Everyone has their own opinion of the selection of Taylor Rapp with the 61st overall pick in the 2019 NFL Draft. Lack of straight-line speed caused some to wonder about Rapp’s coverage skills. Some felt that Rapp was a reach. Many felt that the Los Angeles Rams should have gone with a different position at their pick. Some wanted the Rams to stay at 31 considering the talent that was available at that point.
Whatever your thoughts, it appears the Rams would have been willing to select Rapp at 31. They feel they got a steal in Rapp, who figures to play an important role in 2019 and beyond. Rapp will make an impact on the Rams defense. He is exactly what the Rams look for in prospects; leadership, high football IQ and tenacity. The intangibles Rapp brings will be extremely valuable to Wade Phillips and safeties coach Ejiro Evero.
Why take a safety?
The 2019 safety class was deep and talented. Rapp isn’t known for being a single-high safety. There was talent on the board at other positions many deemed more important. The Rams have Eric Weddle and John Johnson III with Marqui Christian in a reserve role. Why did the Rams feel safety was worth their first pick after trading back multiple times? Well, Eric Weddle won’t be around forever, he may not be around after the 2019-2020 season.
The Rams have enjoyed a talented roster that allows them to draft and develop for the future. That is the big picture with Rapp, to take over for Weddle when the time comes. The short answer is that the Rams like Rapp in a variety of roles. He will play early and often in 2019. The Rams will put in some packages for him, he will be a key reserve, he may even play on special teams at times. The Rams can use him as a pseudo-linebacker as well.
What the Rams are receiving in Rapp
Rapp is a versatile player; Rapp lined up as a safety, slot and linebacker. He played in the box and deep coverage. Rapp isn’t a single-high safety, but his short-area quickness allows him to be good in certain coverage situations. Rapp totaled 168 tackles, 7 sacks, 7 interceptions, 14 pass breakups, 3 fumble recoveries and 2 forced fumbles in his three-year career with the Washington Huskies. What Rapp lacks in athleticism, he makes up for in football IQ, effort and tackling. Rapp only missed 12 tackles in 39 games. He is also effective as a pass rusher when called upon. He totaled 72 pass rush snaps and totaled 6 sacks and 15 pressures, winning his pass rush rep 29% of the time.
Rapp is underrated as an athlete and in coverage. He isn’t fast in a straight line but he had one of the best 3-cone times (6.82 seconds) at the 2019 NFL Combine for a safety (3rd). He was first in the short shuttle for safeties (3.99 seconds), first in 60-yard shuttle (11.33 seconds), eighth in the vertical jump (35 inches) and fifth in bench press (17 reps). Rapp was one of the best athletes at safety in the 2019 NFL Draft other than the overrated 40-yard dash. In coverage, Rapp only gave up 8 receptions in 2018 and was only targeted 18 times, much lower than his numbers in his first two years at Washington. In 2018, teams decided it wasn’t smart to target Rapp.
Rapp isn’t just a striker, he’s a do-it-all Swiss Army knife. He is movable piece that Phillips can utilize to exploit matchups all over the field. With Rapp being added to a talented safety group of Weddle, Johnson III and Christian, the Rams have arguably one of the better safety groups in the NFL. The Rams got good value with Rapp at 61. He may not be prime Earl Thomas, but he is a versatile, playmaker with plenty of talent in the defensive backfield. The selection of Rapp deserves a B+ grade. The Rams didn’t receive a higher grade talent by trading down. The talent at 61 is arguably good too, but safety isn’t the biggest need. In the end, the Rams got value in a guy they liked 30 picks later which allowed them to move around in the draft later.