Let’s just for a moment realize the fact that I didn’t bother with V1 mock draft in November. Those days, we can only hope, are long gone. This is easily the most speculative time of the year for NFL teams.
I dare you to find another period of time where you’d hear the Rams want to trade Todd Gurley and sign Le’Veon Bell in his place. Seriously.
Luckily, that makes this first version a little easier, and a little more fun to play around with. We don’t know who the team will re-sign, or who they’ll target in free agency. We don’t even know if they’ll keep the picks they have until April. I
This is truly schrodinger's mock draft. For those of you who are new to my mocks, there are only a few simple rules:
- No trades. I made a deal with Les - he does the trading, I do the mock drafting.
- I try to use Dan Kadar’s latest mock as my baseline for the picks in front of the Rams. Show SB some love, ya’ll.
- I try and add one round each version, as things start to clear up on the roster.
- I fully expect at least one person to rant about my stupid choices in the comments. Don’t disappoint me.
So, let’s begin:
Round 1, Pick 31: T.J. Hockenson, TE, Iowa
Please see my last bullet point above! Somebody will find it useful. Look, this is kind of a guilty pleasure pick (leave it to McShay simultaneously steal my thunder, yet also get it wrong). But I would not be surprised if the Rams looked to upgrade post Tyler Higbee, who’s in a contract year. They went after Tyler Eifert last year, and I still maintain in my gut that Evan Engram would be a Ram if he was available in the draft, Young Gerald be damned.
So, why do the Rams want to go with Hockenson here? It’s pretty simple. Think about the Rams offense with Todd Gurley. They love to run outside, they run a zone scheme, they love play-action and they love to attack intermediate routes through the air. Hockenson is the perfect - and I mean perfect - fit for that:
The highlight of Hockenson’s game is his run blocking skills. Make no mistake about it - you’re going to hear plenty of hyperbolic words thrown out until April. He’s made it his life’s mission as a run blocker to straight up destroy humankind.
Hockenson’s ability to block on the edge is truly special and is something that the Rams will covet. That’s a key reason for this pick, but what boosts him over other, more obvious choices is how he would fit in as a receiver; sure handed, quick and technically sound. Don’t tell me you don’t see this play and instantly think of a Rams PA special, except this time Goff is throwing to a 6-5, 250lb tight end with a step on a safety:
Round 3, Pick 94: Khalen Saunders, NT, WIU
*The Rams traded this pick to Jacksonville for Dante Fowler, but a highly expected comp pick would return this to LA.
This is a tough pick to mock months out before the draft, but here we go. Silently, I think the Rams opening at NT (pending what happens to Ndamukong Suh) is one of the most glaring holes on the roster. Whether or not Suh stays, the Rams are shockingly light here. Saunders obliterated against weaker competition and didn’t miss a beat in the senior bowl:
With that said, I think he’s hard to pass up here, even if he’s a rotational guy.
Round 3, Pick Comp: Joe Giles-Harris, ILB, Duke
*The Rams are expected to get two compensation picks here, apparently because both Sammy Watkins and Trumaine Johnson are now very rich.
Giles-Harris is the modern day inside linebacker. He’s a decent size (240lb), and is quick enough to be able to play as a modern 3-down back. He was the team MVP last year and earned First Team All-ACC honors in 2017.
He’s extremely fluid in coverage and shows great aptitude here, which makes him valuable in the nickel dominated world NFL defenses.
He’s a great downfield attacker and while he isn’t much of a blitzer, he shows an understanding of what’s in front of him and has 8.5 career sacks in three years with Duke.
The biggest knock is that despite his size, he’s not consistently able to shed blocks. If you watched the Rams linebackers in 2018, that won’t thrill you, but it’s nothing you haven’t seen before. His tackling, coverage skills and football IQ make him a good snag here, even if it’s just as a special teams player.