St. Louis Rams: Five Defensive Linemen Who Make Real Sense in the 2015 NFL Draft

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Mark Zerof-USA TODAY Sports

Za’Darius Smith- DE, Kentucky- 6’4, 274

Round Projections: RD3-4 (, RD3-4 (

Defensive end has been one of the Rams’ deepest positions for the past several years, but with Chris Long and William Hayes both entering their age 30 seasons and Eugene Sims due to become an unrestricted free agent next offseason, it may be time to add some depth. Smith would fit that bill well, as he’s a player similar to Sims who will fit in well rotationally and is versatile enough to fill in at both end and tackle.

Smith still needs to develop his pass-rushing technique, as he often fails to correctly lower his hips and finish the play in the backfield. However, he has strong burst off the line of scrimmage, uses his hands well, and has very good closing speed. The Rams may not have as much use for a “NASCAR package” type player like Smith now that they have a dynamic interior pass rusher in Aaron Donald, but he’s still valuable to a degree for a team that has often dressed just three defensive tackles on Sundays since Jeff Fisher took over.

It’s conceivable that former undrafted free agent Ethan Westbrooks is ready to step up and contribute on gamedays, which would lessen the need for a player like Smith. If the Rams are looking for an upgrade, though, taking a versatile defensive lineman such as Smith in the middle rounds may be more efficient than taking a pure defensive tackle, as it would allow them to build a more efficient gameday roster.

Next: Preston Smith, Mississippi State