6 defensive linemen for Rams to watch at NFL combine

Greg Gaines and A’Shawn Robinson are both pending free agents for the Rams this offseason, which could put a big dent in their defensive line. The draft will provide the Rams with options up front, and many of the top defensive linemen will be in Indianapolis this week for the NFL combine.

Looking at that position group, here are six players for the Rams to watch – including Lukas Van Ness, a talented pass rusher who can play both inside and on the edge.

Lukas Van Ness, Iowa

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In all likelihood, Van Ness will be out of the Rams’ range at No. 36. But that doesn’t mean they shouldn’t or won’t study him leading up to the draft. He’s a physically gifted defensive lineman who many view as an edge rusher. But in the Rams’ scheme, I think he fits nicely as a versatile 5-technique where A’Shawn Robinson plays, with the ability to rush off the edge, too. He would be a great pairing with Aaron Donald on the interior, giving the Rams two talented pass rushers up front.

It’s just a matter of whether he’ll get to the Rams at No. 36 or into the range where they could trade up. He’s someone who should shine at the combine.

Mazi Smith, Michigan

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Now here’s a player the Rams should keep a close eye on at the combine. He could be an option in Round 2 and with his athletic profile, he could improve his stock considerably this week with a strong performance. He would be a potential Day 1 starter at nose tackle for the Rams if Gaines leaves, though he doesn’t necessarily bring the same pass-rushing upside that Gaines possesses; just 0.5 sack in three seasons.

Siaki Ika, Baylor

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Ika is a thick defensive lineman at 358 pounds but he carries that weight well and moves relatively well on the interior. He would fit as a nose tackle in the Rams’ 3-4 scheme, potentially replacing Greg Gaines if he leaves in free agency. Ika had 4.5 sacks in 4 years between LSU and Baylor, totaling 10.5 tackles for a loss, as well.

He probably won’t blow anyone away at the combine but his weigh-in and footwork during drills will be two things to watch this week.

Keeanu Benton, Wisconsin

Benton was a standout at the Senior Bowl and could go as early as the second round. He has good movement skills for his size at 6-3, 312 pounds and that should be on display at the combine. The Rams need defensive line depth with Gaines and Robinson hitting free agency and Benton would help in that area, bringing pass-rush ability to the D-line. Last season, he had 4.5 sacks and 10 tackles for a loss.

Moro Ojomo, Texas

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Ojomo doesn’t have the highest ceiling as a defensive lineman but he does have experience after helping the Longhorns for the last four years, three of which were as a starter. He’s a powerful player on the interior despite being somewhat undersized at 6-2, 293 pounds, so the Rams would need to find his best position – likely as a 5-tech opposite Donald.

Cameron Young, Mississippi State

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Young spent four years at Mississippi State, finishing with two sacks and nine tackles for a loss. Another player who fits best as a nose tackle, Young could also play 3-technique and fill in for Donald when he comes off the field. He’s just not going to contribute much as a pass rusher, as evidenced by his numbers in college.

Story originally appeared on Rams Wire