2013 NFL Mock Draft: Mel Kiper's Third Time Is Charming

Jim Brown-US PRESSWIRE

Guru di tutti gurus Mel Kiper updated his mock ahead of the free agency storm headed our way. Conventional wisdom coalescing or do the shifting plates of free agency move some unknown candidates into St. Louis' radar?

Mel Kiper doesn't have the market share he did on draft analysis as he did in years past.

On many levels, this saddens me. There was something special about seeing Mel wax on some random prospect from some random school that nobody had been talking about during the college season. There's a nostalgia to it that I doubt most younger people understand now that the gatekeepers are just part of the mass content herd.

So be it. Nevertheless, Kiper still sits atop the great Mountaintop of Draftology. So with the release of an updated mock from the Hair (which is behind the ESPNinsider wall, deserving of some kind of North Korea joke), the internet takes note.

Nothing too crazy in the top 15 from Mel in 3.0. Jonathan Cooper, Lane Johnson, Tavon Austin and Cordarrelle Patterson are all off the board, so Kiper has the Rams stocking up at the back:

16. Kenny Vaccaro: S, Texas

Pick analysis: With two first-round picks, the Rams can target maximum value ahead of top need, but Vaccaro offers a check in both boxes. Extremely versatile, Vaccaro is sound in coverage, takes great angles and makes very good reads. But he's a physical player who can assist in run support and be effective near the line of scrimmage. Play Colin Kaepernick and Russell Wilson four times a year, and versatility at safety can't be overstated.

Free-agency factor: I expect the Rams to be shoppers for skill-position help on offense, where they must do more to help Sam Bradford. But again, with two first-round picks, the draft is a form of cheap free agency as well.

With Percy Harvin and Anquan Boldin now on their way to the NFC West, thanks to Seattle's trade with Minnesota preceding a cheapo deal between San Fran and Baltimore, adding top safety talent makes a lot of sense.

In between the Rams picks, both Alabama O-line studs, Chance Warmack and D.J. Fluker, come off the board. That might really steer the Rams to a WR at 22 if it things turn out that way come April. So which receiving threat does Kiper send to St. Louis?

22. Justin Hunter: WR, Tennessee

Pick analysis: Even if the Rams land a wide receiver in free agency, they should be looking for some young talent at the position in the draft. Hunter has size, speed and creates a home run threat on the edge. He's got some wiggle, given his height, and can create separation with his feet outside of simply running away from people. Where Hunter must get better is in the ability to deal with physical defenders; he's not very strong, which could make press coverage a problem at the next level. He's just not a very physical player yet.

Free-agency factor: The Rams could either keep or lose the services of one or both of Brandon Gibson and Danny Amendola. Again, they also could add a pass-catcher, but I think they'll draft one regardless.

This one comes down to the combine medical check. Hunter's early 2011 campaign was top first round quality. I remember watching the Tennessee-Cincinnati game, and it was obvious Hunter was a special talent. A week later in the Vols-Gators rivalry, his knee blew out in disgusting fashion. If the Rams' medical team clears Hunter at 100%, I'd be ok with this. It'd be an interesting BPA pick if the doctors give it the green light.

So how does a Vaccaro-Hunter pairing sound? Any ill feelings about getting through day one without any O-line help? Obviously any forthcoming free agent moves would change things, but as deficient as the offensive line was in terms of talent last year I might feel a bit uncomfortable about not having a top FA or draft pick to really help the line play improve.

Holler.

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