How Los Angeles Rams’ busy first round led to Jared Verse, their definition of ‘defense’

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How Los Angeles Rams’ busy first round led to Jared Verse, their definition of ‘defense’

HERMOSA BEACH, Calif. — As pick after pick came off the board, Los Angeles Rams outside linebackers coach Joe Coniglio, initially sitting on a low couch in front of the television broadcast in the lower level of the team’s draft house, got up and began to pace.

The first round of the 2024 NFL Draft featured a unique opening run on offensive players. That left top pass-rushers Jared Verse and Dallas Turner on the board as the Rams’ pick inched closer.

Suddenly, Minnesota traded up to No. 17. Coniglio speed-walked up two levels of stairs and into the war room where coach Sean McVay, general manager Les Snead and others held operations. The Vikings selected Turner, and the Rams — after an anxious few moments as the Cincinnati Bengals picked at No. 18 — sent their pick in for Verse at No. 19. Coniglio and defensive coordinator Chris Shula walked back downstairs, shouting, fist-pumping and back-slapping other coaches.

Verse’s energy matched theirs.

“This is a dream come true, a dream come true, woo!” Verse said, speaking with reporters shortly after the pick. “It’s time to work. It’s time to show them they ain’t make a mistake, it’s time to show them what we do. I’m excited (to) get to work. … I’m ready for it.”

Verse, who excelled with back-to-back nine-sack seasons in 2022 and 2023 at Florida State, is the Rams’ first opening-round draft pick since they selected Jared Goff in 2016.


Jared Verse (5) had consecutive nine-sack seasons at Florida State in 2022 and 2023. (Melina Myers / USA Today)

To the Rams, Verse — their highest defensive draft pick since retired star Aaron Donald was selected at No. 13 in 2014 — filled the combination of best player available and biggest need. He is expected to start immediately opposite second-year pass-rusher Byron Young and with second-year defensive lineman Kobie Turner on the interior. Turner already reached out to Verse.

“Kobie was the first one, real quick. He texted me to let him know if I needed anything,” he said. “He reached out to me, ‘Don’t hesitate.’ And I’m going to take him up on that offer. He’s gonna regret saying that to me.”

Verse met privately with the Rams this week (he did not have any formal meetings or workouts with the team, which Snead said was intentional to keep their interest under the radar). Team sources said that he was one of their top overall prospects. On Thursday, the Rams called multiple teams to gather intel on what the prices would be to trade up or down, including a conversation with a team in the top 10 that could have led to selecting an offensive player.

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Team and league sources believed those costs to be too high, especially with multiple other teams trying to trade into that group and therefore driving up the cost. The Rams did not get on the phones as the last few picks of the top 10 unfolded, a source said.

“Offense definitely pushed defense our way,” Snead said. “We always felt like Jared had a chance to get there, but there was definitely a chance for him to go right before us depending on how that whole thing shook out. I think that heavy offensive, six QBs going, helped Jared get to us.”

As the board fell in rare fashion — 14 offensive players were selected before a single defensive player, including six quarterbacks — the Rams prepared to possibly trade back from No. 19. Having two of the top pass-rushers clustered so closely motivated them to stay put, and they were rewarded with Verse.

Verse immediately will lend size, power and high-end play energy to a pass rush that was woefully incomplete last season. One scout compared Verse’s attacking, ceaseless play style to former Rams outside linebacker Leonard Floyd, although Verse has more bulk around his frame, and the scout believed Verse’s power will complement Young’s speed.

Verse initially will play edge/outside linebacker, but McVay noted Verse eventually could play over a guard.

“He just, you can tell he cares about football, he has fun playing football, and oh, by the way, he’s pretty disruptive and violent,” Snead said. “You think ‘defense,’ the way he plays is next to the word in the dictionary.”

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Verse will arrive in Los Angeles in the coming days and said he’s ready to hit the field right away.

“What I’m going to give (to the Rams) is a dawg,” Verse said. “I come in with a lot of physical strength, I come in with a chip on my shoulder, and that chip is going to continue today. … I’m hungry. I need this. This is my lifestyle, how I do everything. It’s how I execute. The thing I’m going to be able to give them is that work.”

(Photo: Michael Hickey / Getty Images)