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New 2018 NFL Mock Draft from Pro Football Focus offers unusual pick for Los Angeles Rams

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Time for something new.

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LSU DE Arden Key
LSU DE Arden Key
Photo by John Korduner/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

I always appreciate the mock drafts from Pro Football Focus. They’re never afraid to be original and bow away from conventional wisdom, something that most mocks do especially after the combine.

So it’s worth keeping an open mind reading a new mock from PFF’s Steve Palazzolo today, something you have to do starting with the #1 overall pick.

We’ve seen a ton of mocks already and many, if not most (all?), have the Cleveland Browns taking a quarterback. I’m not sure I’ve seen one that has them taking Oklahoma QB Baker Mayfield...until now.

Another shocker comes at #3 with the Indianapolis Colts taking Michigan Wolverines DL Maurice Hurst. And Colorado St. WR Michael Gallup at #19 to the Dallas Cowboys? That’ll get Cowboys fans’ attention.

But for the Los Angeles Rams, I suppose things have to start with the CB watch for every mock as of now. Here, only one comes off the board before the 23rd pick, and it’s Iowa CB Josh Jackson to the Miami Dolphins at #11 overall.

That leaves a ton of options for the Rams, but you knew PFF was going to have to do something new...

EDGE Arden Key, LSU

Need and value match up well here as Key is a top-10 talent, but the 2017 season brought question marks both on and off the field. At his best, he has the burst to challenge the edge and the length to win multiple ways, all leading to an 88.0 pass-rush grade that ranked 10th in the nation in 2016. Last season, he played only 409 snaps and played a lot more coverage than he had in the past, but when unleashed, he still showed the pass-rush ability to make an impact at the next level.

There’s definitely a need and value matchup. The off-field question is one we haven’t really talked about in a long time. I know Misone and I danced around the idea of bringing in players with red flags on Turf Show Radio, but that was months ago before the Rams’ 2017 season took over.

Here’s the rub.

Rams Head Coach Sean McVay has, as all coaches do, limited bandwidth. He can only do so much. Handing off the defense to Defensive Coordinator Wade Phillips allows McVay to spend more time doing, yanno, other things. Distractions from those other things impact his ability to oversee the offense and the other aspects of his general job responsibilities that he spend his time executing. One distraction he hasn’t had to deal with? Knuckleheads. And for a first-time head coach, this was certainly the wisest approach. Given the results, I’d be hard pressed to agree with any arguments against as much.

But at some point, as all coaches do, talent beckons. There will be prospects who show up on tape that do something special, something that your team desperately needs. And when it comes in the package of a 20-year old who has peccadilloes that threaten to both divert his career and subvert his employer, well that’s always a tough decision.

That’s the decision that beckons with Key.

He flashes the ability you look for in an elite pass rusher. But it flashes. It’s not consistent enough to lock in. And Key took a personal leave of absence for reasons that were never disclosed (expect that to be a question brought up at the combine next month).

Would Key be a worthwhile pick for the Rams at 23? Does the skill rushing the passer entice enough to merit the selection? And would the risk of bringing in someone who could disrupt #WeNotMe be too great to bear for a head coach as inexperienced as McBae?