The pick at No. 15 by the Los Angeles Rams is where things start to get interesting in the middle of the first round. The top wide receiver in the draft – Laquon Treadwell of Ole Miss – is still available and fills a big need for the Rams. Memphis quarterback Paxton Lynch is also out there, and he fills a need as well.
With that, it's not an easy choice in the 10th annual SB Naiton NFL writers mock draft. The selection by Joe McAtee of Turf Show Times tackles the ultimate mock draft question: draft how you think the team will or how you want them to?
15. Rams: Mackensie Alexander, CB, Clemson
McAtee: My effort here was to come up with something realistic, something I think the Rams will do, not what I’d want them to do.
At first glance, the Los Angeles Rams’ need for QB and WR talent is overwhelming coming off of a 2015 season that saw their offense ... then based in St. Louis ... rank dead-last in yardage gained. The Case Keenum/Nick Foles/Sean Mannion QB depth chart is hardly one to inspire confidence heading into training camp. The WR group, headlined by Tavon Austin and Kenny Britt, barely topped 1,000 yards. As a group. All of them. Together. That’s not helped by the departure of underwhelming TE Jared Cook, even if he was unable to reach the production levels hoped for upon his arrival in 2013. And given that the Rams haven’t had a 1,000-yard receiver since Torry Holt in 2007 (oh, please do let that sink in deep and true for a moment), it’s easy to have a WR at No. 15 overall.
Except that this is where the Rams are.
After trading Sam Bradford to the Philadelphia Eagles for Nick Foles and some draft pick swappery including their second-round pick in this year’s draft, they sent their 2016 NFL Draft seventh-round pick to the Houston Texans for Case Keenum. Looking at that pair, they drafted Sean Mannion in the third round last year. And that was that. Roughly 344 days ago, the Rams went into an NFL season with a Foles/Keenum/Mannion trio with confidence that it would work. That they would reverse course so sharply would reverse much of what we know about Jeff Fisher’s stubborn adherence to his football principles.
And at wide receiver? No thanks. The Rams passed entirely on the last two WR classes, which were stocked to the brim with talent save for a sixth-round pick on Bud Sasser who retired from football before his NFL career even started due to a pre-existing heart condition. No worries, though. The Rams still have Brian Quick.
No, the Rams have made it a point to avoid fixing their QB and WR issues for years. That they would change that now when they have new needs popping up across the defense would make even less sense (which could be the best argument for it to actually happen).
So while Rams fans and the common observer might point to that 32nd-ranked offense as the target of immediate talent need, I’m mocking them to take a replacement for outbound cornerback Janoris Jenkins in Clemson’s Mackensie Alexander.
The Rams were pressed into emergency makeover mode on the offensive line last year due to overdrafting running backs and cornerbacks for years prior. That didn’t stop them from drafting Todd Gurley a year ago. I don’t see why it would stop them from taking a cornerback this time around. And in all honesty, it’s not a horrible pick. Alexander fits a bit of a need while providing long-term talent growth if Trumaine Johnson doesn’t sign a long-term deal following his franchise tag in 2016 or if the other CBs on the roster don’t step up. I also thought about Alabama ILB Reggie Ragland here to replace newly signed New Orleans Saints MLB James Laurinaitis or Baylor DT Andrew Billings as a potential Michael Brockers replacement.
In the end, I’ve got them going with Alexander as an immediate top talent to put into the secondary with the rest of the draft offering the opportunity to patch up a patchwork offense.
Analysis: On one hand, this pick does fit value. Alexander is my 13th-rated player in the draft this year. But with Trumaine Johnson, they don't necessarily need a No. 1 cornerback as much as they need that No. 1 wide receiver.
Dan's Top 5 players remaining
- 11. Darron Lee, LB, Ohio State
- 14. Laquon Treadwell, WR, Ole Miss
- 15. Sheldon Rankins, DT, Louisville
- 16. Reggie Ragland, MLB, Alabama
- 17. Jarran Reed, DT, Alabama
- 1-15: Mackensie Alexander, CB, Clemson
- 2-43: (coming April 14)
Coming up on Friday, we hit the halfway point of the SB Nation NFL writers mock draft. Things start again with the 16th pick and the Detroit Lions at 9 a.m. ET.
Complete draft results:
1. Tennessee Titans - Laremy Tunsil, OT, Ole Miss (Link)
2. Cleveland Browns - Jared Goff, QB, Cal (Link)
3. San Diego Chargers - Jalen Ramsey, DB, Florida State (Link)
4. Dallas Cowboys - Carson Wentz, QB, North Dakota State (Link)
5. Jacksonville Jaguars - Myles Jack, LB, UCLA (Link)
6. Baltimore Ravens - Joey Bosa, DE, Ohio State (Link)
7. San Francisco 49ers - DeForest Buckner, DE, Oregon (Link)
8. Philadelphia Eagles - Ezekiel Elliott, RB, Ohio State (Link)
9. Tampa Bay Buccaneers - Noah Spence, DE, Eastern Kentucky (Link)
10. New York Giants - Ronnie Stanley, OT, Notre Dame (Link)
11. Chicago Bears - Vernon Hargreaves, CB, Florida (Link)
12. New Orleans Saints - A'Shawn Robinson, DT, Alabama (Link)
13. Miami Dolphins - Eli Apple, CB, Ohio State
14. Oakland Raiders - Jack Conklin, OT, Michigan State