After the first week of the new league year, analysts have begun to shift their focus a bit for the Rams’ first-round pick in the 2018 NFL Draft. By acquiring both Marcus Peters and Aqib Talib, Los Angeles has turned cornerback from a position of need into a clear strength.
Now, analysts are predicting the Rams could choose anyone from an offensive lineman, to an edge rusher, to an inside linebacker.
Without further ado, let’s get to the picks for our sixth 2018 mock draft roundup.
We’ll start with a popular mock draft pick this week: Boston College edge rusher Harold Landry.
At the Ringer, analyst Danny Kelly writes, “Landry is coming off a down year in which he battled through an ankle injury, but when healthy in 2016, the former Boston College star was one of the top pass rushers in the nation. He’d get plenty of one-on-one opportunities lined up next to Aaron Donald.”
Luke Easterling of USA Today Draftwire is a bit more detailed, saying that L.A. could go with a replacement for recently traded middle linebacker Alec Ogletree or a potential successor for left tackle Andrew Whitworth. But instead, he has the club selecting Landry as an edge rusher.
“He has great athleticism, especially for a 252-pound player,” Easterling adds. “He has great first-step acceleration and great bend off the edge, which allows him to get under offensive tackles and blow right past them. He has very good hand usage, as well. Although he’s not a finished product as a run defender, partially due to a lack of impressive upper-body strength, he did improve as bit in that area last year.”
NFL Media’s Chad Reuter was also on the Landry train this week, writing, “Trading away Robert Quinn creates an opportunity for Landry to make an immediate impact, even if Connor Barwin is re-signed.”
Landry recorded 28.0 sacks and 47.5 tackles for loss in his collegiate career. He tallied a career high 16.5 sacks and 22.0 TFLs as a junior in 2016, before suffering a season-ending ankle injury as a senior that limited his production. He checked in at 6-foot-3 and 252 pounds and ran a 4.64 40-yard dash, put up 24 reps on the bench press, and recorded a 36-inch vertical at the Combine.
Reuter’s latest mock spanned five rounds, which means three more picks for L.A. In this scenario, Reuter has the Rams selecting Iowa linebacker Josey Jewell at No. 87 overall in Rd. 3, Nevada guard Austin Corbett at No. 111 in Rd. 4, and North Carolina State defensive tackle B.J. Hill at No. 135 in Rd. 4.
Sticking at edge rusher, two analysts have the Rams selecting UT-San Antonio’s Marcus Davenport.
Dan Kadar of SB Nation writes, “After shipping out Robert Quinn the Rams are in need of an edge rusher or two. They could get one in Davenport, who specializes in using a bull rush, length and quickness. He’s not a finished product by any means, but he can do enough to at least be a specialist to start his career.”
Dane Brugler of NFLDraftScout.com has similar analysis, writing, “Defensive end was a need before Robert Quinn was dealt to Miami, making an upgrade at pass rusher even more important now. Davenport is still raw in areas, but he can provide immediate juice off the edge and be the team’s ‘new’ Quinn.”
Davenport recorded 22.0 sacks and 38.0 at UTSA — both program records. His 6.5 sacks and 10.0 tackles for loss were enough to get him named Conference USA’s Defensive Player of the Year in 2017. Davenport attended the Senior Bowl before checking in at the NFL Combine at 6-foot-6 and 264 pounds. He ran a 4.58 40-yard dash and put up 22 reps on the bench press in Indianapolis.
Filling another potential position of need, R.J. White of CBS Sports has Los Angeles selecting Boise State inside linebacker Leighton Vander Esch.
“The Rams threw a lot of resources at upgrading their secondary while dealing away linebackers Robert Quinnand Alec Ogletree this offseason. That makes both rush linebacker and inside linebacker a need for the team heading into the draft. Vander Esch is the last blue-chip linebacker available,” White writes, adding he’s a good fit for defensive coordinator Wade Phillips’ 3-4 scheme.
The 2017 Mountain West Defensive Player of the Year, Vander Esch spent just one year as a starter but made the most of it. He recorded 141 total tackles — including 8.5 for loss — with 4.0 sacks, four forced fumbles, five passes defensed, and a pair of interceptions. Listed at 6-foot-4 and 256 pounds, Vander Esch ran a 4.65 40-yard dash, put up 20 reps on the bench press, and recorded a 39.5-inch vertical at the NFL Combine.
Check out photos of Marcus Peters and Aqib Talib being introduced as Los Angeles Rams
For an offensive pick, NFL Media’s Bucky Brooks has L.A. taking a local prospect in his latest mock: UCLA offensive tackle Kolton Miller.
“After impressing scouts with his spectacular performance at the NFL Scouting Combine, Miller will pique the interest of teams looking for a developmental OT prospect in the back half of Round 1. Miller could back up Andrew Whitworth for a year or so before sliding into the starting lineup as a franchise tackle,” Brooks writes.
Miller is a large man, listed at 6-foot-9 and 310 pounds. He started all 13 games at left tackle for the Bruins in 2017, protecting the blindside of quarterback Josh Rosen — a potential top-five draft pick. Miller was named second-team All-Pac-12 for his performance.
Finally, Albert Breer of Sports Illustrated’s The MMQB has Los Angeles picking another offensive lineman: Iowa center/guard James Daniels.
“Billy Price’s torn pec opens the door for Daniels to nudge past his Big Ten counterpart, and to the Rams—who have a long-term need at center, which happens to be a position Sean McVay values greatly,” Breer writes.
Declaring for the draft following his junior season, Daniels has been a major contributor to the Hawkeyes’ offense since his true freshman year in 2015. He started a pair of games at left guard as a freshman, but then moved to center in 2016 where he started 11 games as a sophomore and 12 games as a junior. Listed at 6-foot-3 and 295 pounds, Daniels put up 21 reps in the bench press at the Combine.