Rams pick safety Taylor Rapp in second round of NFL draft after trading down twice

Taylor Rapp (21) of the Washington Huskies celebrates after beating the Colorado Buffaloes in the Pac-12 championship game at Levi's Stadium on December 2, 2016 in Santa Clara.
(Thearon W. Henderson / Getty Images)

The Rams were in no hurry to make their first pick in the NFL draft.

They entered Friday already having traded their first-round pick the day before, and then traded down twice in the second round to the 61st pick before choosing their first player.

That’s where they selected Washington safety Taylor Rapp, before adding Memphis running back Darrell Henderson, Michigan cornerback David Long and Oklahoma offensive lineman Bobby Evans in the third round.

In all, the Rams traded back three times and forward twice in the first two days of a draft that concludes Saturday with Rounds 3 through 7. The Rams have four more picks, though that number could grow or shrink if general manager Les Snead continues dealing.


“Slightly fun day,” Snead said Friday night, adding that Rams’ intent was to “get as many shots at the basket as possible in the top 100” picks.

“We felt like it would benefit the Rams not only in the short term but in the long term as well,” he said.

The Rams were thought to be searching for defensive linemen that could help replace Ndamukong Suh and offensive linemen that could add depth.

But their first three picks deviated from those areas.

Rapp, 6-feet and 200 pounds, joins a safety corps that includes six-time Pro Bowl player Eric Weddle and ascending safety John Johnson.

“A lot of the things that you love so much about Eric and J.J., we feel like Taylor has a lot of those similar traits and characteristics,” coach Sean McVay said.

Rapp said he was eager to learn from Weddle and Johnson.

“It’s an incredible opportunity and I think it’s the perfect scenario for me,” Rapp said during a teleconference. “I couldn’t ask for anything better.”

Rapp played three seasons at Washington and intercepted seven passes. Last season, he intercepted two passes and helped the Huskies reach the Rose Bowl. He suffered a hip injury in the final regular-season game, however, and sat out the Rose Bowl game.

He might have slid in the draft because of questions about his hip, especially after he clocked a time of 4.77 seconds at Washington’s Pro day workout.

“Got it checked out by the Rams’ doctors and physical stuff there, so it’s completely healthy,” he said. “I’m ready to play ball now. I’m ready to get to work.”

The selection of Henderson in the third round with the 70th pick naturally raised questions about star running back Todd Gurley’s left knee. Gurley, who signed a $60-million extension before last season, sat out the last two games because of a knee issue and struggled during much of the postseason.

Since the Super Bowl loss to the New England Patriots, Snead and McVay have said the Rams would work to manage Gurley’s workload during the upcoming season and beyond. And Gurley said he was “feeling pretty good” when he reported for offseason workouts on April 15.

Snead and McVay said Friday that the determining factors regarding Henderson were his play-making ability and the “change of pace” he offers playing behind Gurley and backup Malcolm Brown — not Gurley’s knee.

“This had to do with his skillset,” McVay said of Henderson. “Because he was a player that we identified as a unique play-maker.”

Henderson said he thought he would be taken earlier in the draft and that in time, “I’m going to make everybody that passed over me regret it.”

But he was excited to join the Rams.

“I’m just going to go in and do what I’m supposed to do and work hard,” he said. “It’s always good to have somebody to learn from and I’m going to learn from Todd Gurley.”

Long, who attended Los Angeles Loyola High, was chosen with the 79th pick. He provides depth in a secondary that includes cornerbacks Aqib Talib and Marcus Peters. Talib is in the final year of his contract. Peters is scheduled to play on a fifth-year option unless the Rams extend his contract.

Long said it was “a blessing” to be able to play at home and learn from veteran teammates such as Talib, Peters and Nickell Robey-Coleman.

“Those guys have made plays at that level,” Long said.

Evans, selected with the 97th pick, started three seasons at Oklahoma, playing right tackle in front of Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback Baker Mayfield and left tackle in front of Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback Kyler Murray.

With the Rams, he is expected to apprentice at left tackle behind Andrew Whitworth and at right tackle behind Rob Havenstein. He also probably will learn the guard positions as Joseph Noteboom did last season after the Rams selected him in the third round.

Evans said it was “overwhelming” to be drafted by the Rams and that he was looking forward to learning from Whitworth and Havenstein.

Evans’ father, former Oklahoma player Bobby Joe Evans, also was apparently overcome with emotion.

“I ain’t see my dad cry in a long time,” Bobby Evans said.


Taylor Rapp, safety

6 feet, 200 pounds, Washington, Round 2, Pick 61.

Notable: Rapp suffered a hip injury in the final game of the season and was not able to play in the Rose Bowl. Rapp said during a teleconference that he was physically sound.

Last season: Rapp made several All-America teams. He intercepted two passes, increasing his three-year total to seven.

Why the Rams drafted him: With ascending safety John Johnson and six-time Pro Bowl player Eric Weddle, the Rams have solid starters. But Rapp gives them a player who can contribute immediately.


Darrell Henderson, running back

5 feet, 9 inches, 200 pounds, Memphis, Round 3, Pick 70.

Notable: Henderson rushed for 3,082 yards and 31 touchdowns in three seasons. He rushed for more than 100 yards in a game 16 times.

Last season: Henderson rushed for 1,909 yards and 22 touchdowns. He averaged nearly nine yards per carry. Henderson rushed for more than 200 yards in consecutive games against Navy and Georgia State.

Why the Rams drafted him: Star Todd Gurley and Malcolm Brown are atop the depth chart, but neither Justin Davis nor John Kelly have established themselves as reliable alternatives.


David Long, cornerback

5 feet, 11 inches, 187 pounds, Michigan, Round 3, Pick 79.

Notable: Long, who played at Los Angeles Loyola High, intercepted three passes in his final two college seasons.

Last season: Long was voted All-Big Ten Conference by league coaches. He also contributed on special teams.

Why the Rams drafted him: Cornerback Aqib Talib is in the final year of his contract and, barring an extension, Marcus Peters is scheduled to play on his fifth-year option. Long can learn from the veterans and provide depth.


Bobby Evans, offensive tackle

6 feet, 5 inches, 301 pounds, Oklahoma, Round 3, Pick 97.

Notable: Evans helped block for Heisman Trophy-winning quarterbacks Baker Mayfield and Kyler Murray with the Sooners.

Last season: Evans played right tackle during his first two college seasons before moving to left tackle last season.

Why the Rams drafted him: Left tackle Andrew Whitworth is in the final year of his contract, and the Rams were looking to add a lineman who could swing between both tackle positions.

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