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2015 NFL Mock Draft: Kiper's 3.0 Cements Conventional Wisdom for Rams

The Hair's third mock draft puts things squarely into rational view: the Rams need to find a way to trade back.

Daniel Shirey-USA TODAY Sports

Mel Kiper has his second mock of the season (behind Insider paywall because BOOOOO), and it really sets the conventional wisdom in stone heading into the pro day phase -- the Rams really aren't in a great spot at 10.

Top 9:

# Team Pick POS School
1 Tampa Bay Jameis Winston QB Florida St.
2 Tennessee Leonard Williams DL USC
3 Jacksonville Dante Fowler Jr. DE Florida
4 Oakland Kevin White WR West Virginia
5 Washington Shane Ray DE Missouri
6 New York Jets Marcus Mariota QB Oregon
7 Chicago Randy Gregory DE Nebraska
8 Atlanta Vic Beasley OLB Clemson
9 New York Giants Andrus Peat OT Stanford

That's nearly identical to the mock from his ESPN colleague Todd McShay from about a week ago. McShay had the Rams swiping Alabama WR Amari Cooper, saying:

The Rams' biggest need is at quarterback, but in this scenario they aren't getting one. We don't project trades in these mocks, and it's hard to see St. Louis being able to draft Winston or Mariota on April 30 without trading up to do so. The next-biggest need is offensive line, but with Scherff off the board, there isn't a great value match at this point.

How does Kiper counter?

Amari Cooper (WR, Alabama)

The Rams aren't going to get a QB here. It's just not happening. And whether Sam Bradford is back next season, or it's somebody else, they need to find a way to improve the options in the passing game beyond the current mix of talented but complementary options. Cooper is a true No. 1, a supremely gifted route runner who doesn't just do it with smarts, but with 4.4 speed and the ability to set up defenders and then run past them. The Rams keep improving on defense and remain stuck in place on offense. Cooper is a true building-block piece.

Four picks later, Kiper has the Miami Dolphins taking Louisville WR DeVante Parker, offering:

Parker has as high a ceiling as you can find in this class and it wouldn't surprise me at all if someday we're talking about him as the best of the top three guys in this class, as I have them closely grouped. Parker will beat defenders to the ball on high-point catches with his size, leaping ability and catch radius, and he's underrated as a threat to add yards after the catch on short throws.

At 18, the Chiefs get my favorite WR in the class, Arizona St.'s Jaelen Strong. Kiper's take:

This draft is so loaded with pass-catchers I think Strong tends to get overlooked. He put together a great week in Indy, running 4.44 at nearly 220 pounds, and the fact that he came in slightly under 6-foot-3 was countered by a 42-inch vertical, a number that shows up on tape as Strong wins on balls in the air and won't just out-muscle defenders, but can shed them as a runner.

And not to go all WR, but here's Kiper on Florida St. Every Position O-Lineman Cameron Erving who he has at 28 to Denver:

If the Broncos want to keep the run game humming under Gary Kubiak they could use at least one versatile offensive lineman on the inside, and it'd be hard to do better than Erving at this spot. I like Erving at center because he was outstanding there after a midseason switch from tackle, but he provides extra value because he can play tackle as well and also has experience at guard. He's also just played a lot of football, period, and is going to adapt well. From center or guard he's particularly good at winning on the initial block and getting to the second level.

The question comes down to how certain the Rams staff is about the NFL future whomever is atop their board when they get to 10 and versus the uncertainty of every other candidate. If they're absolutely certain that Amari Cooper will be a success, then sure, pull the trigger. But if there's any question (and those questions are any where near the level of question of other candidates), the Rams need to have a partner in place to move back.

It's a tough proposition, because if the Rams are in a good spot to trade down, wouldn't every team be? I think Les Snead and his staff have to do the leg work to find out who's falling for whom. In Kiper's mock, Michigan St. CB Trae Waynes goes 11th right after the Rams' pick to Minnesota. Kiper has three other teams taking a corner. Are any of them tied to Waynes so badly that they want to repeat the Cowboys-Rams trade that sent Morris Claiborne to Big D? Or maybe the three teams in Kiper's mock after the Rams taking a WR want Cooper badly enough to get to 10.

At this point, the only undeniable thing is that there are great options throughout the first. The Rams aren't a piece away on offense. Sitting as high at #10 overall, they need to find someone who is in need of a single piece on that side of the ball and make a move happen.