It’s a near certainty that the Los Angeles Rams will add at least one pass rusher in the draft this year. Leonard Floyd is the only surefire starter at outside linebacker, with Justin Hollins, Terrell Lewis and Chris Garrett competing for snaps on the other side.
Von Miller’s decision to leave the Rams for the Bills created a massive void at outside linebacker in Los Angeles, one the team isn’t well-equipped to fill right now. The arrival of Bobby Wagner will help the Rams defend the middle of the field, and he creates opportunities for Ernest Jones to rush the quarterback as a blitzer or even edge rusher, but the Rams don’t have a plug-and-play replacement for Miller.
Virginia Tech’s Amare Barno won’t be that, either, but he might just be the perfect target for the Rams as they search for pass-rush help. Currently projected to go outside the top 100 picks, Barno should be in the Rams’ range as a third- or fourth-round prospect.
In Luke Easterling’s latest mock draft for Draft Wire, he actually has the Rams selecting Barno with the 104th overall pick. Other mocks have him going slightly later than that – ESPN penciled Barno in at No. 154 to the Eagles – but it seems the consensus is that he’ll be picked anywhere from No. 100 to the end of the fifth round.
From a physical standpoint, Barno has what NFL teams want in edge rushers. He’s about 6-foot-5, 246 pounds with 34-inch arms, 4.36 speed and a 37-inch vertical. He’s an athletic freak at that size and it shows on tape when watching his closing speed and pursuit of ball carriers.
Amare Barno is THE prospect in the 2022 draft class. He scored a 9.72 RAS out of a possible 10.00. This ranked 41 out of 1428 DE from 1987 to 2022. https://t.co/Z0fBEd1jXh #RAS pic.twitter.com/nQvMwjvR2A
— Kent Lee Platte (@MathBomb) March 25, 2022
The Rams covet size and length at outside linebacker in their current scheme. It’s why they signed Floyd, brought in Hollins and drafted Terrell Lewis. All of them are 6-foot-5 and at least 240 pounds.
Barno fits that bill, and like Hollins, he has experience playing off-ball linebacker, too. That wouldn’t be the role the Rams draft him to play, but for a rookie, position versatility is an asset and can help them get on the field earlier.
If the Rams draft Barno, it will be as a pass rusher. He’s not exactly refined in that area just yet, which is why he’s projected to be a Day 3 pick, but there’s plenty of room for growth. Take a look at this spin move he put on the left tackle, quickly winning to the inside for the sack.
Virginia Tech DL Amare Barno (@Ayye_Barno) with the chop/spin. Have a pass rush plan!
— DLineVids (@dlinevids1) February 10, 2022
It’s not the only time he’s won with that move, either. He pulled it off against Notre Dame this past season, too. That can’t be a pass-rusher’s only move, but it has proved to be an effective one for Barno.
I was rewatching Amare Barno (ED 11) because I don’t think my initial tape eval was good (he was one of the first players I watched this year)
Good thing I did because I am now much higher on Barno than I remember pic.twitter.com/s0tiElX2wB
— Draft Guy Jared (@DraftGuyJared) Apr 11, 2022
Thanks to his experience as an off-ball linebacker, Barno is comfortable dropping into coverage. He does that here, but as soon as he sees the quarterback taking off, Barno turns on the jets to force a negative play by creating a fumble.
You’d like to see him do a better job wrapping up and taking the quarterback down, but that can be taught at the next level.
— EJHolt_Draft (@EJunkie215) Dec 30, 2021
Barno has good power when engaging tackles, knocking Duke’s left tackle back with his initial punch off the edge. That’s another trait you want to see in a pass rusher, though Barno doesn’t win consistently enough with that strength.
NFL Draft community starting to buzz about Virginia Tech OLB/DE Amare Barno for 2021… Tall, Long, Lean DE (via Butler CC)
— Ben Fennell (@BenFennell_NFL) August 2, 2021
Again, Barno isn’t going to be a Day 1 starter in the NFL. But if he were to land with the Rams and get the opportunity to learn from Aaron Donald and Floyd, he could become an effective pass rusher at the next level.
He just needs some work and coaching when it comes to his technique, but that’s the case with most young pass rushers. For a low-floor, high-ceiling prospect, the low risk of taking him in the third or fourth round is worth the potentially high reward.