Mayock Sees Depth In First-Round Defensive Talent

Posted Feb 26, 2018

The NFL Network's Mike Mayock projects as many as 12 defensive players will be taken in the first-round of the 2018 NFL Draft.

Throughout the 2017 offseason, much of the Rams’ focus centered around improving the club’s offense. Through free agency and the draft, Los Angeles bolstered its offensive line and provided quarterback Jared Goff with a slew of new weapons at receiver. 

But after an impressive campaign that saw the club go from last to first in the league in scoring, the 2018 offseason will bring a new set of challenges to L.A.

Los Angeles currently holds the 23rd overall pick in the first round of this spring’s NFL Draft. And the majority of analysts in mock drafts are thinking the Rams will select a defensive player. After transitioning from a 4-3 to a 3-4 defensive scheme under coordinator Wade Phillips, moving forward the Rams will look to continue fine-tuning their system. 

Fortunately, there are plenty of talented defensive prospects that will showcase their skills at the NFL Combine this week — with the NFL Network’s Mike Mayock projecting as many as 12 potential first rounders. 

“I think the interior defensive line at the high end is outstanding,” Mayock said. “I think at least four are going to go — Washington’s Vita Vea, Alabama’s Da’Ron Payne, Michigan’s Maurice Hurst, and Florida’s Taven Bryan.”

All four combined for 166 tackles and 14.5 sacks in 2017, but they are not alone in their ability to rush the passer.

“The off-the-ball linebackers are really good this year,” Mayock continued. “Virginia Tech’s Tremaine Edmunds, Georgia’s Roquan Smith, Boise State’s Leighton Vander Esch, and Alabama’s Rashaan Evans. I think those four have the chance to go as off-the-ball linebackers. Typically, there's only two off-the-ball linebackers, so that would be a big year.”

Rounding out the top selection of prospects are the cornerbacks, who are still a bit of a mystery for Mayock. Mayock expects Ohio State cornerback Denzel Ward — who finished the year with 37 tackles, two interceptions, and 15 pass breakups — to be selected first in his position group. But Mayock said he is still figuring out where everyone else should be projected.

“Iowa’s Josh Jackson, Central Florida’s Mike Hughes, Colorado’s Isaiah Oliver, Louisville’s Jaire Alexander, [and] Carlton Davis from Auburn. I mean, there are six guys there,” he said. “I think at least four of them are going to go in the first round.”