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Early 2019 NFL Mock Drafts cement Los Angeles Rams needs at linebacker

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With college football kicking off in earnest this weekend, we’ve got our first name to keep an eye out for.

Alabama LB Anfernee Jennings hits Clemson QB Kelly Bryant in the 2018 Sugar Bowl, January 1, 2018.
Alabama LB Anfernee Jennings hits Clemson QB Kelly Bryant in the 2018 Sugar Bowl, January 1, 2018.
Stephen Lew-USA TODAY Sports

A 2019 mock draft in August? Be still my beating heart!

Over at the Draft Network, a new outpost that launched earlier this summer, we’ve seen a trio of mock drafts the last two weeks that push an obvious consensus that Los Angeles Rams fans will obviously find easy to agree with: we could use more talent across the linebackers.

The Rams headed into the 2018 NFL Draft needing help inside and out at the second level but didn’t make any investments until the 147th overall pick in ILB Micah Kiser. This despite moving on from both of their 2018 starting outside linebackers in Robert Quinn and Connor Barwin.

So yes, it’s early, But yes, it will likely be a roster need we’ll allude to among others come season’s end.

First up was Jon Ledyard’s mock from two weeks ago. With the Rams picking at #29, Ledyard has the Rams looking at the Big Ten:

29.) Paddy Fisher, LB, Northwestern

Fisher may not be an elite athlete, but he’s big, instinctive and has shown the ability to make plays in zone coverage. His polish for a redshirt freshman was very impressive last season, and it’s exactly what Los Angeles needs on their second level. The Rams have beefed up the secondary and defensive line, but they’ve got to get better play out of their linebackers in the future.

Hard not to like his production from his first year, though he did get completely washed out against Kentucky Wildcats in the Music City Bowl. If he continues to develop, he’d be an obvious candidate to carry the mantle from former Rams MLB James Laurinaitis.

Next up was Kyle Crabb’s mock from last week. He’s got the Rams picking one slot earlier but still finding a great talent to add:

28.) Devin White, LB, LSU

This simply isn’t right. The Rams, with all of their fresh faces on the defensive side of the football, should not be able to pick in the late 20s and haul as explosive an athlete as Devin White.

White hits like a ton of bricks, bringing a thunderous presence to the middle of a defense that has interior defensive linemen capable of wreaking havoc for guards and centers.

If there’s currently a weakness on this Rams team, it’s the linebackers. Cory Littleton, Bryce Hager, Mark Barron, Ramik Wilson, Tegray Scales and Micah Kiser isn’t exactly an inspiring group. So to be able to put White, warts with his anticipation and all, on this roster would be a massive win at this point in the draft order.

White would be a perfect addition as things stand, though as of right now I’d have him coming off earlier. In Ledyard’s mock, he had White going 13th overall. Still, it’s a comfortable selection. I tabbed White as LSU’s best prospect and best prospect fit for the Rams in my AP Top 25 breakdown from Friday. FWIW, Crabb has Fisher going to the Denver Broncos at #15.

Last up is Joe Marino who slots the Rams into Super Bowl LIII albeit coming up just short as we pick #31 in his mock:

31.) Anfernee Jennings, EDGE, Alabama

The Rams roster is loaded seemingly everywhere except when it comes to outside linebacker position. There, Matt Longacre (expiring contract) and Samson Ebukam are slated as the starters.

Jennings isn’t overly explosive but is a powerful technician who excels as a run defender and when using his hands to soften rushing angles. A disciplined rusher like Jennings perfectly complements the strong interior penetrators already on the roster.

Jennings was another player I had as the best prospect fit for the Rams, so no argument here. I’m not sure what position he plays in the NFL, but much like Barron who himself was a former Alabama standout, the right situation and right coaching staff can figure that out. Also has to be noted that he injured his knee in the playoffs against Clemson, but he’s reportedly on track to play against Louisville in Orlando on Saturday.

Too much linebacker too early? Perhaps. But we’re talkin mock drafts in August. This was never going to be an exercise in balance.

So as things kick off on Saturday, at least we have three names to start thinking about as the path to the draft begins...