- Nick Wagoner, ESPN Staff Writer
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EARTH CITY, Mo. -- On Thursday, ESPN NFL draft analyst Mel Kiper Jr. offered his annual "Grade A" mock draft.
Before we dive into what Kiper projected for the St. Louis Rams, let's clarify what he's going for in this particular version of the mock. This is not a projection of what he thinks teams will do. Instead, it's a chance for Kiper to fit need and value for each team. In other words, if every team on the list made the three picks Kiper projects for them in this mock, they would receive a grade of "A" from him on the Sunday after the draft.
For the Rams, Kiper hits on the usual suspects when it comes to the team's needs. He lists offensive line, wide receiver, cornerback and quarterback as the team's four top priorities. From there, Kiper drafts Louisville receiver DeVante Parker with the Rams' first pick at No. 10 overall. At No. 41, he selects Pittsburgh offensive tackle T.J. Clemmings and he finishes by taking Florida Atlantic cornerback D'Joun Smith with the third-round choice, No. 72 overall.
Clearly, Kiper's picks fill what he believes are three important needs for the Rams. But I'm not so sure these would be the right picks. Under Kiper's scenario, the top two quarterbacks, top two receivers and top offensive lineman are all off the board by the time the Rams pick. That's a realistic possibility the Rams must consider.
In that situation, they could potentially go with a defensive end. Even though that's not a need right now, it could be next year and it falls into a similar category as cornerback in that regard. But would the third-best receiver be a better choice than the second-best offensive lineman? Wouldn't someone like Stanford tackle Andrus Peat make just as much, if not more, sense?
Kiper also doesn't project trades in this exercise for obvious reasons. But under this scenario, a trade might be the Rams' best bet.
Also, given the team's interest in offensive linemen and the need there, it stands to reason that they'll spend more than one of their first three picks on bolstering that group. An extra lineman in Round 3 to go with Clemmings also would be a logical move. Clemmings might be a nice value if he fell to the second round, but his need for development could be a bit frightening for an offensive line lacking in experience.
As for quarterback, the need is there and the Rams have interest but it seems as though finding a match between that need and the value of a potential pick could prove difficult.