ESPN’s NFL Draft duo of Mel Kiper, Jr., and Todd McShay have a dual (or dueling) mock draft out today that goes two rounds deep (ESPNinsider subscription required). It’s an interesting exercise for two draft analysts who are among the most plugged in across the industry.
With the 2017 NFL Draft set to open three weeks from tomorrow, Kiper and McShay only enjoy consensus on the first two picks with Texas A&M DE Myles Garrett first to the Cleveland Browns and the Stanford DE Solomon Thomas to the San Francisco 49ers. Once the mocks get to #3 overall, the divergence starts.
A couple random notes:
- McShay has the Jacksonville Jaguars taking LSU RB Leonard Fournette at #4 overall. If there’s anything that would keep the Jaguars in the bottom tier of the NFL with the Los Angeles Rams...
- The first QB off the board? UNC QB Mitch Trubisky at #6 to the New York Jets from Kiper. A pick later, McShay has the Los Angeles Chargers taking the successor to QB Phillip Rivers in Clemson QB Deshaun Watson. Gonna be a wacky draft if the QB-needy teams don’t begin to coalesce at the top soon.
- Both analysts have the Cincinnati Bengals taking a wide receiver at #9 overall, though they disagree on whom. Kiper goes with Clemson WR Mike Williams while McShay tabs Western Michigan WR Corey Davis. They flip each other’s pick at #18 to the Tennessee Titans.
- One prospect who seems to be all over the place right now? Texas Tech QB Pat Mahomes. Kiper has Mahomes at #13 overall to the Arizona Cardinals to eventually supplant QB Carson Palmer. McShay sends Mahomes to the New Orleans Saints with the final pick of the first round.
- One thing to note specific to the Rams? The #20 overall pick, held by the Denver Broncos. Kiper has them taking Wisconsin OT Ryan Ramczyk. McShay has them grabbing Utah OT Garrett Bolles. Might wanna keep that in mind...
- Kiper Has Missouri DE/OLB Charles Harris going at #21 to the Detroit Lions. That’s the highest I’ve seen in memory, not long after we saw Harris mocked to the Rams by NFL Media’s Chad Reuter at #37. FWIW, McShay sends him to the Green Bay Packers at #29.
- One player who has dropped further than I thought would at this point? Michigan D Jabrill Peppers. Kiper puts him at #28 to the Dallas Cowboys while McShay waits until #31 for the Atlanta Falcons to move. It’s fair to put him in that tier of prospects who could surprisingly fall out of the first round at this point. Hard to believe there’s a possible path for Peppers to the Rams without having to move up, but it seems more and more possible every week.
- I mentioned the width on some evaluators on Mahomes. There’s something similar going on with Tennessee DE/OLB Derek Barnett. He’s at #8 to the Carolina Panthers for Kiper but slides all the way to Pittsburgh Steelers at #30 for McShay. Much like Peppers, I haven’t given much thought to his availability at #37, but he’d be an immediate BPA pick candidate.
- I mentioned Washington WR John Ross last night in our Facebook Live thing. As much as his numbers from the combine including a new record 40-yard dsah time pop off the screen, I’ve always been undersold on the certainty of his candidacy as a first-round pick. Both Kiper and McShay stick him at the very back end of the first. It wouldn’t take much to slip to Day in this exercise.
- Oklahoma RB Joe Mixon at #33 to the Browns. No comment.
- Both Kiper and McShay agree on the 34th pick to the 49ers and the 35th pick to the Jags with Connecticut DB Obi Melifonwu preceding Ole Miss TE Evan Engram (sorry, Bate).
So things set up very interestingly for the Rams by the time the two get to #37. Tons of talent and familiar names are available.
Kiper’s up first:
Utah OT Garrett Bolles
Bolles (6-5, 297) is a mauler who is probably better on the right side. He started only one season for the Utes after coming over from a junior college, and his 4.95 40 at the combine was second among offensive linemen. Los Angeles brought in Andrew Whitworth to play left tackle, and former second-round pick Robert Havenstein is holding down the right side. Bolles could move inside.
I’d have no issue here. Another factor I mentioned last night is that the Rams’ offensive line in completely in flux. The suggestion by Rams General Manager Les Snead just more than a month ago that OL Greg Robinson would be moving from left tackle to find a new position was followed by reporting from ESPN’s Alden Gonzalez that GRob was headed to right tackle while Havenstein would kick inside to right guard. It sounds very much like a March decision that could be entirely replaced by a May decision that incorporates any draft picks on the line and a UDFA crop that would remake the line depth chart. A Bolles selection would certainly render those March decisions largely obsolete.
I pointed out Bolles above only to give you a sense of the value of the pick here. In his most recent mock, Mocking the Draft’s Dan Kadar had Bolles going #23 to the New York Giants. For the Rams to nab him without moving up would be a surprise to many.
As for McShay, he goes on the complete other side:
Alabama CB Marlon Humphrey
Because of his size (6-foot, 197) and fluidiy in coverage, Humphrey has one of the highest ceilings of any cornerback in this year's class, but he needs to improve his ball skills. He fits best in a press-heavy scheme.
This is another strong value pick. Kiper had Humphrey at 26th to the Seattle Seahawks; Kadar sends him to the Cardinals at 13.
The cornerback pick is one of personnel and fit.
The Rams remain thinned out by the loss of CB Janoris Jenkins to the Giants in free agency a year ago which they tried to adjust for by signing CB Coty Sensabaugh. It did not work out. The Rams have since adjusted to the lack of depth by signing former Broncos CB Kayvon Webster who supported former Broncos and current Rams Defensive Coordinator Wade Phillips well in Denver.
Of course the major personnel issue at corner is the continued stringing along of CB Trumaine Johnson, who having been tagged for the second year in a row is set to be the highest paid cornerback in the NFL if the Rams are unable to find a trade partner (a likelihood given the lack of leverage the Rams now hold given how little draft capital they’d stand to receive at this point).
As for fit, it’d certainly be interesting to see Phillips begin to assemble the Rams’ next generation of defense with Humphrey. With Johnson currently pegged to an outside starting job, this would suggest Humphrey would line up across from him. There’s a bit less certainty in the slot where reports from Gonzalez suggest CB Lamarcus Joyner could spend some time at safety. CB E.J. Gaines is heading into a very interesting contract year looking to solidify his resume should he hit the open market in a year. How Humphrey would fit Phillips plans in the secondary would be interesting.
How do you feel about the two mocks? Which of the two prospects do you like more for the Rams? Anyone the Rams pass on you’d prefer with prospects like USC CB Adoree’ Jackson, East Carolina WR Zay Jones, LSU CB Tre’Davious White, Wisconsin OLB T.J. Watt, Washington S Budda Baker, USC WR JuJu Smith-Schuster or Alabama OLB Tim Williams all available in both Kiper’s and McShay’s mock?
We’re three weeks from 2017 NFL Draft Eve. Almost time to buckle up...