Every team in the league is preparing to send a contingent to Indianapolis next week for the annual NFL Scouting Combine. The top prospects in the incoming rookie class will participate in medical exams, interviews, and on-field workouts as the 32 teams get to know who they may target in the 2018 NFL Draft.
And in anticipation of the festivities in Indy, analysts have continued to put out mock drafts. And as has been the case throughout the offseason so far, analysts have honed in on one position for the Rams at No. 23.
We’ll start with Dan Kadar at SB Nation, who has a familiar pick at No. 23 in his latest mock: Iowa cornerback Josh Jackson.
“Until an edge-rusher slips or the Rams make a move on a starter at cornerback in free agency, the old familiar pick of Jackson is the choice,” Kadar writes. “If the Rams still had a second-round pick, it would be easier to look at a different position. But by the time Los Angeles picks again at No. 87, there won’t be such obvious starters.”
The Rams have the 23rd overall selection in this year's NFL Draft. Take a look back at previous No. 23 draft picks from the past 20 years. Photo credit: AP Images
Over at The Athletic, Jeff Cavanaugh concurs with Kadar on Los Angeles selecting Jackson in the first round.
“In coverage and as a ballhawk Jackson is as good as anyone in this class,” Cavanaugh writes (subscription required). “His willingness to be physical as a tackler needs to be improved on."
And ESPN’s Mel Kiper Jr. is also on the Jackson-to-Los Angeles train in his second mock draft.
“Los Angeles has decisions to make on free-agent cornerbacks Trumaine Johnson and Nickell Robey-Coleman and safety/corner Lamarcus Joyner, and it isn't likely to keep them all. Cornerback is a clear need for the Rams,” Kiper writes (subscription required - $$). “Jackson burst onto the scene with eight interceptions in 2017, including three in an upset win over Ohio State. The big question about Jackson is true speed -- he needs to run well at the combine to stay in the first-round discussion. He could also help out on punt returns.”
Jackson led the nation with eight interceptions in 2017, becoming an AP first-team All-American in the process. He’s listed at 6-foot-1 and 192 pounds, which gives him length and size to compete with tall receivers.
Charles Davis of NFL Media has the Rams taking Colorado cornerback Isaiah Oliver in his first mock drafts.
“Defensive coordinator Wade Phillips' versatility gets an added dose of secondary help with this talented CB,” Davis writes.
At the same outlet, former NFL general manager Charley Casserly concurs with the Oliver pick, citing cornerback Trumaine Johnson’s pending free agency along with a positional need.
Oliver just completed his junior season at Colorado, where he recorded 13 pass breakups and a pair of interceptions. He was a first-team All-Pac 12 honoree in 2017.
For another familiar pick, Will Brinson of CBS Sports has L.A. choosing Ohio State cornerback Denzel Ward at No. 23.
“When you start to look at this draft and the needs for these teams, it becomes pretty clear there could be some serious talent falling because of quarterback and offensive line availability,” Brinson writes. “The Rams add another defensive piece to an already stout unit.”
Ward played extensive snaps over the last two seasons, though he was not technically a starter until 2017. After Marshon Lattimore, Malik Hooker, and Gareon Conley all left for the pros, Ward stepped in and played well for the OSU secondary this season, recording a pair of interceptions and 15 pass breakups.
Check out the photos of the Rams at the 2018 NFL Honors in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Credit: Todd Rosenberg/NFL, Perry Knotts/NFL, Ben Liebenberg/NFL
At the same outlet, Chris Trapasso has more of an unfamiliar name for the roundup — Louisville cornerback Jaire Alexander.
“Alexander likely would've gone in the top 15 had it not been for an injury-riddled final season at Louisville. He's not a menacing cornerback physically but plays with outstanding quickness and tenacity when the ball is arriving,” Trapasso writes.
Alexander played in seven games in 2017, starting six, and recorded an interception, four pass breakups, and 19 tackles. He was a second-team All-ACC honoree in 2016 after tallying five picks and nine pass breakups.
Finally, for a little something different, Bleacher Report’s Mike Tainer has the Rams picking an offensive tackle for their first-round pick. In this particular mock, Tainer writes Los Angeles will select the best available athlete — Oklahoma tackle Orlando Brown Jr.
“By selecting Orlando Brown, the Rams get Andrew Whitworth's replacement at left tackle a year early instead of waiting for the 36-year old to decline,” Tainer writes. “Brown (son of the great Browns/Ravens left tackle of the 1990s) has Jonathan Ogden-caliber measurables, ideal bloodlines and an ornery streak. He's also the typical raw Big 12 spread-offense tackle, so it will take a year as Whitworth's understudy before he can reliably protect Jared Goff's blind side.”
Listed at 6-foot-8 and 360 pounds, Brown was an AP first-team All-American and All-Big 12 honoree in 2017 for his work on the Oklahoma offense. He was also Big 12 Offensive Lineman of the Year after his redshirt sophomore season in 2016.