THOUSAND OAKS, Calif. (AP) — The Los Angeles Rams traded back three times and moved up once in the first two days of the NFL draft.
The NFC champions came out of all their machinations with a promising safety, a hometown cornerback and a ball-carrier who could give some rest to Todd Gurley.
The Rams traded their first-round pick Thursday and moved back two more times Friday before they finally selected Washington safety Taylor Rapp with the 61st overall pick late in the second round. The Rams added Michigan cornerback David Long, a product of LA’s Loyola High School, later in the third.
Los Angeles then used one of the two extra picks acquired during its trades to move up for Memphis running back Darrell Henderson early in the third round.
Rapp is the Rams’ highest-drafted defensive player since 2014. They hadn’t drafted a defensive player higher than 91st overall since they chose Aaron Donald a half-decade ago, but Rapp will join returning starter John Johnson and newcomer Eric Weddle in the secondary that was identified as an area of need.
Rapp wasn’t surprised to hear from the Rams after making a pre-draft visit to their training complex.
“When I first got there, I could tell right away that it’s the perfect place for me,” said Rapp, a second-team AP All-America selection last season for the Pac-12 champion Huskies. “The culture is just so unique, and the way things are done around there is just so unique and so great. I just knew I would be a perfect fit.”
“Yeah, I thought I was going to go higher,” Henderson said. “But when it’s time to put on the pads, I’m going to make everybody that passed over me regret it.”
Choosing Henderson likely signals that the Rams are serious about giving some rest to Todd Gurley, whose production slumped amid injury down the stretch last season. Gurley has been in the top 10 in the NFL in touches during each of his four seasons, and he was fourth last season — despite missing two games in December — after being third in 2017, when he won the NFL Offensive Player of the Year award.
Although he insisted his left knee was healthy late last season, Gurley was largely replaced by veteran C.J. Anderson, who left for Detroit as a free agent. Gurley had fewer than 50 yards rushing in four of his final five games, and Henderson provides a compelling alternative to overloading Gurley, who got $45 million guaranteed in his new contract before training camp last year.
Long was excited to land back in Los Angeles after a three-year career with the Wolverines. He also visited with the Rams prior to the draft, getting a productive meeting with cornerbacks coach Aubrey Pleasant.