The Los Angeles Rams without a doubt will need to draft a cornerback come the NFL Draft this spring. Even if they end up bringing back Trumaine Johnson, which is unlikely given the price tag, the Rams are at the very least going to need to add some depth on day two or day three.
That doesn’t even mention the predicament general manager Les Snead is in when it comes to needing to bring back Lamarcus Joyner and Nickell Robey-Coleman.
Thankfully, the 2018 NFL Draft is very deep at the cornerback position.
Six of the Rams’ draft picks from a season ago came from the Senior Bowl, including their first four, therefore that’s going to be a good starting point as to where to look for potential future Rams.
Today’s draft profile will be on MJ Stewart out of North Carolina.
Unofficial 40-time: 4.53 sec
- Despite not having any interceptions as a junior and senior, Stewart does possess good ball skills. Over the past two seasons he has 23 passes defended.
- Blankets receivers in man coverage which is where he thrives.
- He’s fast, he’s physical, and he’s experienced. That’s a good combination for a cornerback prospect. A lot of smaller guys don’t like to play physical and get involved in the run game. Stewart not only brings speed, but he brings physicality. Over his four years at UNC he had 199 tackles. As a senior he had 45 which ranked sixth on the team. He gets involved in the run game and likes to let his presence be known.
- Stewart is very good blitzing the quarterback and closing in near the line of scrimmage. He ranked fifth on the Tar Heels as he reeled in two sacks. He was the only defensive back on his team to have multiple sacks.
- Quickness and recognition in man coverage makes it very difficult for opposing wide receivers to gain separation on.
- The fact that he doesn’t have any interceptions over the last two years is a red flag. Even on day two and three, you’re looking for a cornerback who can get his hands on the ball and make a play. Stewart has proved he can get his hands on the ball, but needs to finish.
- With day two guys, a lot of the time you are drafting for upside. Stewart has that upside, but the interceptions and drop in production stand out. It would be interesting to get his take on this and I’m sure teams have asked him about it at the senior bowl. The fact that as a sophomore Stewart posted 18 pass breakups and four interceptions and that production dropped as much as it did, doesn’t bode well. Not to mention his tackles dropping by 32%.
- Doesn’t play natural in zone coverage. Shows impatience. Much better suited for man to man.
What They’re Saying
“Team sources have told me that Stewart is grading out as a fourth- or fifth-rounder. They say he is a nickelback type for the NFL. He has some limitations and is not a very good athlete, but they are impressed with his production and ability to get his hands on a lot of passes. In 2017, Stewart totaled 45 tackles with 12 breakups, but zero interceptions. He recorded 66 tackles with 11 breakups in 2016. Stewart notched 14 breakups with four interceptions as a sophomore.”
How He Fits
If the Rams are unable to bring back Nickell Robey-Coleman who excelled at the nickel cornerback spot, the Rams are going to bring one in whether it be in free agency or the draft.
While maybe not ideal to come in and start on day one, Stewart fits the mold to play that nickel role.
He’s a physical guy that excels in tight man coverage. That is the style of defense that Wade Phillips likes to run.
Stewart thrived in Mobile as he was one of the week’s top performers blanketing receivers all week. His declining stats are a huge concern for me although there is no question that the kid can play.
Stats aren’t a huge deal at the college level, but to say they mean nothing is also naive. To not have a single interception over the last two years is a red flag.
At the very least he will come in and play special teams day one and has the ability to develop to come in and play at least limited snaps in nickel packages.
The Rams targeted six guys from the senior bowl last season. Stewart is physical and plays tight man coverage, both things that the Rams ask for. He passed the first test at the senior bowl, but the rest of the pre-draft process will say a lot.
Blaine Grisak is a staff writer for Rams Talk. He currently works in athletic communications for the University of Pennsylvania. For more of his opinions, follow him on Twitter here.