I always regret putting the word "final" in any of my posts, because I always end up making another one afterwards... This is a mock draft done the way I feel that a team would actually do it. I've found the players that I really like, and now the process comes down to finding a way to obtain them. Here goes:
Players I Like
1.) SS, Matt Elam, Florida - Elam is a playmaker... no doubt about it. He's a punisher, and will really make Wilson and Kaepernik think twice before taking off for a scramble. He's very aggressive, and we'll likely see a lot of what we saw with Janoris Jenkins in his first year: lots of big plays for both teams.... He'll get burned by taking a few aggressive angles, but he'll also force at least as many turnovers and big plays by doing so. He's the next step to making our defense the best in the league.
2.) WR, Nuk Hopkins, Clemson - If our receiving corps was the same as it was entering the draft last year, I'd be clamoring for a guy like Justin Hunter; big and fast. However, we already have Brian Quick (big), Jared Cook (big), and Chris Givens (fast)... but who are we going to go to on third down? Bradford has had Danny Amendola to make big catches for him throughout his entire NFL career... therefore, Amendola must be replaced. Nuk could have a huge impact from day 1 in a Rams uniform. However, Quinton Patton would be a close second if we couldn't obtain Hopkins.
3. FS, Eric Reid, LSU - Reid is a similar prospect to former LSU teammate and now Ram, Michael Brockers: He's somewhat raw, but has all of the upside in the world. Also, he has proven to be a big-time playmaker when the correct talent is around him. He's a solid tackler, and would be a safety that Fisher would really like - boasting the ability to play both in the box and in the deep part of the field. He's also hardest to predict as to where he'll be drafted. He could be anywhere from a late first round pick, to an early third round pick. The smart money is on him being taken between 25 and 40.
How to obtain them
Unless the realm of the internet is completely off-base (which sometimes it is, and that remains to be seen), none of these three prospects really deserves to be selected at 16. We can probably grab any of the three a little bit later... so where is the ceiling for each of these players in regards of being drafted? Elam is right around 21 (contingent on where Vaccarro falls), Hopkins is around 23, and Reid is around 31. Therefore, here's the plan for round 1:
Trade 16 - There are a few scenarios for this, most involving the Cowboys being the team to be traded in front of.
Scenario 1: The Cowboys sit at 18, and have shown interest in Vaccarro and Warmack. Their rivals, the Giants, sit one spot behind at 19. They would also love to have Warmack. I'm sure that if he's available at 16, the Giants would love to jump ahead of the Cowboys and snatch him up. This would leave the Rams with the 19th pick, still a great spot to trade back with a team wanting to jump ahead of the Bears, who will likely be selecting a lineman (doubt any top prospects fall here), a linebacker, or a TE. Linebacker would be the reason to trade up, and the Vikings would likely be the one to do it. However, 19 would also be a great place to select Elam.. two picks before the Bengals at 21.
Scenario 2: If Vaccarro is still available at 16, the Bengals could be a great candidate to move up. Once again, they'd need to move ahead of the Cowboys to grab him in all likelihood. A trade with them would be the perfect scenario; giving us the 21 and 22 picks, and making it very difficult for the Vikings to jump in front of us to grab prospect #2.
So whether it's pick 19 or 21, the Rams should pick Matt Elam.
Pick #2 will hopefully be #22, which happens to be the perfect place to draft DeAndre Hopkins. His ceiling seems to be right around #23 with the Vikings, and he'll almost certainly be gone by the end of the first round.
Pick #3 is Eric Reid, and in order to get him we will need to move to around #30; directly ahead of the 49ers. Now, it's likely that the Falcons will be moving forward rather than back in the draft. So there are a couple of different ways that this could come about... The first of which would be trading with whatever team trades back with the Falcons. This team will likely be looking to stockpile picks, and could be a team such as the Jets that needs talent everywhere and has a lot of early round ammo to work with. We could likely get into the end of the first round by giving up our 2nd and probably a 4th. However, this year I feel comfortable with doing that, because we have far fewer holes and can pick and choose on players rather than just going BPA.
So my ideal round 1 would look like this
Round 1, Pick 16: Trade with Giants for 1 + 4
Round 1, Pick 19: Trade with Vikings for 1 (23) + 4
Round 1, Pick 20: Matt Elam (trade with Bears, who we screwed out of drafting their ideal LB prospect) Give up 1 (23) + 4
Round 1, Pick 22: DeAndre Hopkins
Round 1, Pick 30: Eric Reid (trade 2 + 4 + 6)
Well, we traded our round two pick for what I believe to be good reason. The reasoning behind the '9ers taking Reid would be that he has as much upside as any safety in this class, if not more. He also isn't an "immediate" need, but could do what a lot of '9ers rookies did and take a redshirt year. Therefore, we had to jump ahead of them and grab him.
Assuming that the ideal situation didn't occur (most ideal situations don't), round two would be filling a hole we couldn't fill in round 1, or looking at a top tier linebacker. Some options include:
1. WR, Quinton Patton, Louisiana Tech - Patton would be an excellent second option if we don't pick Hopkins. He also has great route running skills and hands. Plus, he has a good attitude, and is a very hard worker.
2. LB, Alec Ogletree, Georgia - A DUI combined with a mediocre workout could cause Ogletree to slip into round two (albeit doubtful). If this were to happen, he'd be a steal.
3. LB, Arthur Brown, Kansas State - Another extremely hard worker, Brown would be a great option... should he slip into the second round.
4. OL, Kyle Long, Oregon - This guy is an incredible athlete, and would be a great fit for the locker room (also a good twitter follow). Not to mention... his brother already plays here. Long would likely play guard, but you never know what position he could end up at.
So, after two rounds, I've obtained three great prospects without dumping any extra picks.
People always say that the middle rounds are what truly build a team. It's hard to argue, considering the numbers that mid-rounders Givens and Johnson put up this year.
Back on the path of the ideal draft, we've filled both safety holes and 1 WR hole to this point. We still have needs at OLB and LG, a power RB, and could use some depth basically everywhere else; but specifically a 4th corner, 5th wr, and a crop of offensive linemen.
To me, round 3 comes down to whichever of the following prospects fall to us (in this order):
1. OL, Barrett Jones, Alabama - Jones has the skills, intelligence, and versatility to play every single position on the offensive line. He was the best offensive linemen in all of college football, and picking him up in round 3 is a steal. He would likely start out at LG, and be the successor to Scott Wells (provided Wells continues down the rough slope he's been on since joining the Rams). Also, he could be a plug and play tackle if injuries arise.
2. OL, Dallas Thomas, Tennessee - Thomas is another potentially-versatile offensive linemen. He's played nearly every position on the line, and finished his career at Tennessee as a LG. What a coincidence, seeing as the Rams are currently in need of a LG. He could also play tackle on a plug and play basis if injuries arise; and could potentially develop as a long term right tackle.
3. OLB, Jamie Collins, Southern Miss. - Collins is big, fast, and instinctive. It looks like he played OLB in a 3-4 in college, but definitely has the athleticism and ability to play OLB in a 4-3. In fact, most of his highlight plays came against teams trying to run the option. He blew a lot of those plays up, and could continue to do so in the NFL.
4. DB, Tyrann Mathieu, LSU - Here's a player that I think Jeff Fisher would love to have, but we really don't have need for a corner of his style. He almost definitely doesn't have the size to play safety, and doesn't have the coverage ability to start over Jenkins, Finnegan, or likely even Johnson. However, he could provide great value to the return game, and I'm sure would find some minutes somehow.
But continuing with this idealistic approach, Jones is the pick.
Round 4 is a similar story to round 3, except that OLB is almost a MUST in this round:
1. OLB, Jelani Jenkins, Florida - A guy with all the potential in the world, who just hasn't had as much consistency as one would like, and also had some injury issues. He'll likely have a better NFL career than a college one.
2. OLB, Gerald Hodges, Penn St - A solid all-around linebacker who seems to be more of a "safe" pick.
3. OLB, Zaviar Gooden, Missouri - A linebacker with amazing athleticism, who never played up to his potential at Mizzou.
4. CB, Terry Hawthorne, Illinois - A sleeper at corner. Ran a great 40, and looked really good at the East-West Shrine Game.
Once again, for the sake of the idealistic approach, we go with Jenkins.
Round 5 is where BPA becomes more of a mantra, except we could still really use both a power running back and a WR5. Here are some likely top options:
1. WR, Conner Vernon, Duke - This guy has drawn many comparisons to Danny Amendola. He's a short-range quickness guy who provided a consistent and reliable target for the Blue Devils throughout his career. He could struggle to get separation at the NFL level, but at the very least, he could provide some great depth at the WR position.
2. WR, Jasper Collins, Mount Union - I've mocked this guy to the Rams a few times, and for good reasons: Mount Union receivers tend to have talent that translates to the NFL level; ask both Pierre Garcon and Cecil Shorts. Also, Collins is 6'0" and ran a 4.47 40. He put up 92 receptions for 1,694 yds and 22 tds as a senior.
Other falling prospects will be many, and our needs are few. So we go with Vernon.
If a team can find production in rounds 6 and 7, there's cause for celebration. Daryl Richardson and Greg Zuerlein have both made great impacts already. The strategy here is to go BPA, with an eye towards a power back if we see one. Also, seeing as I traded away our 6, we only have a 7th to use. Here are a couple prospects that I'd have my eye on:
1. CB, Steve Williams, California - This guy is absolutely a Jeff Fisher defensive back: Undersized, but full of talent. He has great athleticism, and looked great at the combine. If he falls to round 6, he'd be a wonderful pick.
2. FS, Rashard Hall, Clemson - This is a guy who isn't an elite athlete, but seems to be good at everything else. He also has good size, and would be a great depth pick.
3. RB, Cameron Marshall, Arizona State - Here is a big back with the agility of a smaller back. He doesn't have enough tape to warrant a high selection, but could definitely end up having a better pro career than he had in college.
Contrary to every other pick in this draft, I'm not optimistic enough to see Williams and Hall being available in round 7, but Marshall could very well be there. Therefore, we'll pick him up. So finally, here is how our draft would look.
Round 1, Pick 20 - SS, Matt Elam, Florida
Round 1, Pick 22 - WR, DeAndre Hopkins, Clemson
Round 1, Pick 30 - FS, Eric Reid, LSU
Round 3, Pick 16 - OL, Barrett Jones, Alabama
Round 4, Pick 16 - OLB, Jelani Jenkins, Florida
Round 5, Pick 16 - WR, Conner Vernon, Duke
Round 7, Pick 16 - RB, Cameron Marshall, Arizona State
And with that, I breathe a sigh of relief. As always, I appreciate all comments and questions... both positive and negative.