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ESPN offers first three picks for LA Rams’ draft

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ESPN thinks the Rams need to bolster their corps of linebackers. They’re not wrong.

NCAA Football: Texas Christian at Oklahoma Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

The 2018 NFL Draft kicks off in one week’s time...for most NFL teams. But not the Los Angeles Rams. After trading the 23rd overall pick to the New England Patriots to acquire WR Brandin Cooks and coughing up a second to land now Chiefs’ WR Sammy Watkins, the Rams won’t find themselves making a selection until later on Day 2.

The Rams have done well in what’s been a very exciting offseason, filling in holes along their roster with bonafide talent. But there are still a few relatively glaring needs - especially on defense - that have yet to be addressed.

Over at ESPN, Scouts Inc’s Steve Muench took a closer look at how each NFL team can utilize their Day 1-3 picks (In$ider). For the Rams - again without a Day 1 selection - he aimed at Day 2 and 3 prospects, for picks 87, 111, and 135.

Day 2: Oklahoma OLB Obo Okoronkwo

Day 3: Kansas DE/OLB Dorance Armstrong Jr.

Day 3: Wisconsin ILB Jack Cichy

The Rams don’t pick until late in the third round. Look for them to use the draft to address a linebacker corps that returns just one starter. Okoronkwo needs to get stronger and improve his ability to anchor against the run, but he has good upper-body power, quick hands and natural instincts as a pass-rusher. The Rams get two of my top sleepers on Day 3 if this is how their draft unfolds. While he doesn’t have great top-end speed and had just 1.5 sacks last year, Armstrong is a much better football player than the testing and production would suggest. Cichy sustained a season-ending pectoral injury in 2016 and he missed the 2017 season with a knee injury, so there are obviously durability concerns. He’s a tough and instinctive run-stopper when he’s healthy and would complement Mark Barron.

It goes without saying that the linebacker position is where the Rams need the most help. Having traded away starters Robert Quinn and Alec Ogletree, and letting Connor Barwin walk in free agency, the Rams will look to the draft to help bolster a corps of linebackers left relatively depleted following free agency.

The Rams are rumored to like LB’s Samson Ebukam and Cory Littleton, but to what extent remains to be seen. If they view either as starters, the Rams could potentially look to use their Day 2 or 3 picks on other positions — such as offensive line where they need to start thinking about predecessors for aging starters.

Stay tuned. We all know how General Manager Les Snead likes to shake things up during the draft.