NFL draft 2022 takeaways: In enviable position, champion Rams happy to add depth
The 2022 NFL draft did not have the makings of a blockbuster for the Super Bowl-champion Rams.
Devoid of a pick until the end of the third round, the Rams’ biggest splashes came when they released a slick pseudo movie trailer before the draft, and on Day 2 when a scout kept a promise to jump into the pool at the team’s Hollywood Hills draft house if general manager Les Snead took a Wisconsin lineman with the team’s first pick.
But the Rams, never shy about courting attention, appeared content with the low-profile way their draft played out.
The Rams selected eight players: Wisconsin offensive lineman Logan Bruss in the third round, South Carolina State cornerback Decobie Durant in the fourth, Notre Dame running back Kyren Williams in the fifth, UCLA safety Quentin Lake and Georgia cornerback Derion Kendrick in the sixth, and Montana State edge rusher Daniel Hardy, Kansas State safety Russ Yeast and Michigan State offensive lineman A.J. Arcuri in the seventh.
On Sunday, they also traded a future pick to the Cleveland Browns to reacquire cornerback Troy Hill.
Five takeaways from the Rams’ draft:
The secondary was of primary importance: With cornerback Darious Williams now playing for Jacksonville, the Rams made moves to address his departure and the future of a secondary that includes three players — cornerback David Long and safeties Taylor Rapp and Nick Scott — entering the final years of their contracts.
Defensive back “was definitely something we were going to strategically target,” Snead said afterward.
In a matter of minutes Saturday, Snead filled the void left by Williams’ exit.
First, the Rams selected Durant, adding him to a cornerback group that includes star Jalen Ramsey, Long and second-year pro Robert Rochell.
Moments later they sent a 2023 fifth-round pick to the Browns for Hill, who played for the Rams from 2016 to 2020. Last season, Hill did not intercept a pass for the Browns. But Rams coach Sean McVay cited the three touchdowns Hill scored for the Rams in 2020.
“As they say,” McVay said explaining his longing for Hill’s versatility and production, “distance makes the heart grow fonder.”
Hill knows the Rams’ scheme. He can play outside, in the slot or the star position usually manned by Ramsey.
“I know he was excited,” McVay said of Hill’s reaction to the trade, “and I know the players are excited to get him back here with us as well.”
Kendrick was one of 15 players drafted from national champion Georgia.
Durant said he had no scholarship offers coming out of high school but never lost hope that he could reach his goal of playing in the NFL. He said he was proud to have been drafted from an HBCU school, and that he hoped it would inspire others.
Durant celebrated with family.
“Everybody was just screaming,” he said. “It sounded like I was at an amusement park.”
A new running back to help run it back: After several running backs came off the board, Snead traded up to choose Williams, who grew up in St. Louis watching the Rams and star running back Steven Jackson.
“Dressed up as him at Halloween,” Williams said.
Williams joins a running back corps that includes Cam Akers and Darrell Henderson, who is entering the final year of his contract.
The Rams like Williams’ toughness, especially in pass protection.
“You can’t have a mindset of being shy or timid — you’ve got to be able to deliver the blow first,” Williams said, adding, “My dad always made me play linebacker on defense, so I had the option to go hit some people.
“I’ve always had the defensive mentality in pass pro, that I’m going to hit you.”
Said Snead: “He’s fearless — where he’ll stick his face on people.”
Quentin Lake is staying home: Lake attended Santa Ana Mater Dei High and UCLA.
Now he will play for the hometown Rams.
“It’s just meant to be,” said Lake, the son of former Pro Bowl cornerback Carnell Lake.
Lake said the move to the NFL “shouldn’t be a culture shock,” for him because at UCLA “they treated me like a pro.”
He said he was ready to establish his own legacy.
“That’s the goal,” he said. “Just be the best player I can and help an organization win Super Bowls, which I feel like we can, back to back to back.”
The Rams like Big Ten linemen: Starting right tackle Rob Havenstein and starting left guard David Edwards played at Wisconsin. Center Brian Allen played at Michigan State.
The Rams chose Bruss as the heir apparent to Austin Corbett at right guard. Arcari is probably regarded as a project, but if he spelled Texas Christian alum Joe Noteboom at left tackle, the Rams could conceivably line up with five linemen from two Big Ten schools.
Edge rushers from smaller schools get Snead’s attention: A year after they selected outside linebacker Chris Garrett from Concordia-St. Paul, the Rams chose Hardy from Montana State.
Hardy ranked second among FCS schools with 24½ tackles for losses and 16½ sacks.
“The one thing I have going for me,” Hardy said, “is I am absolutely relentless.”
This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.