clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Rams 2023 NFL Draft big board: Weighing value players vs. need targets

Should the Rams draft for need or take the best player available in NFL Draft

If you buy something from an SB Nation link, Vox Media may earn a commission. See our ethics statement.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: OCT 09 Utah at USC Photo by Chris Williams/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

One of the largest dilemmas for teams during the NFL Draft is whether to prioritize need, value, or best player available. With 11 picks and a lot of needs, this is something that the Los Angeles Rams will have to figure out, especially with their first pick coming at 36 overall.

The Rams will have a very good chance to find a high-impact player at that spot. Do they take best player available and draft for value, even if that player is a running back or tight end? Or do they draft for need and target an edge rusher or cornerback?

With needs all over the roster, needs and value most of the time will likely line up. However, there are cases in which these two will be different. Due to trading and cutting big name players, the Rams’ need list has grown all offseason. Right now, their top needs would be edge, cornerback, interior offensive line, defensive line, and wide receiver. However, what if a player like Dalton Kincaid falls to the second round? Should the Rams target an edge rusher like Will McDonald or take the best player available even if it’s a tight end?

Locking into drafting for need can cause a team to pass on good players. However, simply drafting best player available can lead to trying to fit a square peg in a round hole or not having a development plan for a player. It's nice when best player available and need line up, but that’s not always the case.

For this exercise, we’re going to weigh these options. Looking simply at the 36th overall pick, let’s look at some players who would fill needs at cornerback and edge and then weigh those players against potential value picks.


After trading Jalen Ramsey, there may not be a bigger need on the Rams roster than cornerback. Not only do they need to find one to line up opposite of Cobie Durant, but they will likely need to add a second player later on in the draft to add as depth.

As it stands, the Rams have Durant, Derion Kendrick, Robert Rochell, Shaun Jolly, and Richard LeCounte III. Durant finished his rookie season strong while Kendrick’s play was inconsistent and Rochell hasn’t had much opportunity.

The Rams like their cornerbacks to have inside-outside versatility, possess good speed, and have good ball skills. However, over the last two years, defensive coordinator Raheem Morris has been coaching Brandon Staley’s scheme. With the level of teardown on defense, could Morris now look to have more influence and implement his style?

It will be interesting to see how much the Rams value the cornerback position in the upcoming draft.

Cornerback Options at 36

Emmanuel Forbes, Cornerback, Mississippi State

Earlier this offseason, I pegged Forbes as a good fit for the Rams as he matched their profile. Forbes is one of the fastest cornerbacks in the draft as he ran a 4.35-second 40-yard dash. He may only be 166-pounds, but that hasn’t stopped him from being physical and making the tackle.

Additionally, Forbes is a play-making cornerback with elite ball skills and production. He tied for the lead with six interceptions last season, returning three of them for touchdowns.

Forbes is a case in which value matches need. If the Rams selected the Mississippi State cornerback with the 36th overall pick, it wouldn’t be considered a reach. They would get a potential elite cornerback on the outside, filling one of their biggest needs at the same time.

Kelee Ringo, Cornerback, Georgia

Now we get to a player that fits a need, but is he a good fit?

Ringo ran a 4.36-second 40-yard dash at the NFL Combine. However, he doesn’t always play to that speed and given his larger frame, he doesn’t show good movement laterally. Because of this, he can struggle when playing off-coverage. At 6’2, Ringo would also be the tallest cornerback that the Rams have drafted under Les Snead.

As mentioned, the Rams also like cornerbacks with good ball production and Ringo is limited in that area.

This is a case where Ringo could be a good player in the right situation and in the right scheme. The athleticism is very clearly there. However, he may need to play more man coverage to find success in the NFL. Is that team the Rams? Morris utilizes a lot of cover-3 concepts.

If Forbes is drafted before the Rams are on the clock at 36, Ringo could be seen as a secondary option. However, if that did happen, it would be pretty clear that the Rams would be drafting for need in the hopes to develop Forbes to fit their defense.

DJ Turner, Cornerback, Michigan

Every NFL team has their own board. How one team values a player may not be how another team values that same player. That discrepancy can even be larger when it comes to how the NFL views a player versus the NFL Draft media.

Turner is another good fit for the Rams, similar to Forbes. However, would the value be there at 36? The 33rd Team has Turner ranked 94th on their big board whereas Pro Football Network has him ranked 69th. Given the fit, the Rams could have him ranked even higher.

If Forbes is taken before the Rams are on the clock at 36, Turner is another good fit. However, the value would be better in the case of a trade down. In the case that the Rams are hellbent on a cornerback with their first selection, Turner makes a lot of sense as a secondary option to Forbes. However, the 36th overall pick would be considered a slight reach.

Again, teams want to find good players in the draft. Nobody remembers if a player was a reach or not if they end up succeeding. However, good draft process is about matching need and value. If the Rams selected Turner at 36 and couldn’t trade down, they’d be very clearly drafting for need.

EDGE Rusher

Outside of cornerback, the Rams have a glaring need at edge rusher. Michael Hoecht is the only player with a sack off of the edge last season and he’s more of a versatile defensive lineman tweener.

Behind Hoecht, the Rams then have Keir Thomas who was an undrafted free agent last year and then Daniel Hardy, a seventh-round pick. The Rams need to be able to generate consistent pressure off of the edge and right now, there isn’t a player that can do that on the roster.

At the edge rusher spot, the Rams like explosive players with a high-motor and have elite athletic traits. With the significance of the need at edge rusher, will the Rams address the position at 36 or wait until the later stages of the draft?

Edge Rusher Options at 36

Will McDonald IV, EDGE, Iowa State

The Rams like athletes at the edge rusher position and there are few better pure athletes than Will McDonald IV. He also had good production with 33 sacks and 39.5 tackles for loss with the Cyclones to go with nine forced fumbles.

This is a case where vale and need match up. McDonald IV would be good value at 36 and the Rams are a team with a very large need at edge rusher. He checks a lot of the Rams’ boxes as well in terms of fit, making him an ideal option.

Given the depth at the position, the Rams may need to double-up still later in the draft. However, McDonald gives them an elite option to kick off the draft.

BJ Ojulari, EDGE, LSU

If the Rams ended up with BJ Ojulari, not too many would complain. However, while he fits a need, the fit might not be with the Rams.

Ojulari is an explosive player, but he scored just a 4.90 in RAS with poor size and agility scores. It’s worth noting that he didn’t run the 40-yard dash or post speed scores, limiting his score.

While Ojulari is aggressive, he can tend to take plays off in the run game or if the play is moving away from him. The LSU edge rusher is likely a top-40 pick because of how complete he is as a prospect. Still, if the Rams were to select Ojulari at 36, it would feel like a forced pick given that the fit might not be there.

Felix Anudike-Uzomah, EDGE, Kansas State

The last option here with Felix Anudike-Uzomah is a scenario in which the player fits a need, but the value isn’t great at 36 and the Rams might be better off in a trade down. Anudike-Uzomah is a good player, but both The 33rd Team and The Draft Network both have him as the 60th and 62nd ranked player on their boards.

While the Rams need an edge rusher, there’s no need to force the position, they either trade down to get better value or try to target a player like Isaiah McGuire at 69 or 77. Anudike-Uzomah is explosive and a good athlete with a high-motor. The fit is there. However, he may be better off as a rotational player as he builds consistency. That’s not necessarily the caliber of player that the Rams should be looking for at 36.

Best Available Player Targets

As we’ve discussed, there are scenarios in which the best player available and needs do in fact match up. Forbes and McDonald IV fit this mold at both cornerback and edge rusher. However, what about other positions?

While the Rams need a wide receiver, do they need to take one at 36? Tyler Higbee is on an expiring deal, but do they need to take a tight end in the second-round? If the right player is there, an argument could certainly be made. Here are three players that could fit that mold.

Dalton Kincaid, Tight End, Utah

As mentioned, Higbee is on an expiring contract in 2023 and the Rams don’t have a lot of proven talent behind him with Brycen Hopkins and Hunter Long. The Athletic’s Jourdan Rodrigue has repeatedly said that the Rams are still looking at the tight end position.

“Even with the addition of tight end Hunter Long, via the Ramsey trade, the Rams will be looking to update some of the layers in their passing game and veteran tight end Tyler Higbee is in the last year of his deal.”

If someone like Dalton Kincaid or even Luke Musgrave is available, it wouldn’t be surprising to see the Rams draft either player. Kincaid is arguably a first-round talent and Musgrave would be a first-round tight end in any other draft class.

In the case that McDonald and Forbes are both gone, selecting a tight end may end up being the best player available. Both Kincaid and Musgrave are also good fits.

Jalin Hyatt, Wide Receiver, Tennessee

Following the trade of Allen Robinson to the Pittsburgh Steelers, it can be argued that the Rams need a wide receiver to compliment Cooper Kupp. The most logical receiver type there would be a speed threat who can win vertically. Brandin Cooks provided this in 2018 and Odell Beckham Jr. did it to an extent in 2021 along with DeSeahn Jackson while he was on the team.

However, Hyatt is more than just a speed threat. He’s showed the ability to be a good route-runner despite a limited route tree at Tennessee. The Rams need explosive athletes and Hyatt fits that bill.

This isn’t to say that Hyatt should be the Rams number one target at 36. Hyatt could go in the first-round himself. However, if he drops and McDonald IV, Forbes, and O’Cyrus Torrence are off the board, he’d certainly have to be considered and could be the best player available.

Calijah Kancey, Defensive Line, Pitt

The Rams need a defensive lineman. However, do they need to add one early on in the draft? After losing Greg Gaines and A’Shawn Robinson, they will need to address the nose tackle position at some point. Outside of that, the Rams have players outside of Aaron Donald who can play the 3-tech and 5-tech.

When Donald was selected in 2014, the Rams didn’t need another defensive lineman. Still, they selected him and he turned out to be arguably the greatest defensive player of all-time. That’s not to say the Kancey will also turn out to be that, but only a reason not to be turned away.

Donald is entering the twilight of his career. He could very well retire after this season or after 2024. Selecting someone like Kancey or even Adetomiwa Adebawore would make a lot of sense. These are two players who could learn and play alongside Donald before they take over the reigns. Defensive line isn’t a huge need and can be addressed on day three. However, if Kancey or Adebawore are available, they may be great value and check the box as the best player available.