While the 2019 Los Angeles Rams regular season is just starting, the road to the 2020 NFL Draft is on and popping.
Rams General Manager Les Snead’s scouting staff has plenty of work to do every week keeping up with things at the college level. Already, there are major changes to the college landscape that are shifting things for the 2020 draft. Stanford LT Walker Little was injured this weekend and will have season-ending surgery. LSU QB Joe Burrow’s performance against Texas is catapulting him up draft boards. And Colorado Buffaloes WR Laviska Shenault Jr.’s slow start is seeing him dip in the wide receiver rankings.
So here are a couple of recent mocks for thought as we head toward Week 3 at the college level.
(As always, you shouldn’t care about where the Rams pick in mocks this far. As always, some of you will disregard this and care.)
Touchdown Wire - Luke Easterling (Aug. 27)
This one was a couple of weeks ago, but it’s a two-round mock with some interesting options for the Rams starting with a potential replacement for DL Michael Brockers:
29. Los Angeles Rams | Rashard Lawrence | DL | LSU
This roster is built to make another run at the Super Bowl, but if there’s a missing link, it’s the hole left behind by Ndamukong Suh at the heart of the defensive line. Lawrence has the massive frame, nasty playing style, and versatility to be the perfect fit here.
Easterling name dropped Suh, but it’s really a better fit at this point to replace Brockers with the Rams set to test run Sebastian Joseph-Day and Greg Gaines at the nose. It’s been a slow start for Lawrence this year, but if his 2019 is going to look like his 2018 season he’s going to have a ton of suitors early on.
Easterling keeps the Rams in Baton Rouge in the second:
61. Los Angeles Rams | Jacob Phillips | LB | LSU
Phillips is a strong inside linebacking prospect though not nearly as athletic as his former teammate Devin White who went fifth overall in the 2019 NFL Draft to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers or Deion Jones who went from LSU to the Atlanta Falcons before earning a massive payday this offseason. That’s not a huge knock though as both of those guys are ridiculously athletic; Phillips is more of a traditional stalker at the Mike.
While LSU didn’t offer much defensive frustration for Texas last weekend, staying undefeated means they’re going to head into SEC play in October with a ton of wind in their sails. They’ve got a four-game run starting October 12 that (whether they get by a good Utah State team or not) is going to be prime scouting for their draft candidates: vs. #9 Florida, at Mississippi St., vs. #8 Auburn, at #2 Alabama.
The Draft Network - Trevor Sikkema (Sep. 2)
Sikkema has the Rams looking at probably the biggest need on the roster as is before things change in free agency next year:
EDGE, Notre Dame
There aren’t may positions the Rams need -- heck, maybe the only position they need to have is head coach since McVay is so good he can make up for a lot of deficiencies. But edge rusher is one that they could stand to upgrade.
The Rams like to use their outside linebackers as their primary rushers to compliment Aaron Donald in the middle. With that in mind, I think the 6-foot-4, 235-pound rusher from Notre Dame Julian Okwara would be a nice fit.
Okwara has a lot of length to him. He just started to really use his length to his advantage last year, and that yielded a 12.5 tackles for loss, 8-sack season. He’s not a finished product, but he’s athletic, explosive and bendy. That’s worth the first round buy.
Julian Okwara, the younger brother of former ND and current Detroit Lions DE Romeo Okwara, is an interesting prospect. His numbers haven’t been exceptional, so there’s pressure on him to improve this year. He’s got the build and athleticism to get it done.
ND has two back-to-backs to check out this year for premier matchups. They go to #3 Georgia in Week 4 before hosting #25 Virginia in Week 5. The more interesting double might be the classic ND-USC game in Week 7 especially if USC is anywhere near their current ranking at #24 that precedes a week off for the Irish before they hit the road to take on #10 Michigan. Ton of NFL talent in those four games.
CBS Sports - Ryan Wilson (Sep. 4)
Wilson’s mock has the Rams going to the inside of the offensive line:
#26.) Oklahoma OL Creed Humphrey
The Rams have few need on offense but upgrading the interior line is among them. Humphrey was an integral part of a dominant unit at Oklahoma last season that had four of his linemates drafted, and he returns in 2019 to anchor a group now charged with protecting Jalen Hurts.
The 2018 OU offensive line was ridiculously good. Four of its members went in the 2019 draft including Rams OT Bobby Evans. But perhaps the best member of their 2018 line is the one still in college. Humphrey is an absolute beast of a center even if his position carries the lowest value of the OL slots. Honestly, I’d be surprised if he falls this far.
Oklahoma’s early schedule is pretty soft, but they’ll meet Texas in the Red River Showdown on Oct. 12. That’s must-see stuff.
CBS Sports - Chris Trapasso (Sep. 9)
This is the first of two mocks from this week that reflect the most recent college action, so you get a mock pick like LSU QB Joe Burrow going to the Los Angeles Chargers at #24. A week ago, that was unthinkable. Now, not so ridiculous after Burrow torched Texas’ defense for 471 passing yards and four touchdowns.
For the Rams, he’s mimicking his colleague with the Rams looking on the line:
#26.) Wisconsin Badgers C Tyler Biadasz
Biadasz is the premier center in the country, and the Rams could use a high-caliber talent at that position in Sean McVay’s system.
Biadasz (pronounced bee-AH-dish) is a stud. Between he and Humphrey, we could have two centers in the top half of the first.
Like OU, Wisconsin’s line last year was fantastic. Three of its members are now in the NFL: Miami Dolphins G Michael Dieter (3rd round pick), Rams OT David Edwards (5th) and Lions Beau Benzschawel (shockingly, a UDFA...who promptly made the Lions’ 53-man roster...). Biadasz is one of the two holdovers along with LT Cole Van Lanen...though I’m not sure they’re not the same guy:
Wisconsin, currently ranked #14, takes on #10 Michigan in 10 days.
Sports Illustrated - Kevin Hanson (Sep. 11)
This one’s from this morning, but it still might not even be timely. The news that Stanford OT Walker Little will need season-ending surgery likely either drops his stock a bit or motivates calls for him to return for his senior year in 2020. Either would be reasons not to have him at #9 as Hanson does in his mock.
Regardless, Hanson has the Rams tapping into the cornerback market:
29. Los Angeles Rams: Bryce Hall, CB, Virginia
The 6’ 1” Hall had an FBS-high 21 passes defended last season. Both Aqib Talib and Marcus Peters will be unrestricted free agents after the 2019 season.
Even after extensions for QB Jared Goff and TE Tyler Higbee, next year’s free agency period is set to be one of MASSIVE impact for the Rams. Rookie David Long, Jr., was inactive in Week 1. If that remains the case all year and the Rams opt not to re-sign Talib or Peters, you’ve got both starting cornerback spots open without any experience to put there. That would obviously put Hall in play, but we’ve gotta get through March first to see if the Rams continue their trend of undervaluing veteran defensive backs against the market or if they either re-sign one of their current corners or bring one in via free agency.
Five mocks, five different first-round prospects for the Rams. Given how early we are in the season and the Rams’ roster questions heading into free agency, that’s to be expected.
If anything, it’s even more reason to dip into the college waters to look at the talent playing their way into the NFL.