Rams buy CB Troy Hill, draft UCLA CB Quentin Lake – San Gabriel Valley Tribune
It only took a few minutes on Saturday for the Rams’ defensive body to go from kind of shallow to downright deep.
And it was just the start of a day at the NFL Draft when Rams general manager Les Snead and coach Sean McVay made the secondary their primary focus.
The Rams bought out cornerback Troy Hill in a trade, sending the Cleveland Browns a fifth-round pick in the 2023 draft.
Not long before, they had begun to cement their position by picking South Carolina State cornerback Decobie Durant in the fourth round of the NFL Draft.
In the end, they had added former Mater Dei High (Santa Ana) and UCLA safety Quentin Lake and Georgia cornerback Derion Kendrick in the sixth round with the 211th and 212th picks overall, and safety Kansas State’s Russ Yeast in seventh with 253rd.
“DB was definitely something we were going to target strategically,” Snead said as the sun set on the deck of the Rams’ draft house headquarters in the Hollywood Hills. “There was a time when players we liked were still on the roster, and (we said) doubled, tripled.
“It becomes a very competitive room and obviously deeper (defensive backs).”
Hill, 30, of St. Bonaventure High School in Ventura and Oregon, was a Ram for six seasons, leading the NFL in nonoffensive touchdowns in 2020 stopping two interceptions and a fumble.
The Rams missed out on Hill after he left as a free agent on a two-year contract with the Browns.
“As they say, distance makes the heart grow fonder,” McVay said.
Hill will replace Darious Williams, who left the Rams in March for the Jacksonville Jaguars, and will reunite with All-Pro cornerback Jalen Ramsey.
Durant is another cornerback with a nose for the ball.
Listed at 5-foot-10 and 180 pounds, Durant can play inside and outside and was named MEAC Defensive Player of the Year as a senior after intercepting three passes and breaking 12 as a senior.
“Anytime the ball is in the air, it’s mine,” Durant said on Zoom when asked to describe his style of play. “Just being a ball hawk.”
He will compete for shots with David Long and Robert Rochell.
Lake, son of former UCLA and NFL linebacker Carnell Lake, said he was “super excited to stay in Los Angeles” after being named to the All-Pac-12 second team as a Bruins senior with three interceptions.
At 6-foot-1 and 201 pounds, Lake thinks he can play either of the safeties, where the Rams’ starting starters are Jordan Fuller and Taylor Rapp — and maybe do more than that.
“If you need a guy who can play linebacker, cover tight ends, cover running backs out of the backfield, I can do that too,” Lake said. “Whatever the coaches want me to do, I’m ready to do.”
Yeast, like Lake, is a second-generation professional football player, his father Craig having been a catcher in the NFL and CFL.
The two rookie safeties will compete with backup safeties Nick Scott and Terrell Burgess.
Something all Rams defensive rookies have in common is versatility.
“It definitely helped with every pick we talked about where you line them up,” Snead said. “The versatility definitely helped.”
In all, the Rams drafted five players for defense and three for offense.
They took Notre Dame running back Kyren Williams to the fifth round with the 164th pick after trading sending the 175th and 238th picks to the Las Vegas Raiders.
Williams, a St. Louis native, grew up a fan of running back Steven Jackson when the Rams played there.
“I’m super excited,” Williams said after the Rams drafted him. “It’s literally a dream come true.”
Listed at 5-foot-9 and 194 pounds, Williams rushed for 1,002 yards and 14 scores and caught 42 passes for 359 yards as a senior. It adds to his ability to play third down with blocking skills. He could be the third running back behind Cam Akers and Darrell Henderson.
Later in the draft, the Rams traded the 218th pick to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers to acquire the 235th and 261st, giving them three selections in the seventh and final round.
They picked Montana State outside linebacker Daniel Hardy, a willing special teams participant, with the 235th, and Michigan State tackle AJ Arcuri, who started on the left and right ends of the line at the university, with the 261st.
For the Rams, Saturday was by far the busiest of three days of what Snead summed up as a “productive” draft.
The Rams didn’t have their first-round pick for the sixth straight draft after trading him to the Detroit Lions as part of the 2021 deal for quarterback Matthew Stafford, and didn’t have their pick of original second- or third-rounder after sending to the Denver Broncos in last November’s trade for outside linebacker Von Miller.
They started by signing Wisconsin offensive lineman Logan Bruss in the third round (104th overall pick) on Friday, and see him as a possible starter at right guard after Austin Corbett left as a free agent.
Despite losing a few starters after winning the Super Bowl, the Rams seemed to have few glaring holes and were happy, as usual, to stockpile mid-to-low picks.
They met some position group needs – the secondary in a big way.
“Eight choices,” Snead said, checking his calculations against a list of choices. “Plus Troy Hill, the bonus.”
RAMS DRAFT PICKS PER TURN
1st: No choice
2nd: No choice
3rd: G Logan Bruss, Wisconsin (104th overall pick)
4th: CB Decobie Durant, South Carolina State (142nd)
5th: RB Kyren Williams, Notre Dame (164th)
6th: Lake Quentin S, UCLA (211th); CB Derion Kendrick, Georgia (212th)
7th: OLB Daniel Hardy, Montana State (235th); S Russ Yeast, Kansas State (253rd); TAJ Arcuri, Michigan State (261st)