American Football

Rams can find tight end value in Rounds 3 and 4

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COLLEGE FOOTBALL: OCT 29 Indiana State at South Dakota State
Tucker Kraft has the tools to be an outstanding NFL tight end | Photo by Bailey Hillesheim/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

It has historically been their sweet spot and this years prospects are outstanding

In what what shaking up to be one of the Los Angeles Rams most important drafts in recent history, it is imperative that General Manager Les Snead connect on his 2023 NFL Draft swings. The limited depth chart doubles down on weight of needed success.

As a possible solution, this years tight end class is quite deep and getting starting grade talent is possible in the mid rounds. If Snead has a sweet spot for drafting tight ends, it would be Round 4 through 6. During his 11-year tenure with the Rams, he’s drafted five tight ends and four have come between #110 and #177. Jacob Harris (#141, 2021), Brycen Hopkins (#136, 2020), Tyler Higbee (#110, 2016), and Temarrick Hemingway (#177, 2016). Gerald Everett was the outlier (#44, 2017).

Rounds 3 and 4 are also the sweet spot where NFL teams draft tight ends, with 59 of 155 (38.06%) drafted in those slots. Stars such as Travis Kelce, Mark Andrews, and Dallas Goedert came from this area. The Rams have two picks, #69 and #77 in these rounds.

In part one, we looked into the top-rated players, now it’s time to look a tier down. If you didn’t believe the Rams should take a tight end at #36, should they consider taking one in Round 3 or trading back into Round 4?

Round 3 and 4

Luke Schoonmaker, Michigan – 6’ 5” / 251 lbs. / 9” hands / 32 7/8” arms @ NFL Combine (6.34, #51)

Turns 25 in September. Played in 43 (20 starts) college games at tight end and on special teams. Overall, he is a good blocker, better at straight ahead drive and pass protection with his ability to sustain and wide base. Can easily chip and climb. Needs to be patient and square up to strike on the move. Catches away from his body with good hands on both high and low passes, Appears to be experienced in short, mid and deep routes, Not a real threat running after the catch. Like so many of these candidates, Schoonmaker could use work on his play strength, particularly lower body.

Brenton Strange, Penn State – 6’ 4” / 253 lbs. / 9 5/8” hands / 31 1/8” arms @ NFL Combine (6.21, #90)

Started 32 of 37 games and just turned 22. Stocky build, with big legs. One of my favorites, plays a solid all-round game. Physical, athletic, and formation diverse. Can win inline, split out, on the wing, or out of the backfield. As a blocker, he doesn’t have prototypical length, but squares up on defenders, keeps his punch inside and extends/locks out. He strikes well on the move, as well. Catches away from his body and is a good runner after the catch. Doesn’t have elite running speed, but does show good burst, power and balance. Not a game breaker, but rather a physical, steady presence with good traits to build on.

Tucker Kraft, South Dakota State 6’ 5” / 254 lbs. / 10” hands / 32 3/4” arms @ NFL Combine (6.28, #62)

The kind of tight end you want to draft and develop. Athletic, strong, and looks solid in all facets of the position. The rub is, and it’s a minor one, is that he plyed his trade in the FCS division and was tasked with a limited route tree. He is an aggressive runner after the catch, able to run over and around much of his competition, and while that will change as a pro, his extra effort will go a long way to help his transition. Solid strength to lock up defenders and good blocking footwork both around the line of scrimmage and in space.

Sam La Porta, Iowa – 6’ 3” / 245 lbs. / 10 1/4” hands / 32 1/8” arms @ NFL Combine (6.18, #107)

32 game starter at Iowa who just turned 22. Former high school wide receiver and it shows in his play style and route tree. He projects as a high football IQ and athletic move tight end, who is just fast and big enough to create some mismatches against safeties and linebackers. The receiving part of a primarily two tight end offensive scheme. Very good hands and body control to help out bad throws. Shows some playmaking ability with th ball in his hands. He’s a willing blocker who gives effort, but just lacks the power. He could certainly work on play strength, but I think it wouldn’t be in his best interest to try and bulk up. He’s gonna rise or fall on his receiving ability.

Cameron Latu, Alabama – 6’ 4” / 242 lbs. / 9 1/2” hands / 32 3/8” arms @ NFL Combine (6.10, #139)

Started at ‘Bama as a defensive end and switched to offense after his redshirt freshman season. Played on special teams in his first two years before earning the starting tight end role and logging 26 starts. Body is cut like an edge and is still learning on the job, but brings a physical presence bigger than his size. As a blocker, he’s better banging inside than on the move in space, but if he can get his hands on you, he will move you. Needs work on feeling for and settling into open zone areas, but has strong hands and appears to have some giddy-up when running. A developmental player with a huge upside.

Rams could find some value here

Selecting any of the candidates at #69 or #77 may be little rich and then it’s a long wait to to the bottom of Round 5 (#167) and they will all likely be gone. With Les Snead’s penchant for trading back, there is a strong possibility of attaining a Round 4 selection and taking a tight end. It may seem that the tight end room is full and there are more pressing needs, but the top two, Tyler Higbee and Brycen Hopkins are in the last year of their contracts and the the third, Hunter Long, is unproven at best.

Snead likes to use Round 4 for tight ends, nabbing guys with upsides and seemingly fit into what the Rams want to do on offense. There’s a lot to like here and they all have history of playing on special teams. Schoonmaker and Kraft are likely early Round 3 picks and have all the traits for success. Strange is one my favorites in the position class and brings athleticism, blocking and receiving to the table. La Porta is more of a receiver, but at Iowa, the tight ends are generally tough and well-coached. Latu is interesting because his combination of physicality and athleticism, just learning the position and in need of polishing, but a real upside.

The Rams should not gloss over the tight end position, the right player can help two units, the receivers and the offensive line. L.A. targets their tight ends 100+ per season and use them as blockers both inline and from motion. It wouldn’t be a glamorous pick, but a small trade back into Round 4 could offer a player who can earn snaps in two tight end formations and play on special teams, all with an eye to the future. A good value.

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