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2018 NFL Mock Draft: Rams aim to strengthen secondary in Round 1

It’s never too early for a mock draft

Alabama v Auburn Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

For the first time in a long time, the Los Angeles Rams will finish their season with a winning record. As a result, they won’t find themselves picking near the top of the draft like they’ve become so familiar with doing over the course of the last decade (plus).

Depending on how the rest of the 2017 season plays out, which may or may not include a run in the playoffs, will determine when the Rams find themselves on the clock in the 2018 NFL Draft.

For now, we can only prognosticate. And that’s exactly what SB Nation’s Dan Kadar did on Tuesday, updating his weekly mock draft. He’s certainly got the Rams pegged as a team primed for the postseason — as they are making their selection with the 28th overall pick. The Seattle Seahawks, the Rams’ Week 15 opponent, are picking 20th (sad trombone).

Here’s how Dan sees it shaking out five months early:

28. Los Angeles Rams: Carlton Davis, CB, Auburn

The back half of the first round is where the value for cornerback should be, and that's helpful for Los Angeles. Considering that both Trumaine Johnson and Nickell Robey-Coleman are free agents after the season and Kayvon Webster ruptured his Achilles on Sunday, this is looking like the biggest need for the Rams in the offseason.

It’s hard to argue that cornerback should be the pick here, though there are others - at every level of the defense - that could (and will) be deemed needs. How they address them is anyone’s guess at this point, but cornerback is most certainly going to be a “Priority A” situation (again) in 2018.

It’s hard to fathom a scenario where the Rams retain Johnson, having chosen not to re-up him to a long term deal for two straight seasons. Robey-Coleman has played very well for the Rams thus far this year — as has Lamarcus Joyner, who is also set to hit free agency this offseason. Retaining those two, at a minimum, would go a long way to keeping that secondary somewhat intact. Losing both would be, well, very bad.

One could argue that edge rusher is the team’s top priority. OLB Connor Barwin (a free agent in 2018) and OLB Robert Quinn haven’t necessarily instilled the type of fear in opposing QB’s that you’d like to see from fierce pass-rushers. Barwin is 31-years old, and Quinn (who has a $12.4M cap hit next year) appears to be a prime cut candidate.

One thing is for certain, however. The Rams need to do a lot of work on their defense in the upcoming offseason. Sean McVay and Co. used a lot of 2017 draft capital, along with resources in free agency, righting the ship on offense — and it immediately paid dividends. Defensive Coordinator Wade Phillips, aside from a few free agent acquisitions, pretty much inherited Jeff Fisher’s defense. It’s proven a wise decision all things considered, but 2018 would be a good time to let Wade start filling in the cracks in his 3-4 defense and potentially turn this team into a perennial contender.