At the beginning of the week, I covered two mocks for the 2018 NFL Draft now that the 2017 NFL Draft is in the books. With both of them tilting the Los Angeles Rams to Florida St. S Derwin James, it’s safe to put safety in the category of a relevant need for 2018. But as I iterated numerous times heading into last weekend, the Rams have several emerging needs on the roster over the coming years as we head toward the 2019 season and the opening of the Rams’ new stadium in Inglewood.
So with two new mocks out that send the Rams talent from two other positions, it’s worth remember how wide open the roster is moving forward.
Todd McShay, ESPN (insider subscription required):
#17.) Florida St. OLB Josh Sweat
An edge rusher with lots of intriguing tools, Sweat struggled early last season with a knee injury, but he finished with 4.5 sacks in his final three games. He should have a big year.
The Seminoles missed Sweat noticeably in that early season trouncing at the hands of Louisville and QB Lamar Jackson.
And had the Rose Bowl between USC and Penn St. along with the College Football Playoffs not scraped up the late season headlines, FSU’s madcap win over Michigan in the Orange Bowl that offered a potential playoff preview from 2017 might have been the most memorable bowl game of the season. Sweat and James will help anchor what should be one of the best defenses in all of college football this season with Derrick Nnadi, Brian Burns, Matthew Thomas and Tarvarus McFadden in tow.
The bigger issue to consider here is one of position. The Rams have Robert Quinn looking to have a bounceback season paired with 1-year play-in Connor Barwin manning the OLB slots. They’ve got two Day 3 rookies they just selected to slide in with EWU OLB Samson Ebukam and Pitt OLB Ejuan Price on their way to LA along with UDFA Dartmouth OLB Folarin Orimolade. Who knows how this checks out throughout 2017.
#5.) Texas OT Connor Williams
Williams stepped right in as the starting left tackle for Texas in 2015, leading all true freshmen with a 79.1 overall grade and he took his game to the next level last season with an 87.6 overall grade that ranked third in the nation. He’s a smooth pass protector, giving up only 20 hurries on 789 attempts in his career and he’s a strong run blocker both at the point of attack and at the second level. The Rams didn’t address their offensive line in this year’s draft, so expect it to be an emphasis in 2018.
Even if free agent signing LT Andrew Whitworth is able to maintain the level of recent seasons in 2017 at 35-years old, the Rams need to find a young successor soon. Consider this. If Whitworth gets hurt and has to miss time, who fills in to protect QB Jared Goff‘s blindside? Greg Robinson? Rodger Saffold? Andrew Donnal?
I said the Rams couldn’t really screw up an approach to this year’s draft because their roster needs are spread out over the coming seasons. By next year, they approach with much more urgency. By 2019, they’ll be unavoidable.
In terms of the mocks, the quarterback class will be something important to track this season. McVay leads off his mock with QBs at each of the first three picks while Palazzolo spreads five across the first round. Conversely, McShay rolls with five WRs in his first round while Palazzolo drops three...though two of his trio aren’t even among McShay’s quintet. The one WR they agree on as a first-rounder? SMU WR Courtland Sutton. Want more OL talent? McShay has just two lineman, both tackles, in his first. Palazzolo has three tackles, a guard and a center.
And that’s just on O!
We’ve got a long season in front of us, but the 2018 NFL Draft is taking shape. For the senior class, only a dozen or so games remain in their collegiate careers.