Are the LA Rams just a couple players away from the Super Bowl?
I'm not sure -- the NFC is still a three-horse race no matter which way you slice it, with New Orleans and Philadelphia squarely in the mix, and teams like Seattle, Green Bay, and Atlanta always threatening for a run. It boils back down to Jared Goff, of course, but these team needs young competitors and instant starters while they have their window. That was the guiding mantra behind my approach, despite LA's low capital.
This is how I'd approach things, were I Les Snead.
Pick 31: Clemson EDGE Clelin Ferrell
Listen, Ferrell to the Rams is one of the biggest wins of the first round -- I don't even need to know the other 31 picks. Ferrell is an easy first-round valuation and an even easier evaluation: he's pro ready. Great hand usage, maximizes his physical tools well, staunch against the run, and high-character in the locker room.
While the Rams are losing Ndamukong Suh in free agency, they still have Michael Brockers and Aaron Donald on the interior, and Dante Fowler on the outside -- the opposite rusher is the missing link on the defense for 2019. Ferrell's impact in Year 1 will be big.
Pick 94: Stanford LB Bobby Okereke
I love Okereke at this value, and I really like his fit for Wade Phillips: his best trait is his range, which slots him nicely into Wade Phillips' defense -- but he isn't undersized, like most rangy backers are, and his length shines in coverage.
Okereke has diagnostic and tackling concerns, but as a run-and-chase player he's as good as you'll get. If he can develop better zone instincts to win in hook zones, he'll be a high-ceiling player -- but in Year 1, he's more than enough as a starting LB.
Pick 99: Penn State iOL Connor McGovern
When I'm looking for offensive linemen to help out in Los Angeles, I have one question and one question alone -- can you execute on wide zone concepts? McGovern's a wonderful athlete, who shines most clearly when working into the second level and taking linebackers for a ride.
Pass protection needs work for McGovern: he leans on his blocks, which compromises his balance, and he doesn't generate displacement with his punch. Improved upper body strength -- and even lower body strength -- would help here. But McGovern can fight for the starting center job early, and that's what the Rams need in their Top-100.
Pick 133: Washburn CB Corey Ballentine
Aqib Talib is a free agent next year and Sam Shields is gone this year -- now, the starting core of Talib, Marcus Peters, and Nickell Robey-Coleman will still be around for this season, so the starters are locked in, but corner is a significant long-term need. Especially if Marcus Peters continues to...well, act like Marcus Peters while playing like not-Marcus Peters.
Ballentine's an exciting developmental guy, so a redshirt year behind Talib makes a lot of sense for his profile. Ballentine projects best as a man-coverage corner with plus length and fluidity, and I think his natural ball skills will help him on downfield concepts early.
Pick 169: Penn State OT Ryan Bates
I fell for Ryan Bates when I watched him at the Combine during positional drills -- dude can clearly move, absolute natural out there. That's reflected on film: Bates is a super nimble guy in his sets on the outside, and it's a testament to his athletic ability that he played out at tackle for the Nittany Lions.
The reality is that he lacks the length and functional power to handle bull rushers, and would benefit from a move to center, where he'll be better protected from head-up rushes and his mobility will be maximized. I like keeping him with McGovern and moving him to the inside as a sixth man.
Pick 203: Clemson WR Hunter Renfrow
When Cooper Kupp went down, it was no secret -- the Rams offense lost its teeth. That intermediate separator and nifty route-runner was missing on play action concepts, and it left Jared Goff without his trusty, easy option.
Renfrow isn't Kupp (big size difference) but he's custom built for that role. Great separator, trustworthy hands across the middle, inherent sense of timing and space. He's an ideal depth piece in the McVay offense.
Pick 251: Temple iDL Michael Dogbe
The Rams went for a late depth piece on the interior in Sebastian Joseph-Day out of Rutgers last season, and they come back to the well in 2019 for Dogbe, a powerful player who's steady against the run, but without much pass-rush juice.
Dogbe was a Combine snub, and he's a bit of an odd prototype: rocked up and maxed out, but only at 284. He tested well at his Pro Day, but that explosiveness and quickness don't show up in his game right now. He works as a depth player for now, but I like the potential he brings.