EARTH CITY, Mo. -- The real NFL draft is a little more than a week away, which means we are finally drawing close to the merciful end of the longest silly season of all time.
It also means we are drawing closer to the end of mock draft season, but before we do there are a couple of final opportunities for our ESPN draft experts Mel Kiper Jr. and Todd McShay to make their projections.
On Tuesday afternoon, Kiper and McShay released the fifth edition of their mock drafts. For most of this pre-draft process, Kiper and McShay have been in lockstep on the directions the St. Louis Rams will go with the Nos. 2 and 13 picks in the first round.
So it should come as no surprise to see Kiper again mock Auburn offensive tackle Greg Robinson and Alabama safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix to the Rams in his fifth mock draft. And, drumroll please, McShay follow through with the same picks in his version. Be sure to check out the full mock drafts for full explanations from both on their picks.
As for the fits of Robinson and Clinton-Dix to the Rams, we've discussed those choices time and again and it's hard to argue that they don't make sense. The Rams have needs for another dominant offensive lineman and a rangy free safety type.
At No. 2 overall, the mock draft momentum for Robinson has been in place nearly from the moment he declared and only picked up steam at the scouting combine. While Robinson comes with questions because he's not a polished pass protector, his punishing run blocking style would be ideal for St. Louis. Beyond that, the Rams have not been afraid to draft the player with upside over the more polished option since general manager Les Snead and coach Jeff Fisher took over.
Snead and Fisher have played this one extremely close to the vest and it's hard to determine which way the team will go if it can't trade down from No. 2. While Robinson is still in play and the Rams have showed plenty of interest in him, they also have done the same with Clemson receiver Sammy Watkins and Texas A&M offensive tackle Jake Matthews. Assuming Jadeveon Clowney goes No. 1, the debate likely comes down to those three players with Buffalo linebacker Khalil Mack the sleeper.
The No. 13 pick should provide even more intrigue since a dozen players will be off the board. With the requisite trade down possibility again recognized, don't be surprised if the Rams throw more of a curveball there. Clinton-Dix has been mocked to the Rams in this spot all over the place but while the Rams have acknowledged the need for safety help they don't appear desperate to take one in the first round.
While teams often pay a lot of lip service to drafting the "best player available" they usually mean the best player available at a position of need. However, the Rams could use help at many positions and are in a spot where they could draft just about anything here and it wouldn't be a surprise. So while Clinton-Dix could be in play, it might be worth considering other names that haven't been on the radar as much here such as Pittsburgh defensive tackle Aaron Donald, Alabama linebacker C.J. Mosley and Michigan State cornerback Darqueze Dennard, to name a few.
Nobody knows anything for sure at this point but one thing we do know is that soon enough we won't have to wonder anymore.