On March 12th, 2023, the Los Angeles Rams traded away one of the best cornerbacks in the league today, as the team sent Jalen Ramsey to the Miami Dolphins in exchange for a third round pick and tight end Hunter Long. The trade did not come as a real surprise, as Ramsey was rumored to be on the move since the end of the season.
Now, not only did the Rams lose one of their leaders, they also lost one of the most diverse corners in the history of the NFL, so replacing Ramsey will take an entire group effort moving forward. With such big shoes to fill, L.A.will most likely use one of their draft picks to bring in another cornerback to join fellow youngsters like Cobie Durant, Derion Kendrick, and Robert Rochell.
There are many questions as it pertains to how defensive coordinator Raheem Morris will deploy the young secondary, so bringing in another corner to compete right away will serve well in terms of ensuring the best group possible. The Rams have a second round selection, as well as a newly acquired third round pick, that can be used on a corner should the right guy be there.
In my eyes, there is one corner that, if available, the Rams should use their 36th overall pick on, as well as two other corners that could be third-late round picks if the Rams don't get their guy early on. Blaine Grisak laid down some groundwork for the types of corners who Les Snead typically goes for in the draft and this delves deeper into the group. Let’s start with the guy I believe the Rams should take at 36 if he is there:
1) CLARK PHILLIPS III (UTAH)
As a former collegiate cornerback myself, evaluating corners comes easier for me, and it is something I take a ton of pride in. When going through the corners that could potentially be available when the Rams are on the clock with the 36th pick, I fell in love with Clark Phillips III out of the University of Utah.
When NFL Draft “experts” are evaluating corners, it is far too typical for them to overvalue the physical traits and straight-line speed. Those things do matter but, at the end of the day, playing cornerback comes down to football intelligence and instincts, both of which Clark Phillips III excels at.
While a 4.51 is not considered blazing speed and a 33” vertical leap isn’t out of the gym explosive (which Phillips ran/jumped at the combine), it is fast enough and explosive enough. Phillips won’t “wow” you with his athletic ability, but his playmaking ability and all-around feel for the game makes him perfectly suited for the NFL level. Phillips has a smaller frame (5’9” 184 lbs), he is built like a running back and is extremely stout, so strength will not be an issue.
While at Utah, Phillips hauled in nine interceptions over the span of his career, taking four of those nine takeaways to the house. He is a natural eye reader and has an innate feel for route concepts when in zone coverage, which makes him a perfect fit for the defensive scheme of Raheem Morris. If Phillips is there at 36, the Rams can snag themselves a quality starter at nickel/corner as soon as he steps foot in the facility.
2) RILEY MOSS (IOWA)
If the Rams decide to wait until day three of the draft to select a cornerback, a corner that I really like in that scenario is former Iowa cornerback Riley Moss. Now, let’s get this out the way now, Riley Moss is white and, once selected, he will be the only white cornerback in the entire NFL. This, of course, does not matter, because Riley Moss is a legit cornerback prospect who has the tools to develop into a starter in the league.
At 6’1” 193 lbs, Moss is a solid-bodied cornerback who ran a 4.45 40-yard dash at the combine, proving his speed is definitely NFL-caliber speed. But, as said earlier, athletic traits can only do so much at the corner spot, so the film must match the intangibles. And let me tell you, the film matches up.
Moss is a very fluid player who plays the game smooth, critical for covering some of the best route-runners on planet earth at the pro level. He also played a ton of zone at Iowa, which fits with the Rams defensive philosophies. When in zone, Moss can be seen consistently communicating with his teammates as the opposing teams plays develop, something that is critical in zone schemes.
Not only did Moss snag nine interceptions throughout his career, he also racked up a ridiculous amount of experience, tallying a total of 2,606 snaps over his five seasons at Iowa. Moss showed he is willing to contribute via special teams and is a very willing tackler as well, something that makes him even more valuable to teams that are considering drafting him.
3) DARIUS RUSH (SOUTH CAROLINA)
In the case that the Rams want to draft a position other than cornerback with the 36th pick but do not want to wait until day 3 to pick one, using their 3rd round selection on the University of South Carolina product Darius Rush would make the most sense.
Rush is relatively new to the position, as he transitioned from receiver to corner during his redshirt season as South Carolina. Rush would go on to become a two-year starter for the Gamecocks, giving them one of the best cornerback duos in the nation between himself and fellow prospect Cam Smith.
At 6’2” 198 lbs, Rush is a physical presence that possesses 4.36 speed and the ability to jump out of the gym, which made his switch over to the defensive side of the ball easier. The downside of switching positions so late in a playing career is the faults that occur technically, which tends to be Rush’s weakness at the moment. Too often Rush will get sloppy in his pedal, as well as taking longer steps when trying to decelerate when a receiver is breaking in a route.
However, the upside of that change is the ability to track and play the football in the air like a wide receiver, something that allowed Richard Sherman to become an all-pro corner in the league following his position change in college. If Los Angeles is looking for a raw prospect that has the potential to boom or bust, then Darius Rush is their guy to grab in the 3rd round.