The Los Angeles Rams were deservedly maligned for the early returns on their 2022 NFL Draft class after they were forced to cut OL Logan Bruss—their highest selection that year at #104 overall—after a dismal preseason performance and underwhelming training camp.
But less than a month later, RB Kyren Williams has emerged as a do-it-all running back and LA seemingly found three to four defensive starters or key role players in Cobie Durant, Derion Kendrick, Russ Yeast, and Quentin Lake.
The 2023 draft class seems even more impressive based on the very early returns through two weeks of this season, and these young players could provide a foundation for a shorter return to contention than we may have previously expected for the Rams franchise.
Steve Avila held his own against an aggressive San Francisco 49ers front and has played without any significant rookie growing pains at left guard. Puka Nacua is on a historic pace for any wide receiver let alone a rookie fifth-round pick. The Rams seem to have hit a homerun with this rookie duo on offense, at least in the early going.
2022 Draft Class (8 picks)
- OL Logan Bruss (third round, 104 overall)
- CB Cobie Durant (fourth, 142)
- RB Kyren Williams (fifth, 164)
- DB Quentin Lake (sixth, 211)
- CB Derion Kendrick (sixth, 212)
- OLB Daniel Hardy (seventh, 235)
- DB Russ Reast (seventh, 253)
- OT AJ Arcuri (seventh, 261)
2023 Draft Class (14 picks)
- OG Steve Avila (second, 36)
- OLB Byron Young (third, 77)
- DT Kobie Turner (third, 89)
- QB Stetson Bennett (fourth, 128)
- OLB Nick Hampton (fifth, 161)
- OT Warren McClendon (fifth, 174)
- TE Davis Allen (fifth, 175)
- WR Puka Nacua (fifth, 177)
- CB Tre Tomlinson (sixth, 182)
- OLB Ochaun Mathis (sixth, 189)
- RB Zack Evans (sixth, 215)
- P Ethan Evans (seventh, 223)
- DB Jason Taylor (seventh, 234)
- DE Desjuan Johnson (seventh, 259)
Current starters from 2022 and 2023 drafts
OG Steve Avila
WR Puka Nacua
I say this somewhat jokingly, did the Rams find a future hall of fame receiver in the fifth round—their fourth pick in said round?
RB Kyren Williams
Four touchdowns through the first two games is impressive, and Williams has seemingly played veteran Cam Akers out of a job.
OLB Byron Young
Young leads the Rams defense in total pressures according to PFF tracking data. His grade is lower than other defenders because of free releases or unblocked plays off the line. Still, he’s consistently flashed the athleticism that made him an attractive draft prospect.
DT Kobie Turner
Through two games Turner LA’s earned the highest PFF defensive grade, which is surprising considering he plays on a defensive line next to Aaron Donald.
CB Cobie Durant
Durant has potential in the secondary, but he hasn’t necessarily stood out in a positive way through two games. There’s plenty of time for him to assert himself moving forward, and more favorable game scripts will help with that.
DB Russ Yeast
From seventh round pick to unquestioned starter in his second year, Yeast seems to be the next up in a line of late-round safeties the Rams have identified and developed.
P Ethan Evans
The rookie booted a 72-yard bomb this weekend against San Francisco, so his leg power is translating to the professional level. He will outkick his coverage from time to time, however.
Key role players
DB Quentin Lake
Lake is LA’s dime linebacker and third safety. Both he and Yeast are seemingly ahead of veteran John Johnson on the depth chart, which is an encouraging sign for their development.
CB Tre Tomlinson
I’d argue that Tomlinson should be starting at outside corner over Kendrick, but that’s why I don’t coach in the NFL.
OT Warren McClendon
Probably LA’s swing tackle currently, but let’s hope we don’t have to find out who truly holds that job title (meaning Alaric Jackson and Rob Havenstein remain healthy).
OLB Nick Hampton
Young and Michael Hoecht have not rotated out much at edge rusher. Zach VanValkenburg has been the next man up when they do, but Hampton has seen some action already.
Depth pieces, or stashed for development
RB Zach Evans
We may see Evans in the near future with Akers soon to be out of the picture. Both Williams and Ronnie Rivers have looked good and veteran Royce Freeman is on the practice squad and ahead of Evans on the depth chart. Evans may have the most raw talent of the bunch and at one point was considered a fringe first-round pick.
TE Davis Allen
Brycen Hopkins has played more often than we’ve typically seen the number two tight end get involved in recent years. Allen is third on the depth chart with Hunter Long on injured reserve. He’s had offensive snaps but not been targeted—though he flashed soft hands during the preseason.
DE Desjuan Johnson
MR. Irrelevant flashed talent in the preseason but probably needs some time in the incubator before he’s ready for a meaningful role.
On reserve list
QB Stetson Bennett
We don’t know what Bennett is dealing with, but it seems to be an off-field and personal issue. He’s on the non-football injury (NFI) list and is out indefinitely.
OLB Ochaun Mathis
On injured reserve and will miss at least the first four games.
DB Jason Taylor
Added to injured reserve this week and will be out through at least Week 5.
On Rams practice squad
OT AJ Arcuri
OL Logan Bruss
OLB Daniel Hardy
Hardy was beat out by VanValkenburg and LA kept Keir Thomas on the practice squad instead. He’s now a member of the Chicago Bears and is the only draft pick in the last two years by the Rams not to make the current year roster or practice squad.