size does create matchup nightmares with tight ends and bigger backs. Looks athletic and loose enough to turn and run, but hard to gauge his long speed, his college role was around the line of scrimmage.

Instincts, hustle/ultra competitiveness, and football IQ are the benchmarks of special teams play, Martial checks all those boxes. At linebacker, he will likely struggle against NFL size, power, and speed, but his instincts and hair-on-fire style could find him snaps in big nickel/dime packages. Another undrafted free agent prospect, at the very least, that could bring some life to the Rams training camp and preseason games.

Stars waiting to shoot across the horizon? Hmm...

Sorry, not going to find any freakish athletic skills in this group or over-looked sleepers, just three no risk prospects that love and know how to play the game of football. The question with players of this ilk is always, “Can he offer the team any positional value besides special teams?”

Versatility could be a foot in the door to show out their willingness for hard work, uber-competitive personalities and football instincts. Three players that understand their place on the roster food chain and are willing to fill any role.