3 defensive ends Rams can draft to replace DE Jonah Williams

Los Angeles Rams Jonah Williams v San Francisco 49ers
Los Angeles Rams Jonah Williams v San Francisco 49ers / Thearon W. Henderson/GettyImages

While the LA Rams front office and coaching staff must strategize new ways to compensate for the retirement of All-Pro defensive lineman Aaron Donald, he is not the only hole in the roster that must be addressed. With almost no fanfare or coverage, the Rams have also lost starting defensive end Jonah Williams to free agency as well. While we made it a point to point out the fact that the loss of Williams is not a good turn of events, the pushback from fans was overwhelming: So what?

Finding a starter for the defensive line is not as simple as it sounds. Williams started 16 games for this defense in 2023 and played 598 defensive snaps. In addition to finding players to absorb the 867 defensive snaps played by Aaron Donald last season, they must add approximately 600 more defensive snaps to the total. That sets the front office goal at 1500 defensive snaps that must be filled by players from the 2024 NFL Draft.

Easy peasy, lemon squeezy, right?

The absence of a first round pick since 2016 has not hurt the team's chances in terms of competing in the NFL Playoffs. But it does play a role in how prepared the team may be to identify the best of the best prospects in Round 1.

In fact, based on the embedded chart below, it appears that the Rams have not drafted a player on the defensive side of the football in the first two rounds of the NFL draft in some time. The most recent occasion was the 2019 NFL Draft selection of safety Taylor Rapp, and I would not declare that selection as an unbridled success.

The team may simply be too out of practice to address their defensive needs early in the 2024 NFL Draft. That is not to say that players cannot be found later. We have identified several defensive ends who can be added on Day 3 who have a legitimate shot at earning a spot in the Rams defensive line rotation. They are:

Texas Tech DE Myles Cole

Myles Cole is a skyscraper, standing 6-foot-6 and weighing a robust 278 pounds. Cole is a phenomenal defensive lineman, with the size, power, agility, and speed to line up anywhere on the odd-man front. He has a tremendous wingspan of 7-foot-3, a span that allows him to knock down passes from the line of scrimmage. He put up an impressive 4.67-second 40-yard dash at the combine, a tremendous time for a defensive lineman. He has all of the tools to succeed, he simply needs the right culture and coaching to pull it all together. Projection: Round 6

Michigan DE Braiden McGregor

Braiden McGregor is a versatile defensive end who may need a bit of work in the gym to bulk up for a 3-4 DE role. Standing 6-foot-4 and weighing 257 pounds, he has some great moves and instincts to play a solid role on the defensive line. But he is about 15-20 pounds shy of the ideal build to handle the physicality of a 3-4 down lineman. McGregor has some pass rushing chops about him, while still keeping his eyes open for a ball carrier. He has the makings of a solid foundation, and through training camp could emerge as a rotational DE for this defense. Projection: Round 6

Alabama DE Justin Eboigbe

Justin Eboigbe may be the best of the bunch. Standing 6-foot-4 and weighing a robust 297 pounds, and has the versatility to compete instantly for a rotational role in a 3-4 odd man front. He springs out of his crouch like a catapult, launching powerful and impactful blows to gain an instant advantage, and then he uses his power to maintain that leverage as he closes on his target. Because he is big, powerful, and versatile, he has the makings of a 3-tech or 5-tech in the NFL. He is passionate about his game, and will willingly put in the work to improve his performance. Projection: Round 5

The Rams may opt to select a defensive end earlier in the draft, or may choose to load up on prospects after the draft. But there are a number of worthy prospects who could earn a spot on the team with a good training camp. And the Rams have a knack for finding gems late in the draft.

Thanks for reading.