LA Rams Draft: Top 50 Rams Big Board for 2023 NFL Draft

Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports
Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports /
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LA Rams Draft B.J. Ojulari
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2023 NFL Draft Big Board: 4-6 features B.J. Ojulari, Drew Sanders Loaded Defense Group

How do you size up the LA Rams’ defense at this point in the season? Perhaps it’s the few loud and proud fans who dominate social media, but there continues to be an unrequited thirst for the LA Rams to fire current defensive coordinator Raheem Morris at the end of this season.

And the data simply does not support that.

The Rams’ defense needs reinforcements, that’s for certain. But the team could turn the corner in the secondary simply if the rookie defensive backs come back improved for their second NFL season.

4  B.J. Ojulari, Edge, LSU

Now we’re getting to the part of the draft where I really get intrigued. A solid pass rusher from a draft class is always a plus. The challenge is trying to find the right guy who can come in and make a positive impact in his rookie season. I think that the 6-foot-3 250-pound LSU outside linebacker/defensive end, B.J. Ojulari, has as good of a chance of delivering out of the gate as anyone.

Ojulari checks all of the boxes. He simply has not yet assembled them all into consistent production. He does not possess those long grapple hook arms, which forces him to rely on his speed, flexibility, and agility. So far, he has been up to the task, as he explodes out of the gates. He needs to bulk up a bit more for the NFL line of scrimmage work, but he is someone who could start in his first season and never look back.

5  Drew Sanders, Edge, Arkansas

Another prospect who makes me sit up and take notice is the 6-foot-5 232-pound Arkansas outside linebacker Drew Sanders. While a bit on the svelte side, Sanders has those long arms that are so impossible to keep off the quarterback for an entire game. Because he is a bit lighter, he has the versatility and flexibility to play at all four LA Rams linebacker spots. That versatility becomes huge over the course of a season when he can essentially help the Rams manage limited roster slots to cover so many diverse roles.

That is not to say that this guy is all utility infielder and can’t make a big impact on the football field. He is a headsy type of defender who covers sideline to sideline, stays home on misdirection plays, sets an ideal edge to contain mobile quarterbacks, and has the solid speed to close on ball carriers from behind. He can shed blocks, rush the passer, and offer adequate pass coverage, Sanders still needs to refine his pass rush moves, but if he is there when the LA Rams make a selection, I would be thrilled to hear his name called.

6  Antonio Johnson, Safety, Texas A & M

It’s been two years since the LA Rams enjoyed the dominant play of defensive back John Johnson, but if the team calls out the name of the 6-foot-3 195-pound Texas A & M safety Antonio Johnson, the LA Rams secondary’s upside shoots through the roof. Unlike the current complement of deep-playing DBs, Johnson has all the coverage skills of a cornerback.

Johnson can do it all, and that’s certainly worth considering for this Rams’ defense.  A true CB/S hybrid, Johnson can play the slot, play deep center field, and even close in to give solid run support in the box. He has a history of playing wide receiver in high school, a huge plus that aids him in diagnosing routes and targets on each play.

Antonio Johnson is the type of player that I used to covet but knew had zero chance of falling to the Rams selection. But the Rams are stepping up to make their first selection as early as the 36th overall pick of the 2023 NFL Draft, and Johnson very likely could be there. Rebounding for the 2023 NFL season means adding fundamentally sound rookies who truly have the upside to challenge earning a nod for the NFL Pro Bowl. Antonio Johnson is such a player.