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2012 NFL Mock Draft: And Now For Something Completely Different

I mentioned earlier this week that the 2012 NFL mock drafts were, so far, pretty predictable as far as it relates to the St. Louis Rams. Most draftniks have the Rams picking a receiver, offensive tackle or a cornerback. No surprise there as all of those align perfectly with traditional positions selected in the top five as well as huge needs for the St. Louis Rams. 

I also noted that things were different now. As Rams COO Kevin Demoff pointed out in an interview with TST, teams can rethink their approach to the draft thanks to a new rookie salary system that does not automatically put the contracts for top ten picks among the league's highest at those positions. 

Finally, we have a 2012 NFL mock draft that goes outside the box for the Rams, projecting a player who does not play one of those premium positions as the pick. Follow me after the jump for a huge surprise. 

Chad Reuter at rolled out a new mock on Thursday. He has the Rams picking third overall (I actually think St. Louis would pick second based on where things stand now, but it doesn't matter). Reuter's pick for the Rams:

Zach Brown, OLB, North Carolina

At least one defensive player is selected in the top five of every draft. Brown is the odds-on favorite for this honor after displaying an excellent all-around game for North Carolina in his senior year, and his Combine performance is only expected to cement his status as an elite prospect.

You certainly cannot deny the need St. Louis has for athletic, gifted playmakers on defense. The current group of linebackers has done a solid job after struggling early, but you can hardly call the group elite, outside of James Laurinaitis. Picking a 4-3 outside linebacker in the top five is almost unheard of, but so was a sensible rookie salary structure at one time. Anything can happen. 

Brown has the athletic talent of Von Miller, but not the pass rushing skills. Listed at 230 lbs right now, he doesn't have the prototypical size of a 3-4 rusher anyway. 

His quickness and speed make him difficult to block, and he has had a solid season holding down the weakside for UNC. Against Wake Forest he had 2.5 tackles for a loss, a forced fumble and an interception. He often covers slot receivers and tight ends right now. He also has the ability to play the ball well. 

Check out the notes on him at Mocking the Draft

On pure potential, many seem to think Brown has the kind of talent appropriate for a top draft pick. The biggest question is it enough to justify taking a 4-3 outside linebacker so far ahead of where even the best go in the NFL draft?