Amid all the early January mockery, one name had yet to weigh in: ESPN's Mock Draft Grandfather Mel Kiper, Jr.
The Hair is here with his first mock of the year (helpfully placed behind ESPN's insider paywall because bad), and it has a new name headed to St. Louis. First up though, let's crack that top nine open:
|1||Tampa Bay||Jameis Winston||QB||Florida St.|
|6||New York Jets||Shane Ray||DE||Missouri|
Much of that top nine is awfully similar to Dan Kadar's updated mock from Monday; the top five are identical and the Fowler to Atlanta pick is the same. Kiper drops Scherff to Minnesota in place of La'El Collins and puts two defenders in the 6 & 7 slots in place of Kadar's selections of WR DaVante Parker and Scherff. So with just one wide receiver and one offensive tackle gone, Kiper has the Rams going with:
T.J. Clemmings (OT, Pittsburgh)
It's hard to argue with position fit as nearly every mock draft since New Year's Day has the Rams going with a tackle. Clemmings is an interesting prospect.
He arrived at Pitt in 2010 as an oversized defensive end and was plugged in right away. He was redshirted however for his true sophomore season which suggested they weren't quite sure how to make use of his mammoth frame an unusual athleticism. His redshirt sophomore season, in 2012, had him begin a transition from defensive end to the offensive line having bloomed into a 300-lb. frame. In his final two seasons, Clemmings was a mainstay at right tackle for the Panthers and flourished in 2014 having picked up much of the technical game for an outside offensive lineman.
He should be a name that pops up as we head into combine season. He's got an NFL frame and moves very well. It's a question of risk. Rams should know about the difficulty of taking an oversized athlete and molding them into a tackle at the professional level...Jason Smith wasn't just a protagonist in your nightmares...
But the draft isn't meant to allow your previous failures to doom your future to a similar fate. It's for reversing the flow of the tide. It's something Clemmings had to do in his position move much to the delight of Pitt's coaches as he was named a second-team All American for his performance in 2014:
"I’ve seen him dominate guys up front this year, and I’ll definitely miss him when he’s gone next year," [Pitt RB James] Conner said.
NFL scouts like Clemmings for his 6-foot-6, 315-pound frame to go along with long arms and good athleticism, but [Pitt Interim Head Coach and Offensive Coordinator Joe] Rudolph and [Offensive Line Coach Jim] Hueber also praised the mental makeup it takes to learn a new position — and do it well — on the fly in just two years.
"I think it’s easy when you first make a move that if it doesn’t go well, you say, ‘Well, that’s the wrong move,’ " Rudolph said. "But to be all in on a really drastic move — different side of the ball, never played it before — I think he’s very strong-minded and he’s obviously got confidence in himself that’s just continued to develop."