Rams Projected to Add ‘Interchangeable Safety’ to Defense


Getty The Rams celebrate a Taylor Rapp interception on December 21, 2021. Rapp is heading to the 2023 offseason as an unrestricted free agent.

Edge rusher isn’t the only position of need on the Los Angeles Rams defense. With both of their safety leaders from 2022 both unrestricted free agents, that spot is another high need inside the “Rams House.”

Taylor Rapp and Nick Scott — the former putting together three of four seasons of producing 90 tackles or more and the latter delivering career-best numbers for 2022 — are anticipated to walk via free agency. The Rams could turn to free agency to address this room or pivot to April’s NFL Draft.

And that’s where Chad Reuter of nfl.com believes the Rams will tackle their safety dilemma — as he has L.A. grabbing an “interchangeable safety” in Boise State standout JL Skinner III at pick No. 69.

Skinner Comes With Towering Versatility, Praised by Renown Draft Expert

It’s not often that a 6-foot-4 defensive back becomes available in the draft. Let alone someone who brings some rare versatility for a towering defender.

Skinner, though, drew lots of praise in his draft evaluation from Lance Zierlein of nfl.com.

“Interchangeable safety with above average run support talent and the versatility for multiple coverages,” Zierlein began. He then praised his ability to use his eyes on the field.

“Skinner plays with good awareness to routes with eyes for short zone and the instincts to play over the top. He can line up over pass-catching tight ends and has the ball skills to make quarterbacks pay for off-target throws.”

As for foot work and hip direction, Zierlein wrote: “He has good feet but hips that can be a little sticky when flipping to run with vertical routes. His agility and range help him as a tackle collector in the open field.”

The final prediction from Zierlein? “Skinner should become an above average starter within a couple of seasons.”

Outside of Zierlein, NFL Draft Buzz gave him a third round grade while also praising his field awareness plus ability to close on ball carriers. The Draft Network, meanwhile, handed him a fourth round grade.

How Skinner Could fit Inside the ‘Rams House’

Skinner is certainly the opposite of Rapp and Scott. While all three have their history of wrecking running plays by playing a box safety role, Skinner has way more size — which can give him more of an edge when it comes to facing taller wideouts and tight ends running routes.

He would also have no issue getting physical with tight ends, proven here down in Mobile, Alabama for the Senior Bowl:

But he proves his worth as a downhill safety who can help disrupt the run:

With that skyscraper 6-foot-4 frame, he can come in handy inside the end zone by becoming the red zone target…against the quarterback:

But back to the aggressiveness, this blow up against Oklahoma State from 2021 proves that Skinner didn’t just put together his best work against non-Power 5 opponents. He delivered the boom against this P5 visitor to the famed blue turf:

Now if the Rams do take in the Broncos standout, Skinner instantly becomes the tallest defensive back in the room. The current tallest is incoming third-year pro Robert Rochell who stands at 6-foot-2. But under Raheem Morris as defensive coordinator, the Rams’ best safeties were always under 6-foot-1…including Rapp and Scott in 2022.

But Skinner wouldn’t just bring height and length to the Rams defense, he’s capable of reinstalling some nastiness on the back end as a violent finisher. He could be a gift pick to the Rams if he falls to the 69th pick.

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