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2016 NFL Draft: Could Long, Cook, & Laurinaitis Replacements Be Coming In This Year's Draft?

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How will the Rams approach the draft now that they have cut three former starters?

Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

If you needed some convincing before today that a defensive prospect is a real option for the Los Angeles Rams in round 1 of the 2016 NFL Draft, you got your sign today. With the recent cuts of DE Chris Long, TE Jared Cook and MLB James Laurinaitis, here's a quick look at some potential draft replacements the Rams could pursue early in the draft.

Defensive End

Noah Spence, Eastern Kentucky - I'm sure most of you have heard of him now. If not, get used to hearing the name. Kicked off of Ohio State for drug issues, he finished his career at EKU. He's the perfect kind of prospect for Fisher and the Rams and certainly comes with a skill set that DL Coach Mike Waufle can get the most out of.

Robert Nkemdiche, Ole Miss - Highly recruited coming out of high school, Nkemdiche is huge and full of red flags. A little more versatile than Spence in that Nkemdiche will probably line up inside a lot for his next team. The off field concerns may outweigh his potential, but there is no doubt he'd be an enticing prospect to pair with Rams coaches.

Shaq Lawson, Clemson - Not as highly touted as his former teammate Vic Beasley, but Shaq was living in team's backfields in 2015. Kind of a late bloomer, Lawson often plays to the whistle and somewhat reminds me of Chris Long in that he may be limited, but always motoring.


Linebacker


Myles Jack, UCLA - Virtually guaranteed to be gone by the time the Rams pick, but I'm sure if he were the Rams couldn't turn in their card quicker. A two-way star at UCLA before tearing his ACL early in 2015, Jack is a physical freak of nature. He is a heat seeking missile and the type of player that Jeff Fisher would inexplicably trade up for.

Reggie Ragland, Alabama - A pure MLB who tried to show off his OLB skills (and did so poorly) at the Senior Bowl, he's been touted as a smart LB who can come in day 1 and run a NFL defense. The Rams eyed another former Bama MLB in C.J. Mosley pretty hard two years ago. I would put my early money on Ragland as the guy on this list most likely to be a Ram.

Jaylon Smith, Notre Dame - Smith tore his ACL in his college bowl game but was widely viewed as a top-5 prospect before the injury. He's an athletic MLB who has a knack for being where the football is at. Could the Rams take a chance on him and stash him during his recovery? I can see him finding a Todd Gurley kind of path for some team for the draft.


Tight End

Hunter Henry, Arkansas - Stands 6'6 tall and is the "prototypical" receiving TE. Somewhat underutilized in the passing game in college, Henry is definitely a projection to the next level. Widely regarded as the top TE prospect in the 2016 draft.

Austin Hooper, Stanford - Not as well known as Henry but a better receiving threat while in college. Declaring as a redshirt sophomore, Hooper definitely has room to grow and has looked every bit the part thus far.