The Los Angeles Rams selected two offensive linemen in the 2023 NFL Draft. While Steve Avila is the most recognized out of the two, Warren McClendon out of Georgia is not a player that should be forgotten about heading into next season.
Last season was a disaster for the Rams on the offensive line. While injuries were part of that, there was also an issue with the depth. It can be argued that the Rams offensive line issues transcended their depth with the number of injuries they suffered. Still, players like Bobby Evans and others were still being relied on when they simply weren’t good enough.
Between now and the Rams’ first preseason game, I’m going to preview approximately 45 players on the roster. So far, we’re through the first 25. The goal here has been to highlight players looking to take that next step in 2023 as well as players who will serve as key depth on the roster. I may expand into the occasional star or roster-bubble player, but for the most part we’ll be looking at the players who will truly make or break the Rams season.
Today, we’re looking at Warren McClendon.
Over the past three seasons, McClendon was the starting right tackle for the Georgia Bulldogs. He replaced Broderick Jones on the right side and Jones was just drafted in the first round by the Pittsburgh Steelers.
McClendon got injured toward the end of last season which may have forced him to fall in the draft. Still, he didn’t allow a single sack over the past two seasons. In fact, McClendon had the 18th-highest pass-blocking grade last year according to Pro Football Focus. His seven pressures allowed were also the sixth-fewest in the nation. It was a similar story in 2021 when McClendon’s four pressures allowed ranked second. He’s primarily a right tackle, but does have 78 career snaps on the left side.
The Good/Best Case Scenario
It’s never a bad thing when a player succeeds in the SEC and that’s exactly the case when it comes to McClendon. Had it not been for Jones, McClendon may have been the Georgia tackle that people were talking about during the draft process. He performed well at the Senior Bowl which you also like to see.
Never say never, but it would be difficult for McClendon to break into the starting five as a rookie. That doesn't make his role any less important. The Rams continued to roll out Evans last year and McClendon is an obvious upgrade. In a best case scenario, McClendon provides quality depth to the offensive line and plays well when his number is called.
The Bad/Worst Case Scenario
McClendon is a player that the Rams may look to cross-train early in his career at tackle and guard. This is primarily because McClendon doesn’t bring the same versatility that some other drafted tackles bring. Throughout his college career at Georgia, he played 1800 snaps on the right side, 78 at left tackle, and none on the interior.
While some tend to believe that moving offensive linemen inside is easy, it can be a difficult transition. In a worst case scenario, McClendon struggles early in his career, especially inside at guard. This would limit how the Rams could use him as a rookie.
Biggest Question: Where does Warren McClendon fit on the depth chart?
The most important thing for the Rams when it comes to McClendon will be figuring out where he fits on the depth chart. Is he someone that can play as a sixth-man, swing-tackle who can fill in inside and outside? Contrarily, is he simply just a right tackle? This is something that the Rams will need to figure out and they will pretty early in training camp.
Currently on the depth chart, the Rams have Tremayne Anchrum and Alaric Jackson who have tackle/guard experience. McClendon will need to show that same versatility early.
McClendon will make the final roster, but there will be a lot of competition along the offensive line. If the fifth-round pick can display some versatility, he can absolutely compete with Ancrhum, Jackson, Logan Bruss, and others as the sixth offensive lineman or even as the starting right guard.
Early in his career, a depth role makes the most sense for McClendon. The question is, just how far down the depth chart will that be in his rookie season.
2023 Outlook and What to Expect
When the Rams drafted Avila in the second-round, they selected him as a starter. He will be a consistent presence on the offensive line. Still, McClendon may be the most important offensive lineman that the Rams selected in the 2023 NFL Draft. The Rams struggled with depth last year. While McClendon needs to show that he can succeed in the NFL as well as needing to show versatility, there’s a lot to like.
As far as his expectations go, it would be nice to see him as that sixth offensive lineman. It would be nice just to see a player who is comfortable when he has to rise to the occasion.
Chances of Making Final Roster
It would be a huge surprise if McClendon is cut. The rookie is absolutely a lock on the final-53.
Final Roster Confidence: 10/10