Here it is, Rams fans, the moment you've been waiting for: Mel Kiper has released his mock draft, his first of the season. It goes where you would expect it to go for the St. Louis Rams, though you might not agree with the picks.
Like any mock draft, Kiper's is his own best guess. For some reason, the world stops and listens when Kiper makes a mock draft, even though he once had Jimmy Claussen as a top 10 pick.
Let's jump right in.
16. Kenny Vaccaro, S, Texas
Analysis: The Rams have used the draft and free agency to strengthen the defense almost everywhere over the past couple of years. They made big strides at corner last offseason with the additions of Cortland Finnegan and Janoris Jenkins, and the pass rush is in place with the emerging Robert Quinn and steady Chris Long. Getting the best safety in the draft, a player who can both cover and step up against the run, will be one of those finishing touches.
I'll be interested to see where Vaccaro ends up being picked. Right now, most mockers have him in the later part of the first round. The Combine and subsequent workouts will likely change that. It's definitely a need for the Rams, particularly the coverage part of his skill set.
22. D.J. Fluker, OT, Alabama
Analysis: You can't be below average at tackle in the NFC West, dealing with San Francisco, Arizona and Seattle six times a season, and while the Rams stabilized a little bit in 2012 with Barry Richardson and Rodger Saffold bookending the offensive line, they should use one of their first-round picks to look for an upgrade. Fluker profiles as a right tackle, but he should be a very good one at the NFL level. He can simply overwhelm with size and power as a run-blocker, and could be very good if his ability to deal with speed rushers improves.
This is an interesting situation. Fluker's stock is up because a few other tackles decided to return to college. Most agree with Kiper that he's purely a right side guy, which is what the Rams need. Before you start to believe the things you read on Twitter and the chat rooms, Fisher emphatically stated this year that the Rams intend to keep Rodger Saffold on the outside at tackle. And why not, he did a solid job when he was healthy.
The knock on Fluker is his slow feet. He's pure power, and that could be a problem against speedy pass rushers. Richardson was an adequate run blocker this year, but the weakest link on the offensive line for pass protection. That will be the big question for Fluker that teams have to answer: can he pass block without being a liability?
There you go. Have at it.