The Edge. Always out there, always waiting. It’s no secret that the LA Rams need to address the outside linebacker position this off-season. Departures of veterans Von Miller, Ogbonnia Okoronkwo, and even Justin Lawler have left them weakened and rather shallow depth-wise in the position. It’s perhaps the most crucial piece of the puzzle the team needs to hit on come draft day. Just how important is the position to the Rams? Well, GM Les Snead has made the position a priority in the past. How so?
We know that the LA Rams have never hesitated to add veteran players to the role. Since hiring head coach Sean McVay, the Rams have acquired veteran outside linebacker Dante Fowler Jr., veteran outside linebacker Leonard Floyd, young but versatile Justin Hollins, and veteran outside linebacker Von Miller.
But it has not been a veteran-exclusive position for the Rams front office. The Rams drafted outside linebacker Samsun Ebukam in 2017, both Ogbonnia Okoronkwo and Justin Lawler in 2018, Terrell Lewis in 2020, and Chris Garrett in 2021.
That being said, then, who would be the best fit for the Rams at that outside linebacker position?
Pie in the Sky talk
Most experts believe OLB Aidan Hutchinson out of the University of Michigan will be the overall number one pick in the 2022 NFL Draft. Therefore, by common consensus, Oregon’s Kayvon Thibodeaux is the next highest-ranked player on the draft board at that position. An All-American registering 7.0 quarterback sacks this past season for the Ducks, as well as 12.0 TFL in 10 games, Thibodeaux is powerfully built, twitchy and dynamic.
He has strong hands and is able to explode off the snap, causing a headache for offensive tackles everywhere. With off-the-charts cardio, he can sometimes try doing too much, straying out of his designated role, though that is something that can be easily corrected with coaching. Stylistically, he is a great fit for the Rams. The only problem? The Rams won’t appear in the draft until the third round, with the 104th pick, by which time Thibodeaux will surely be off the board.
Rams draft Western Kentucky OLB
More realistically, then, is perhaps Western Kentucky’s OLB Deangelo Malone. A wirier build at 6-foot-3 and 243-pounds, he has quick feet and a flexible frame, huge hands, and is able to mix up his speeds and angles when attacking upfield.
In terms of pure athleticism, he rated a solid RAS score. The LA Rams seemed to focus on athleticism in the 2021 NFL Draft, and there is nothing about Malone that would make the Rams steer clear of him in this draft. either.
Some draft profiles consider him a Round 4 or 5 prospect. But if the LA Rams value his on-field performance as much as I think they do, they’ll pull the trigger late in Round 3. After all, DeAngelo Malone played in 61 games and racked up 349 tackles, including 183 solo tackles (an average of 3.0 per game), 59.0 tackles for a loss, 32.5 quarterback sacks, seven pass deflections, one interception, eight forced fumbles, and even one fumble recovery for a touchdown.
Tougher than he looks, he plays with great physicality, and his play is both cerebral and highly competitive. Perhaps needing a little more consistency, particularly when it comes to stuffing the run, and a little more power when it comes to tackling, these are skills that can easily be improved once the Rams have him in the building.
Deangelo Malone? Welcome to the LA Rams.