The Los Angeles Rams clearly need new physicality in their most decimated area last season, the offensive line. They’re projected to tap into a familiar place to find it: Madison, Wisconsin.
That’s not only where the Rams found captain Rob Havenstein, guard David Edwards and last season’s first pick in round three Logan Bruss, but it’s also where a “freak” athlete will be available in the upcoming draft who can provide immediate help in the trenches: Center Joe Tippmann of the University of Wisconsin.
Draft analyst Eddie Brown of the San Diego Union Tribune on Wednesday, February 15 has the Rams taking the towering prospect to bring some needed nastiness but also rare athleticism for a big man.
“The Rams started 12 different players up front in their failure to run it back. Tippmann played exclusively at center his last two seasons in Madison, but his size (6-6, 315) and athleticism translates to anywhere on the interior, Brown wrote.
The next part described by Brown will surely win over Ram fans — or even new Rams offensive line coach Ryan Wendell, new offensive coordinator Mike LaFleur and head coach Sean McVay.
“He’s a heat-seeking missile when asked to pull,” Brown said, meaning Tippmann is quick out of his stance and blows up defenders on pull plays.
Tippman Made ‘Freak List’ Before Season
Long before the Badger began climbing on draft boards, he made another list that’s become renown in the college football landscape: The Bruce Feldman “freak list.”
The college football insider for The Athletic revealed 100 athletes before the 2022 season who weren’t just the best at what they do on the field, but earn the “freak” label from him because of their uncanny athleticism and work ethic that gives them few peers. The insider placed Tippman as the 28th best “freak” athlete.
“The 6-6, 323-pounder made honorable mention All-Big Ten in his first season as a starter for the Badgers. Tippmann is a terrific combination of strength (635-pound back squat and 455-pound bench) and athleticism, clocking a 4.31 pro agility time and a 1.65 10-yard split, which would’ve been faster than any O-lineman at the NFL combine this year,” Feldman wrote.
A 323-pounder with that kind of speed? Not only is that a scary thought for defensive linemen who’ll soon deal with Tippmann, but that type of foot speed is prime for a Rams offense that prefers to play fast under McVay.
OL Continued Notable Tradition at Madison
In the tradition of past Badger greats — including the Rams representatives who came from Madison — Tippmann maintained this tradition for the Badgers: Producing powerful road graders in the run game.
That same speed described by Feldman, plus the added feel of his upper body strength, helped clear running lanes for Wisconsin running backs to power through:
But the “heat-seeking missile” look he gives on pull blocks was on display here against College Football Playoff qualifier Ohio State:
In the end, Tippman fit the mold of past Badger offensive linemen who appealed to NFL teams. And his run blocking led to Tippman having the highest run blocking grade among Badger lineman by Pro Football Focus.
Could Tippmann Replace ‘Cut Candidate?’
There’s another reason why Tippmann’s name gets mentioned as the first draft possibility for the Rams come April 28: The Rams needing center depth…and potentially replace a starter.
Brad Spielberger of PFF on February 14 called Brian Allen a “cut candidate” for the Rams. Speilberger wrote:
“Allen has $1 million in 2023 salary already guaranteed, and $2 million more is set to become fully guaranteed on March 19, but the Rams may not let that happen after Allen had another season derailed by injury — unfortunately, a familiar situation with the talented center who can quickly get to the second level as a zone run blocker.”
He adds that the team could be intrigued to keep Coleman Shelton around longer because of his ability to swing between center and guard. Then there’s fellow center and backup Matt Skura, who’s an unrestricted free agent.
But regardless if Allen stays, the Rams can use help inside and at a spot ravaged by injuries. And as recent history suggests, Wisconsin guys become starters and eventual trench cornerstones in L.A.