Back on March 10th, 2023, the Los Angeles Rams parted ways with Leonard Floyd after just three seasons with the team. Floyd inked a four-year, $64M extension with the Rams back in 2020 and, after playing just two seasons on the deal, was cut in order to save some cap space down the line.
The departure of Floyd left L.A. in quite a dilemma in terms of pass-rushers on the edge to compliment legendary Aaron Donald on the defensive-line. Following the release of Floyd, the Rams’ EDGE rushers were Keir Thomas, Daniel Hardy, and Michael Hoecht, so the team clearly needed to add to that room via the NFL Draft due to the lack of cap space.
The team did just that, selecting an EDGE with the 77th overall pick, as the squad added Byron Young out of the University of Tennessee. Young is a physical specimen, listed at 6’2” 250 pounds he somehow ran an absurd 40-yard dash time, clocking in with an official time of 4.43, second-fastest among the position in the draft class. In two seasons at Tennessee Young had 12.5 sacks, 23.5 TFLs, and 83 tackles, very solid numbers for a guy who transferred in from a junior college. PFF also had some very valuable pass-rushing statistics they posted on Twitter (not sure why it says he has 16 sacks, stat books have him at 12.5):
Tennessee EDGE Byron Young since 2021:— PFF College (@PFF_College) March 30, 2023
19 QB Hits
72 Pressures pic.twitter.com/AXwlLmlEG7
Young’s biggest strengths of his game have mostly to do with his God-given abilities such as his physical frame and freakish athleticism. One thing that I absolutely love is that, even with those gifts, the man flat out plays hard on every single snap. His backstory will have you rooting for the kid, and he apparently crushed his pre-draft interviews:
Talking to NFL scouts about who impressed in team interviews & one name keeps coming up—Tennessee’s Byron Young.— Jim Nagy (@JimNagy_SB) April 22, 2023
He worked at Dollar General and played juco ball prior to Vols.
Scouts say you can feel his hunger and passion.@byron_97 also crushed Combine w/ 4.43 40 & 11’ BJ. pic.twitter.com/C2VTzpsu1z
The motor on Young is something that you cannot teach, something that, when paired with his gifts, can lead to a very special career in the NFL. Young is also very instinctual, as he displays in these clips against Kentucky and Clemson:
Simply can’t coach some of stuff @Vol_Football’s Byron Young does playing on the move. Very few guys—college or pro—can hit a reactive tight spin move like @byron_97 does in this rep. Snaps like this are why @seniorbowl is excited about Young’s upside.#TheDraftStartsInMOBILE™️ pic.twitter.com/e3GwqYEt9p— Jim Nagy (@JimNagy_SB) July 21, 2022
Tennessee EDGE Byron Young opens the OT up with an inside move to set up an outside spin for the QB hit - very controlled feet, good balance, impressive rep pic.twitter.com/3SGZmtv6he— Nick Falato (@nickfalato) April 13, 2023
The competition Byron Young played on a weekly basis in the SEC is about as close as you can get to NFL-level football without actually playing in the NFL, so I do not expect the jump to take as long for him to catch on as it may with other prospects who did not play in the SEC. The downside is the production was very up-and-down last season, as he sort of disappeared down the home stretch of the season before reappearing with a two-sack performance in the final game of the season in the Orange Bowl.
Even with that “dip” in production, I believe that the Rams got a flat out steal in Young, and I fully expect him to be used early and often in the 2023-2024 season. Young will get to learn from the greatest defensive-lineman in the history of the game (yeah, AD is the GOAT), as well as play alongside him, which will only open up an unlimited supply of one-on-one opportunities on the EDGE all season long.
Both EDGE spots are for the taking heading into training camp and the Rams did not select Byron Young to sit on the sidelines and observe. Young will be thrown into the fire from day one, and I believe he will excel, making him the most impactful rookie of the Los Angeles Rams 2023 draft class.