The 2016 NFL Draft is donezo. As is tradition, before we get into the 2016 preseason stuff at both the NFL and collegiate levels, we have to unscrupulously jump ahead to 2017 NFL Draft stuff if only to give us a chance to look back a year from now and either laugh at how badly we prognosticated the outcome or drop an I told you so (THANKS FOR D'HAQUILLE, AUBURN).
The 2017 NFL Mock Draft wave is unusually irrelevant for the Rams a year out as the Rams are without a first-round draft pick next year due to the trade with the Tennessee Titans to acquire the #1 overall pick in this year's draft. I'm working on a three-round mock just to satisfy the need for Rams-based relevancy, but for now let's just look at the baseline.
Mel Kiper's 2017 NFL Draft Big Board
(NOTE: The above link is behind ESPN's insider paywall because of original sin.)
Much like last year, the initial setup a year out leans heavily on defense. Kiper's board has eight of the top 12 players on his board on the defensive side led by Texas A&M DE Myles Garrett.
Perhaps more interesting is his ranking of LSU RB Leonard Fournette at #3 ahead of Clemson QB Deshaun Watson. I have thoughts about that.
One player I think would be in the mix for the Rams if they were eyeing a mid-first round selection? Michigan ALL-DEFENSIVE POSITIONS Jabrill Peppers. He good.
Another note that might have Rams fans intrigued? There's only one wide receiver in Kiper's top 25: USC WR JuJu Smith-Schuster. The senior class was poached a bit with a bunch of underclassmen declaring including Rams' fourth-round pick Pharoh Cooper. Still, there's a ton of talent laid out at the position moving forward. Two teams to keep an eye on at WR? LSU & A&M...two teams we've already mentioned, so yeah, get you some Tigers and Aggies this year.
Kiper's final tally includes 18 defenders and just seven players on offense, two of which are RBs in Fournette and Georgia RB Nick Chubb. With the Rams sitting tight on their RB depth chart, could they back up Just Todd Gurley with his successor in Athens?
2017 NFL Mock Draft from Mocking the Draft
Where Kiper just laid out a big board, Dan Kadar over at MTD put together a one-round initial effort. Obviously, there's plenty of overlap.
One race to track? The QB horse race.
Clearly, things got very strange late in the game in the build up to the 2016 NFL Draft with the Rams and Eagles moving up to #1 and #2 overall for Cal QB Jared Goff and North Dakota St. QB Carson Wentz. So while Watson may be the lead horse now, things can obviously change and the QB class is, well, wide open. Kadar has a popular 1b in Miami QB Brad Kaaya going #2 overall behind Watson as his #1 overall pick right now. Keep an eye on how that class develops with Ole Miss QB Chad Kelly at #7 overall and a couple candidates who didn't crack his first round.
And Kadar's pushing into the RB hype with four running backs in his 2017 mock. I have thoughts about that.
Worth pointing out that with the Rams and Eagles both outside the first round, Kadar has second round mock picks for us because his a giving soul:
Corey Davis, WR, Western Michigan
Davis was an absolute beast in 2015 accounting for nearly 40% of WMU's passing yards alone and more than 40% of the yards from starting QB Zach Terrell. If you needed an extra reason for MACtion in 2016 (and you didn't), here ya go.
2017 Mock Draft compilation shows true big board value
What should you take away from this stellar effort from Jason Kirk? I dunno. There's a lot there.
My main takeaway? College football is great and I am excited for it to return to our lives.