It is the day before the Draft. Leave a glass of milk and a plate of cookies out for Roger Goodell and hope that some nice presents will be left under the Draft tree. One final mock draft, plus a few general thoughts.
1. This is an odd first round, because you could make a case that not a single prospect in this class merits a true top 5 selection. There is very good depth in the 1st round this year, but probably not the greatest year to be picking at the very top. Sorry Jags and Lions, choose wisely. Maybe they'd prefer to trade down, but with such a weak QB class can they find a trade partner who is willing to give up sufficient value to make that move?
Multiple other teams like the Eagles, Packers, Chiefs, Giants, Jets and Saints have multiple 1st round picks (did I forget any others? There are so many this year) and this is a good year for that. Maybe some of those teams will try to move up, but if they stay put there is enough depth at that top tier that they could come away with multiple starters and feel really good about their draft before the 2nd round even begins.
2. The overall depth in this draft is deceptive. Last year's draft was thin, in part because so many players stayed an additional year in college due to the covid rules giving them an extra year of eligibility. This pushed a bunch of players into the 2022 class, but I don't think it necessarily makes this draft better. Those players are now a year older than they would have been as normal draft prospects, some of them picked up injuries, they spent a year in college instead of getting NFL coaching and practice experience and in some cases maybe the only reason they looked better last year was they were playing against younger and less experienced college players. If you took a bunch of NFL rookies in 2021 who were "bad" in the NFL and had them play in college instead, they would have looked great too.
There is a rule of thumb that in a trade, a pick in next year's draft should be discounted by approximately one round compared to a pick in the current draft. In other words, if you get a 4th rounder in next year's draft, it is more like getting a 5th rounder in this year's draft (see e.g. a trade Detroit and Cleveland made last year). A similar concept might apply to many of the prospects in this year's draft. You could pick a player in the 4th round this year, but if that guy should have been in the 2021 draft and opted to stay in school, it is more like his "true" draft value is 5th round, he just happened to lose a year off of his NFL career.
In my view, we've seen other drafts that had better depth, like the 2012 draft. The 2022 draft isn't really as deep as it might first appear when you dig into the details of each player. I think this draft is deep at TE, weak at QB and DT, and relatively average at most other position groups.
Okay, now for my final Rams mock draft. This is not the players I necessary want to pick in a perfect world draft, it is my last attempt to create what I consider to be a realistic mock based on how I think the actual draft might go. I'm using the PFF sim to generate the options, with some adjustments that I'll explain.
Before Pick 104: The Rams would have had to trade up for players such as Cam Taylor Britt, Cole Strange, Zach Tom, Sam Williams, Darian Kinnard, Dylan Parham and others. I don't think it is worth it to give up possibly the entire rest of the draft, so I don't trade up.
Rams Trade: Instead of picking at 104, I start out by trading the 3rd and 4th round picks held by the Rams (50 points on the trade chart) to the Ravens to acquire picks 110 and 128 (worth 53 points on the trade chart), both 4th round selections. In PFF's sim, you can easily trade for slot 119 instead of 128, but I decided this was an unrealistic trade that would be too generous to the Rams. The trade I made is still arguably lenient and the Rams should have kicked in one of their 6th rounders, but I decided it was close enough to at least be plausible.
By making this trade, the Rams lose out on DeAngelo Malone and Jalyn Armour-Davis.
Second Rams Trade: Taking picks 110 and 128 (53 points), I swap them with the Broncos for slots 115 and 116 (56 points). This might be pushing it, because now I've effectively given up 50 points of value and gotten 56 points in return. If you think that's not realistic, just eliminate 2 or 3 of the last 5 picks we make in this mock and it would even things out.
The reason I made the 2 trades is to upgrade the low 4th round slot originally held by the Rams (pick 142) to move within range to get certain players I wanted and we use a "stair step" method just in case something changed between the 1st and 2nd trade that made the Rams think they had to pick their guy at 110 and not move down again.
After this trade, the Rams lose out on Luke Fortner, Zamir White and Danny Gray.
4th round (115) Charlie Kolar- TE
Kolar is a poor blocker right now. He's a redshirt senior who is basically a year older than a normal prospect, a good example of what I talked about above where he probably could have been in the 2021 draft. He is ranked 106th overall on Daniel Jeremiah's board and has a round 3 projection from Lance Zierlein, the 80th ranked prospect on LZ's board. I love his route running ability, he catches the ball well, I think he can be an impact flex TE in the NFL and a weapon in the passing game.
An example of why I like Kolar. It is the very end of the 4th quarter, the Clones have a "must have it" 4th down play. Kolar runs an outstanding route, well crafted, sets up the defender, created beautiful separation, he is open for what could have been a clutch first down conversion to give his team a chance to stay in the game. You won't see this play on his highlight tape, because the ball isn't thrown to him. Big players step up in big moments. I think Kolar has a chance to be really good. Some people have compared him to Mark Andrews of the Ravens. That's a reasonable goal in terms of his production and potential.
In the sim, you can get Kolar later. There are plenty of other TEs still on the board the way PFF has their AI set up (Otton, Bellinger, Likely, etc.) but I'm trying to make this mock realistic to the best I can estimate, so I'm not going to try to get cute here.
4th round (116) Dominique Robinson-EDGE
If I had stayed at 104, both Robinson and Kolar were top candidates at that slot. By making the 2 trades, instead of having to choose one or the other, I am able to get both players. Robinson is very raw and not ranked on DJ's top 150 list. He has a round 3 to 4 projection from Zierlein and a 6.30 draft grade, and the 49th ranked player on LZ's board.
This is something of a boom or bust pick, because Robinson likely needs at least one redshirt season and might not contribute much at all in 2022. The reason I like him is I think he could become an elite NFL edge rusher if he can figure it out and use his substantial athletic gifts. Has the potential to be a double digit sack type of performer. I'm not a fan of project players early in the draft, but I'm willing to take this gamble on Robinson in the 4th round.
Robinson was a bonus senior who is a year older than a typical draft prospect. I like him, but both of the first 2 picks in this mock are older prospects.
5th round (175) Brian Robinson Jr.- RB
There are a whole bunch of players we could pick here. Some others still on PFF's board were Chris Paul, Tyler Badie, Joshua Ezeudu, Joshua Williams. Again, just to try to keep the mock realistic, I decided just to pretend that those guys had already been drafted and weren't really available. I do think it is possible one of the RBs gets pushed down the board, whether it is Robinson or some other player. That was my logic behind thinking a RB pick would fit at this slot.
Robinson is ranked 95th overall by Daniel Jeremiah. He has a round 3 projection from Zierlein, 83rd on LZ's board. Perhaps a stretch that he'd still be here, since he could have come off the board prior to slot 104. One reason it could be Robinson who slides is he's not as dynamic as many of the other RBs in this class. I don't care about that, because I consider him to be a very steady and reliable back and we're not drafting him to be the future RB1 for the Rams. If he becomes the starter, that is just a nice bonus.
Brian Robinson is 23 years old, just like the first 2 players in this mock. That makes 3 out of 3 picks that are slightly older than a normal draft prospect.
6th round (211, 212 and 218) Jeffrey Gunter-EDGE, Sterling Weatherford-S, Shaun Jolly-CB
As discussed above, the Rams might not have all of these picks if they had to include 1 or 2 of them to make the trades back in the 4th round.
Gunter has a round 5 to 6 projection from LZ. If Robinson is a game day inactive in 2022 while he develops, the Rams might need Gunter to give them depth at OLB. Gunter might be limited to being a situational pass rusher in the pros. I don't know why experts don't seem to like him, Gunter seems like a decent prospect to me, especially this late in the draft.
Probably doesn't matter whether you call Weatherford a LB or a S. Really, he's a subpackage, 3rd down pass defender. Probably also a special teams player. A good team like the Rams need defensive closers, much like how a good baseball team that gets the lead needs to bring in relief pitchers late in the game to protect the lead and shut down the opponent's batters. When the Rams get ahead, the opponent will try to throw the ball, so you need pass rushers who can get to the QB and coverage to blanket the WRs, TEs, and RBs. Weatherford has good size and ball skills, so in certain game situations maybe he could cover a pass catching TE or play zone coverage and break up passes.
The Rams need more CBs and I didn't draft one earlier, so we pick up a small school player. He has a 7th round grade from B/R. Jolly doesn't have elite speed and he's a smaller player who is project to be a slot CB. He has ball skills and instincts against the pass. He's ranked 210 on PFF final draft board.
Gunter will soon turn 23. Weatherford is 23 years old. I don't know Jolly's age, but he was a redshirt senior who spent 5 years in college, so I assume he's about 23. This entire mock draft consists of 23 year old prospects.
7th round (238 and 253) Cal Adomitis-LS, Jake Camarda-P
More picks the Rams might or might not have depending on the earlier trade terms. I'm just going special teams in the 7th round. I take the long snapper first, because there are so many punter prospects. Can afford to wait on the deeper position group. Why not draft a position player in the 7th? Frankly, I don't think most of the other players left are very good. These last 2 picks, are they any different than just signing an UDFA? Probably not. They have very little value in the big picture and those late 6th round picks were only marginally better.
I don't know if it matters a great deal which P you take. Here, I go with the Georgia punter, just to switch it up and not have the same names all the time. There are a bunch of guys who at least have a shot at being NFL punters, it is very difficult to know which ones will make it and which ones won't. It is even possible that most of them will establish themselves, we've seen that happen before where 3 or 4 quality NFL punters come out of the same draft class.
No OL picks. Only one CB. No true inside linebacker. No defensive linemen. I imagine this mock won't make everyone happy, but the Rams don't have 12 middle round draft picks. They can't stock up at every single position.
With the trades, the Rams didn't pick until slot 115, but in this mock they get 3 players that Zierlein has ranked in the top 85, including a top 50 prospect. I'll take it.