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Rams CB Decobie Durant: Top Rookie to Watch?

The Rams have had lots of success drafting defensive backs.

One of the marks of a well-run NFL franchise is the ability to hit on Day 3 draft picks, and the Los Angeles Rams have done exactly that.

Whether it's Tyler Higbee or Jordan Fuller, Greg Gaines or David Edwards, the Rams have continuously found key starters in the middle-to-later portions of the draft.

With seven of their eight picks this year coming on the draft's third day, Los Angeles will be looking for that trend to continue. Through the first few weeks of training camp, early returns are promising from multiple rookies, including corners Decobie Durant and Derion Kendrick.

The two couldn't have had different college experiences if they'd tried; Durant starred at FCS school South Carolina State while Kendrick was a two-year starter for Clemson before transferring to the national champion Georgia Bulldogs.

And yet, when picking top Day 3 rookies to watch, Pro Football Focus opted for the small-school stud in Durant, who was listed as one of the top-5 players league-wide in the category.

One might think that Durant coming from South Carolina State would bring about a steep learning curve, but that apparently hasn’t been the case. Durant is very much in the mold of former Ram Darious Williams at only 5-foot-10 and 180 pounds. That’s not nearly as big of an issue in Los Angeles’ scheme as it is elsewhere, though. With Williams now gone, there are snaps up for grabs at cornerback that Durant could take. - PFF's Michael Renner

The 5-10, 183-pound Durant has been making plays all offseason for the Rams. According to head coach Sean McVay, Durant is a fast learner who can acclimate to new surroundings in a hurry.

"He made some plays even in the spring that stood out where you can see he's a great competitor, even when you watch his film," said McVay, citing Durant's standout two-interception game against the Clemson Tigers. "Similar to what I was mentioning about (Derion Kendrick) the other day. He just got a great play swagger. He's getting more and more comfortable.

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"He is playing outside and inside, but he's getting a lot of work inside. And you can see there's a lot of nuances that we ask of that star position and he's getting more comfortable every day and making a lot of plays.”

As McVay alluded, Durant will play the "star" role in Los Angeles' defense, assigned to the additional defensive back on the field in nickel defenses. To start, Durant has to beat out veteran Troy Hill, who's back with the team after one season in Cleveland. Hill started all 16 games for the Rams in 2020, his fifth and final year in Los Angeles.

McVay views the Rams' excess of versatile defensive backs as a significant positive considering the variation modern NFL defenses require. Considering Durant's ability to play outside and nickel, he affords the Rams options on the back end. Still, the 36-year-old McVay likes what he's seen out of Durant at star.

“I think he's done a good job," McVay stated. "I mean, you can't have enough guys that have the ability to play inside and outside."

Already listed as a "star" on the depth chart, Durant has generated a considerable buzz throughout his first offseason. Should he live up to it and continue the Rams' success of Day 3 draft picks, he might just be a star in more ways than one.

You can follow Daniel Flick on Twitter @DFlickDraft

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