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Rams hope one of Brock Purdy’s college teammates can be another draft steal

Jake Hummel was the leading tackler at Iowa State, now he’s on the verge of pulling a Rams camp upset

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NFL: AUG 19 Preseason - Raiders at Rams Photo by Tony Ding/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

It appears the NFL may have grossly underestimated the quality of prospects coming out of Iowa State recently, as the L.A. Rams may have unearthed a second diamond in the rough just a year after the world met Brock Purdy. Shortly after the San Francisco 49ers selected Purdy with the final pick in the 2022 NFL Draft, the Rams went out and convinced undrafted linebacker Jake Hummel to sign with L.A..

We would soon all find out that Purdy was a steal, one pick away from being undrafted, but Hummel was a low-key great story on his own by making the 53-man roster for a team that had just won the Super Bowl. Hummel would not play any snaps on defense and went on injured reserve in November, but he’s now on the verge of starting next to Ernest Jones in Week 1 against the Seattle Seahawks.

Could the Iowa State Cyclones have supplied a draft steal on both sides of the ball?

A three-star recruit in 2017 after winning three state championships in high school, Hummel didn’t become a full-time starter until 2020. Honored as First-Team Academic All-Big 12 in four straight seasons, Hummel led the Cycles in tackles in 2021 with 80, to go with 5.5 tackles for a loss, two interceptions, and one sack.

As noted by Randy Soares in a Hummel profile last year, his pro day proved that he’s actually got the potential to be much better in the pros than he was in college.

Most draft experts labeled him a smart, hustling, hot-motor type player, who lacked athleticism. Hummel’s Pro Day workout showed them all wrong. He measured in at almost 6’ 2” and 225 lbs. Big 10” hands, 32 3/8” arms and a touch over 77” wingspan. Not freakishly long, but certainly above the norm for his size.

Although he didn’t rate an NFL Combine invite, his speed and explosion numbers matched up with the top linebackers in the draft. He timed 4.51 in the forty yard dash, with 1.56 10 yard split, a stellar 6.83 3cone, and 4.30 in the shuttle. To give those times a little context, compared to posted 2022 Combine numbers, 4.51 would have been the third best forty, 6.83 was the best 3cone, and the 4.30 shuttle would have been another bronze medal.

In the explosion drills there was more flash. He pushed 22 reps on the bench, leapt 37” in the vertical and broad jumped 10’ 6”. More comparisons to Combine invitees? Tied for third best in the bench, sixth best in the vertical, and tied for sixth best in the broad jump. Most of the players that had better numbers, except for the undrafted Jeremiah Moon in the vertical and broad jumps and Aaron Hansford in the bench press, were high draft picks.

A lot of undrafted free agents play in the NFL, but it is anything but “easy” to make the roster after not being drafted. Many hundreds of prospects go undrafted and a small percentage of them will end up making a team, most of them will be cut within a year or two. The pool of undrafted free agents is simply much larger than the pool of each round of the draft and the draft as a whole.

Hummel made the Rams roster in 2022 as a backup to Bobby Wagner and Jones. If the Rams needed a linebacker, they might have called on Hummel. They didn’t need one in 2022. They do need one in 2023.

It’s probably going to be Hummel, not offseason and camp favorite Christian Rozeboom.

As noted by PFF after L.A.’s loss to the Raiders on Saturday, Hummel has been out-playing and out-snapping Rozeboom in the preseason. I know that we can’t exactly count on Sean McVay’s preseason playing time as an indication for who will start, sometimes playing more is a bad sign, but this seems like a good opportunity to get Hummel some needed snaps.

Defensive spotlight: The Rams released Bobby Wagner, who played over 1,000 defensive snaps for them at linebacker in 2022, this offseason. With Ernest Jones expected to step into a much bigger role at the position in 2023, the answer as to who will start alongside him could be 2022 UDFA out of Iowa State Jake Hummel. Over the past two games, Hummel has been the starter with Jones out and has played an every-down role while Christian Rozeboom has rotated off in sub-packages. Hummel led the team in tackles and came up with a pick-six for the Rams’ lone touchdown of the first half.

Not that Rozeboom has had a lot of playing time of his own, but if Hummel is starting next to Jones that makes the defense even more inexperienced: Zero career snaps after going undrafted in 2022.

It could also make the defense better.

We could find out as soon as Week 1 and certainly by Week 2, at which point the Rams are playing against the 49ers. That will end up being an Iowa State reunion for Hummel and if he can pick off long-time teammate Brock Purdy similar to his play against the Raiders, maybe Mr. Irrelevant wasn’t the only one from his school who got severely overlooked.