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2017 NFL Mock Draft: LA Rams Lean Into Defense Through Six Rounds

A new mock from NFL Media’s Chad Reuter has the Rams stocking up on defense with their early draft capital.

Michigan DE Taco Charlton
Michigan DE Taco Charlton
Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

One of the angles we’ve discussed often in regards to the 2017 NFL Draft is the difference between the offense and the defense for the Los Angeles Rams.

We’re coming off of a season in which the Rams put up the NFL’s worst offense. That would seemingly require more immediate draft influx to address. As I looked at a month ago, no team in the last decade has waited more than 68 picks to take an offensive player in the draft following a season in which they had the worst offense in yards gained. In fact I went back and looked, and it’s been 25 years:

What makes the dynamic more interesting is that (a) the defense is looking more vulnerable to talent loss on the contractual front and (b) there’s a question of faith and the requisite level of talent needed for each side of the ball given the acumen and functional coaching capability of the Rams’ new staff, chiefly Head Coach Sean McVay and Defensive Coordinator Wade Phillips.

I bring all that up only to preface a new six-round mock from NFL Media’s Chad Reuter that has the Rams leaning into their defense with their early draft capital.

Obviously, a six-round mock has plenty to go over.

Round 1

Reuter kicks the drama off at the top with the Cleveland Browns taking UNC QB Mitch Trubisky with the #1 overall pick. His top 10 includes two running backs in LSU RB Leonard Fournette and Stanford RB Christian McCaffrey, a tight end in Alabama TE O.J. Howard as well as Alabama OL Cam Robinson who doesn’t even feature in some mock first rounds. Whew.

A couple other notables: Michigan S Jabrill Peppers at #17 to Washington . Washington CB Kevin King, who I had us taking in the second round in the SB Nation site editor mock, heads to the Seattle Seahawks at #26. Wisconsin OLB T.J. Watt heads to the Dallas Cowboys at #28. Temple G Dion Dawkins makes the first round at #31 to the Atlanta Falcons.

Round 2

The four picks in front of the Rams? Oklahoma RB Joe Mixon, LSU CB Tre’Davious White, Utah OT Garett Bolles (whom ESPN’s Mel Kiper mocked to us last week) and Ole Miss TE Evan Engram.

So with all those potential targets, Reuter mocks the Rams to a relatively unfamiliar name at #37:

Michigan DE/OLB Taco Charlton

We’ve seen the edge rusher pick before, but I’m not sure I’ve seen a single mock (or hell, a comment on the site/social media) suggest this. I wouldn’t dismiss the possibility. The position fit is certainly strong with little edge rushing depth behind Robert Quinn who is transitioning from a 4-3 DE to a 3-4 OLB role along with new free agent signing Connor Barwin. With Quinn the younger at 27-years old in a couple of weeks and given his recent injury history, I could see an early play at the edge for Phillips.

Plenty to chew on from the second round thereon. Ohio St. ILB Raekwon McMillan at 41. USC CB Adoree’ Jackson two picks later followed by Alabama OLB Tim Williams and then East Carolina WR Zay Jones. Vanderbilt Commodores LB Zach Cunningham all the way down at #49 followed by a trio of popular prospects I’ve seen various Rams fans call for: Washington S Budda Baker, Indiana Hoosiers G Dan Feeney and USC WR JuJu Smith-Schuster. Once you get past Juju at 52, you’re on the glidepath to the Rams next pick at #69. I’m interested to see what the next two weeks do for the Rams’ third round pick heat.

Speaking of...

Round 3

Tons of talent all over the board. I’d think that if the Rams go defense in Round 2, fans are going to be calling for offense pretty hard as we get into late Friday.

In the first four picks of the third, we have two tight ends, a guard and an outside linebacker come off. At that point, I honestly would expect Rams fans to be screaming for offense. All caps on Twitter, Facebook, IG, errthang.

But Reuter has balls.

Florida S Marcus Maye

It’s a fine pick on the merits...but man is the criticism going to be easy to write.

At this point, it’s worth asking yourself and each other. How much do we care about 2017? If you’re buying into the long-term merits of the McVay era, avoiding the offense for 111 picks shouldn’t pose a problem. If you want to take a shot at competing this year...I don’t know how you can be on board with this mock.

Washington CB Sidney Jones drops to #75 from his ACL injury during his pro day. Tough to know how far he will ultimately fall without the full medical info, but we’ll see.

Plenty of other names I really like in this mock’s third: Louisville Cardinals DE/OLB Devonte Fields, Tennessee CB Cameron Sutton, UCLA DL Eddie Vanderdoes and Western Kentucky WR Taywan Taylor.

Round 4

Once you get to Day 3, the Rams have a ton of capital to work with including two fourth-round picks at #112 and #141.

For those two, Reuter mocks up:

West Virginia CB Rasul Douglas

UNC WR Mack Hollins

I can see the grades now for a Rams team that waits until #141 for its first offensive prospect, but it’s all about the question above. If you’re comfortable to make this a multi-year project, this is a fine class to get behind. If you expect a turnaround in 2017, you’re betting on players that gifted you a 4-12 record with the league’s worst offense including QB Jared Goff who is 0-7 in his career...yeah.

So many options in Reuter’s fourth round. I’d guess those options are going to cause a lot of discomfort for many re: Douglas and Hollins.

Clemson LB Ben Boulware is the final pick of the round at #144. That’s higher than I’ve seen him. How much does leadership and off-field strength matter for a prospect? His on-field measurables really, really, really suffer.

Round 5

Eight picks after Hollins, the Rams are back on the board again at #149. Reuter’s pick here is likely a popular one:

West Virginia C Tyler Orlovsky

I’d expect a fair number of fans to get behind this one with a training camp battle between Orlovsky and FA signing John Sullivan looming.

One thing that jumped out at me in this round: the caliber of running back. The Rams signed Lancy Dunbar to spread the depth chart talent spectrum out. Is the lack of a speed back a big enough problem to warrant a draftee this year, or do the Rams wait?

The Rams then wait 40 picks until their next selection.

Round 6

Five picks in and it’s:

Ole Miss DT D.J. Jones

This is the first pick I’m just fully “meh” on, but hey. We’re in the sixth round. I just favor some of the boom/bust picks Reuter has available like Pitt T Adam Bisnowaty or Grambling WR Chad Williams.

Two weeks from right now, we’ll be getting ready for the second round of the 2017 NFL Draft and with it (barring a trade into the first round...which would not be wise) the Rams’ first selections.

How do you feel about Reuter’s mock? Is the defense overwhelming? Are you comfortable building up the defense first with impact offensive additions in the seasons to come?