Rams open NFL draft by addressing offensive line, defensive front
The Rams on Friday moved to fill a few holes on a roster that is undergoing a major austerity-driven overhaul after last season’s disastrous finish.
They selected Texas Christian offensive lineman Steve Avila in the second round of the NFL draft, and then twice traded back in the third round and chose Tennessee edge rusher Byron Young and Wake Forest defensive lineman Kobie Turner.
But Matthew Stafford remains the only quarterback on the roster. The Rams are thin at several positions, and they are without a kicker, punter or long snapper.
“We’re not going to punt,” general manager Les Snead said jokingly during a news conference at the Rams’ draft house in the San Fernando Valley. “I don’t know who’s kicking off. It’s going to be cool. Be fun to watch.”
On Friday, the Rams seemed more than happy to add depth to the offensive and defensive fronts.
“These are three players that we feel like address things that we wanted to address,” coach Sean McVay said.
The Rams, and the never-shy-about-trading-back Snead, will begin Saturday with nine picks for rounds four through seven.
“There’s still a lot of things that we can do,” McVay said.
After being devoid of a first-round pick Thursday — and with Kentucky quarterback Will Levis and Tennessee quarterback Hendon Hooker still available — there was speculation that the Rams might pursue a quarterback.
But the Rams had other plans as the brain trust, coaches, scouts and the personnel and analytics staff readied to make picks from the team’s palatial draft house.
For the second year in a row, the Rams selected an offensive lineman with their first pick.
Last year, they took former Wisconsin lineman Logan Bruss in the third round. During training camp, Bruss was on track to begin the season in a backup role with an eventual move into the starting lineup. But Bruss suffered a season-ending knee injury in the second preseason game.
Bruss is set to return and now could be paired at guard with Avila, who was selected with the 36th pick.
Avila said he was on TCU’s campus with about 150 family members and friends Friday when he received the call from the Rams.
“I don’t know if it was like a conversation,” Avila said during a videoconference, “because I had too many tears in my eyes to even talk directly.”
Avila, 6 feet 3½ and 332 pounds, played center, guard and tackle at TCU, which advanced to the College Football Playoff title game last season. Avila played left guard in 2022, and in 15 games he did not give up a sack.
“A large human being that moves very well for that size,” Rams scout Cedric Jones said of Avila. “He’s in the business of moving people.”
Taylor Morton, the Rams' senior personnel advisor, said Avila impressed with his performance during Senior Bowl workouts.
“He’s really big, he’s really strong and he’s really tough,” Morton said. “He likes to finish off blocks and we just liked his overall demeanor.”
The Rams’ need for offensive linemen was obvious.
Last season, the Rams gave up seven sacks in a season-opening demolition by the Buffalo Bills.
Injuries then began to mount, leaving veteran right tackle Rob Havenstein as the only lineman to start every game. The Rams finished the season with three starting linemen who were not on the roster when it began.
Avila will compete for a starting role at guard and could also provide depth behind oft-injured center Brian Allen.
Young grew up in South Carolina and did not immediately play college football. He worked for about 18 months at Dollar General store before playing two seasons at Georgia Military College.
He transferred to Tennessee for his final two seasons and amassed 12½ sacks.
Young was excited to be selected by the Rams with the 77th pick. But he said there was some confusion by family and friends when the Las Vegas Raiders selected Alabama defensive lineman Byron Young at No. 70.
“Everybody started yelling, but it wasn’t me,” Young said, chuckling. “So the reaction was kind of, they were trying to make sure it was the right one. But it was great energy.”
Turner played three seasons at Richmond before transferring to Wake Forest for his final season. His consistent improvement impressed the Rams.
Turner is a “relentless havoc creator,” scout Michael Pierce said.
“He never stops,” Pierce said.
Like Young, Turner is looking forward to playing with Aaron Donald, a three-time NFL defensive player of the year and a certain Hall of Famer.
“It’s insane,” Turner said.
The Rams dealt with offensive line issues throughout last season and began the 2023 NFL draft by picking a versatile lineman out of Texas Christian, Steve Avila, with the fifth pick of the second round and 36th overall. He did not give up a sack last season.
With their two picks in the third round, the Rams addressed the defense, picking Tennessee edge rusher Byron Young and Wake Forest defensive tackle Kobie Turner.
Steve Avila — offensive lineman
6 feet 4, 331 pounds, Texas Christian, Round 2, Pick 36
Notable: Avila, a Texas native, played guard, center and tackle during his college career. He started at left guard in 2022 for the Horned Frogs, who advanced to the College Football Playoff title game.
Last season: Avila played in 15 games and did not give up a sack. He was voted to the All-Big 12 Conference team.
With the 36th pick in the 2023 @NFLDraft...@AllHands81 on the announcement that made @Stevelavila a Los Angeles Ram! pic.twitter.com/byJe67Q6cY
— Los Angeles Rams (@RamsNFL) April 28, 2023
Why the Rams drafted him: The Rams’ offensive line underperformed last season even before injuries began to mount. The Rams let guard David Edward leave as a free agent and unproven Tremayne Anchrum is returning from an ankle injury he suffered in the season opener. Logan Bruss, the Rams’ top pick last season, also is coming back from a knee injury suffered during the second preseason game.
Byron Young — edge rusher
6 feet 2, 250 pounds, Tennessee, Round 3, Pick 77
Notable: According to Tennessee’s website, Young worked at a Dollar General store for about 18 months before making the team at Georgia Military College. He played two seasons at the junior college and transferred to Tennessee.
Last season: Young had seven sacks and 12 tackles for losses for the Volunteers. He was voted All-SEC by the league’s coaches. Young had 12½ sacks in his two seasons in Knoxville.
Why the Rams drafted him: The Rams are in desperate need of edge rushers. Last season, the Rams released outside linebacker Justin Hollins and Terrell Lewis. After the season, they released edge rusher Leonard Floyd. Converted defensive lineman Michael Hoecht and Daniel Hardy, a second-year pro who was injured last season, are on the roster.
Kobie Turner — defensive lineman
6 feet 2, 288 pounds, Wake Forest, Round 3, Pick 89
Notable: Turner, a Virginia native, walked on at Richmond and amassed 14½ sacks in three seasons before transferring to Wake Forest for his final season.
Last season: Young played in 13 games but did not start. He posted 10 tackles for losses, including two sacks. He also forced four fumbles for the Demon Deacons.
Why the Rams drafted him: Aaron Donald is a three-time NFL defensive player of the year but the Rams need reinforcements on the interior line. After last season, the Rams let Greg Gaines and A’Shawn Robinson leave as free agents. Turner joins a defensive line group that includes Bobby Brown and Marquise Copeland.
This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.