Well, the mock drafts are gonna come fast and heavy now.
With 11 teams already eliminated from playoff contention, there's enough people on the back of the train to warrant turning to draft coverage to a greater degree. (Note: That doesn't mean you should be one of those people who say, "Are we talking about the draft already?" Because yes, we are. We always should be. The Rams will have scouts at college games for week one of the college schedule. You can multi-task, I promise. We started talking about the draft before the season started...)
Feel free to bookmark my first mock from back in June, because it's easy fodder to make fun of but it also sets a baseline for where things have really shifted.
A clear indication that it's starting to gear up is when ESPN starts jumping in the mock game. Well, today's the day.
Todd McShay, who along with Mel Kiper makes up the MickeyMothership's draft duo, has dropped his first mock of the season today (insider only because God hates you).
The first thing to work through is draft position. Right now, the Rams would be picking 12th. Certainly with two games to play, they could slide up or down a few spots between now and the new year. The real craw though is the Rams' strength of schedule, the third-highest in the NFL. It's going to hurt as it'll put the Rams behind every team (save those top two) with the same record at season's end. Think of it like this. The Rams, at 6-8, slide behind Minnesota who has the same record. If the Rams had won one of those 8 losses putting them at 7-7? They'd drop all the way to 15th in front of San Francisco...unless that win was the Monday Night Football contest in which case they'd be at 16th. What I'm saying is that the Rams could well be picking in the second half of the first round...
In any case, here's how McShay has the first 11 working out:
|1||Tampa Bay||Marcus Mariota||QB||RS Jr.||Oregon|
|2||Tennessee||Jameis Winston||QB||RS Soph.||Florida St.|
|4||Oakland||Randy Gregory||DE||RS Jr.||Nebraska|
|5||Washington||Shane Ray||DE||RS Jr.||Missouri|
|6||New York Jets||Amari Cooper||WR||Jr.||Alabama|
|7||Atlanta||Dante Fowler, Jr.||DE||Jr.||Florida|
|8||New York Giants||Vic Beasley||OLB||RS Sr.||Clemson|
|10||Carolina||Brandon Scherff||OT||RS Sr.||Iowa|
|11||Minnesota||Cedric Ogbuehi||OT||RS Sr.||Texas A&M|
And now you see the problem with the strength of schedule issue. In this mock, the Rams miss out on the first two offensive tackle choices. It doesn't necessarily mean they're the best overall tackle prospects or the best fit for the Rams, but certainly you'd rather have all options available. But if offensive line is going to be in the top tier of the Rams' needs this offseason, you've got to like those first nine picks. Six on defense and the QB pairing filling the top two. That may be the Rams' angle.
So with those 11 gone, here's who McShay has for the Rams:
Ereck Flowers, OT (Jr.) - Miami
I'll admit a bit of surprise that McShay had Flowers off his board to the Rams over Andrus Peat (OT (Jr.) - Stanford). More surprising is that in between Flowers at 12 and Peat at 24 to the Bengals, he's got T.J. Clemmings (OT (RS Sr.) - Pittsburgh). But that surprise is just me coming out of four months of relatively stable draft stock. Things are going to be all over the place as people go back and watch tape and re-adjust rankings.
In any case, here's his draft card from ESPN/Scouts, Inc.:
More TST 2015 NFL Draft Coverage
More TST 2015 NFL Draft Coverage
Another aspect to consider? Versatility. Consider Greg Robinson's guard-to-tackle-to-guard-to-tackle journey. It took him a while to adjust to the NFL (or perhaps to have Fisher adjust to him...). Would a first round play on an offensive lineman with similar experience be in the Rams' best interests? If so, you've got two clear candidates: La'El Collins (OT (Sr.) - LSU) and Cameron Erving (OL (RS Sr.) - Florida St.). Collins moved from guard to tackle while Erving started his Seminole career as a DT before flipping over to OT and then sliding inside to center this season.
The rest of the first round isn't without interest either.
If you're looking at the rest of the offense, the remaining 20 picks include two running backs, four wide receivers, a guard and no QBs. So that would leave plenty of offense boomeranging into day two for the Rams to begin considering.
The bottom line though is that with playoffs a mathematical impossibility, the road to 2015 has begun, and it runs through the 2015 NFL Draft.