New LA Rams trade-filled mock draft swells roster with young talent
By Bret Stuter
With the 173rd pick
With the 173rd pick of the 2023 NFL Draft, the LA Rams select a promising Habakkuk Baldonado, EDGE rusher, out of the University of Pittsburgh. While you may not think that a fifth-round edge rusher is anything to get excited about, I will tell you that the 2023 rookie draft is loaded with draftable EDGE rushers, and a savvy NFL team can emerge with starting quality players in almost every round.
Let's start off by pointing out the obvious, Habakkuk Baldonado hails from Aaron Donald's former alma-mater, and if there is one thing that can restore the passion and drive to Donald to get him intensely focused on the 2023 NFL season, it's having a younger player from the University of Pittsburgh to take under his wing and mentor.
There are some reasons to love this young man for the LA Rams. Not only does he hail from Pittsburgh, he is a native of Rome Italy, which makes him an instant friend to Rams IPP offensive lineman Max Pircher. He has the skills to be a true terror in pursuit of NFL quarterbacks, but he can drop into coverage as well. He has demonstrated the ability to do those Von Miller-like hairpin turns when rounding the edge, a very effective move that allows him to rush to his spot and then pivot to attack the quarterback from the side, neutralizing the ability of mobile quarterbacks to scramble out of the pocket.
He is a huge 6-foot-5 257-pound outside linebacker, but he has the frame to bulk up with another 10-15 pounds of muscle easily. In effect, he arrives ready to plug and play, but he already has a path to develop further. While the fans will want to get elite pass rush, the coaches will love Baldonado's ability to set the edge, turn plays inwards, and defend the run. I won't go so far as to guarantee that he will see playing time as a rookie. But I do believe that he will give stiff competition to everyone for defensive snaps.