After releasing Cortland Finnegan and seeing Janoris Jenkins regress a little during the 2013 season, the St. Louis Rams made it a priority to add depth to their defensive backs group. The Rams did just that when the team selected former Florida State cornerback Lamarcus Joyner in the second round of the 2014 NFL Draft.
On paper, Joyner’s 5-foot-8, 184-pound frame and 4.55 40-yard dash time do not make him appear to be an NFL-caliber defensive back. However, Joyner makes up for his below-average size and average speed with top-tier instincts, play recognition skills and a high football IQ. He is also a high-energy player with a tremendous work ethic.
In college, Joyner was a playmaker all over the field. He recorded eight interceptions, 6.5 sacks, 21 pass defenses and three forced fumbles throughout his collegiate career. Joyner was absolutely critical to the success of his team’s defense. It is also worth noting that Joyner was the top defensive back on the Florida State team that won the national championship this past season.
Joyner may not have to wait long to be back on top of his team’s depth chart. Joyner is undersized, but that does not take away from his versatility. He is capable of playing at an outside or slot cornerback position as well as strong safety. Joyner’s skill-set, size, versatility and instincts resemble that of Arizona Cardinals defensive back Tyrann Mathieu.
Given that Trumaine Johnson and Jenkins are entrenched as the Ram’s starting outside cornerbacks, it is most likely that Joyner sees most of his playing time come as a slot corner or at strong safety. At OTAs and training camp, Joyner will compete with Johnson, Jenkins, T.J. McDonald, Brandon McGee and fellow rookie E.J. Gaines for playing time. However, given his versatility and expected effectiveness, Joyner will likely be on the field for most of his team’s games immediately, lining up at multiple different positions in the Rams’ secondary.
Size and athleticism are not always what matter in the NFL. Players like Joyner, who have a strong work ethic, frequently study film and are well prepared, often have a great opportunity to make an impact, even as rookies. Expect for Joyner to learn the Rams’ defense quickly and improve his skills dramatically as he adjusts to NFL game speed.
Do not be shocked if Joyner becomes a starter or, at the very least, an impact player on the Rams’ defense early on in his rookie season.