The Los Angeles Rams have spent years trading away picks to win now, so pretty much all their selections in the 2023 NFL draft will have to be NFL draft sleepers. LA doesn’t pick until the early second round (No. 36), but then has two thirds, three fifths, three sixths, and two sevenths. During this Rams draft, here are three NFL draft sleepers to consider at positions of need.
QB Aidan O’Connell, Purdue
Matthew Stafford is the only QB on the Rams roster heading into the 2023 NFL Draft. The 35-year-old is obviously in decline, though, and spent the end of last season out injured. It’s too late to get a new franchise signal-caller on the roster for 2023 (and the organization doesn’t have the draft capital to do it anyway).
That said, general manager Les Snead and head coach Sean McVay can search out NFL draft sleepers at the position to develop long-term.
Purdue QB Aidan O’Connell is a sleeper the team needs to look at.
O’Connell is 6-foot-3, 212 pounds, so he fits the profile of an NFL QB. He was also a two-year starter with 9,219 passing yards, 65 touchdowns, and 30 interceptions for the Boilermakers. The signal-caller showed excellent accuracy and solid arm strength at the combine, too, hitting 47-of-50 pass attempts (and the three missed were dropped by wide receivers).
The downside of O’Connell is that he’s not Anthony Richardson. In today’s NFL, everyone is looking for the next Patrick Mahomes or Josh Allen. They want quarterbacks with rocket arms and who can run like wideouts (or at least nimble tight ends).
Aidan O’Connell doesn’t possess these traits. He is an old-school pocket passer who can move around a little in the pocket, but he’s not beating anyone outside of it.
If anyone can take a real quarterback like this, though, and turn him into a starter without all the athletic bells and whistles, it’s McVay, which is why the Rams should take a fifth-round shot on O’Connell.
EDGE Nick Herbig, Wisconsin
The Rams were 21st in the NFL in sacks last season with 38, and 19.0 of those came from Leonard Floyd (now a free agent), Bobby Wagner (now on the Seattle Seahawks), and Greg Gaines (now on the Tampa Bay Buccaneers).
Los Angeles has a pass-rush problem, and they need to solve some of that in the 2023 NFL Draft by finding at least one (if not more) late-round NFL draft sleepers.
To find a sleeper pass-rusher, you should look for production over athletic traits. Sure, freakish athletes are great and can sometimes become dominant forces. But a player who can get double-digit sacks in a Power Six conference can probably get them in the NFL, too.
Wisconsin defensive end/linebacker Nick Herbig finished sixth in the FBS with 11.0 sacks last season. And the 6-foot-2, 240-pound pass rusher had 9.0 the season before that.
Herbig knows how to rush the passer, and with Aaron Donald taking up a lot of the attention in the middle, he should be able to use his quickness and pass-rush moves to get after opposing QBs.
The Hawaii native needs to get bigger and put on more muscle. He is definitely undersized at just 240 pounds However, like we saw with Haason Reddick on the Philadelphia Eagles, if you put an undersized pass rusher in the right position to succeed, he can dominate in the NFL.
WR Jason Brownlee, Southern Mississippi
Another thing that Matthew Stafford (or Aidan O’Connell) can use this offseason is another wide receiver. Cooper Kupp should get back healthy and go back to being one of the best pass-catcher in the league, but Van Jefferson, Allen Robinson II, and Ben Skowronek haven’t proven to be the true WR2 the Rams need.
The 2023 NFL draft WR class isn’t top-heavy like past classes with Ja’Marr Chase and Justin Jefferson, but it is relatively deep, and there should be some NFL draft sleepers in the later rounds.
One way to find a sleeper is to look to smaller school pass-catchers who haven’t gotten the attention that Power Six FBS players have.
Jason Brownlee from Southern Mississippi fits that bill.
Brownlee is 6-foot-2, 198 pounds, with long arms (33 ½ inches) and big hands (9 ¾ inches), he has an excellent catch radius and can pull down balls thrown anywhere near him.
The Mississippi native also knows how to win and dominate his competition. He was part of a JUCO National Championship team in 2018 and a JUCO All-American in 2019. He then caught 135 balls for 2,144 yards and scored 21 touchdowns in three seasons at Southern Miss.
Jason Brownlee might not have been on ESPN much, but he could be at the next level if he outperforms his draft stock.
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