When it comes to the analyses of college players, few experts stand above the likes of Mel Kiper, Jr. Having been one of the lead coverage personality of the NFL Draft on ESPN since the mid-80s, it is not surprising that most in the general public cling to his every mock selection or unveiled Big Board. So, when Kiper recently listed off his “sensational seven” prospects, people certainly took notice.
What is the “sensation seven”? Well, at least in the Kiper’s view, those are the seven premier players in the 2014 Draft class, ones that stand above the rest in terms of talent and value in the Top 10. Surprisingly, there are no quarterbacks on his list, instead selecting two receivers (Sammy Watkins and Mike Evans), two pass rushers (Khalil Mack and Jadeveon Clowney), and three offensive tackles (Greg Robinson, Jake Matthews, and Taylor Lewan) to comprise his exclusive grouping of players.
What does that mean for the St. Louis Rams?
Well, with two Top 15 selections in the 2014 NFL Draft, it is imperative that the Rams snag at least one of these “elite” prospects. Obviously, staying at No.2 overall would guarantee the Rams a shot at one of those seven. However, as pointed out in this week’s Monday Morning Quarterback, Les Snead likes to keep one eye on the “now” and eye on on the future,
“I like to say, you make the best decision long term because the short term is by definition short—it won’t last as long.”
In his first two seasons as the St. Louis Rams general manager, Snead has personified the ideals of a long-term strategist, making numerous trades (including the blockbuster deal for Robert Griffin III) that have put the Rams in the position that they are today; a young, extremely talented roster with multiple first rounders for the second consecutive year. Considering it has been public knowledge since February that Snead and Co. were interested in shopping the No.2 overall pick, it seems highly doubtful that the Rams would maintain their current spot in the Top 2.
So, how low can the St. Louis Rams drop and still snag one of those aforementioned prospects?
ESPN’s Nick Wagoner recently touched on the topic, concluding that ” it’s possible the Rams could move down a little past that seventh spot.” With the shear amount of teams picking in the Top 10 that are in dire need of a quarterback, it would certainly seem logical that at least one quarterback would be taken prior to all seven of Kiper’s elites being selection. Moreover, the needs of some teams will outweigh the urge to snag a “blue chip” prospect, as some roster holes will be too glaring to not fill with top tier talent that might not be in Kiper’s “seven” (i.e. Detroit and their secondary).
The only conceivable way to approximately gauge how low the Rams might be able go is to weed through mock drafts and see how deep these “sensational seven” fall down the draft board. According to CBS Sports’ five-panel mock, the lowest the Rams could conceivably snag one of those player is No.15 overall; where Rob Rang has the Pittsburgh Steelers selecting Taylor Lewan. If St. Louis’ prime target is a receiver, one mocker has Mike Evans as low as No.13, albeit posting that pick prior to the Buccaneers (the No.7 pickers) dismissal of Mike Williams from their roster. If pass rusher is “the guy” for Jeff Fisher, No.7 seems to be the low-point, with one analyst mocking Khalil Mack outside of the Top 5 to Tampa Bay.
There are hundreds of mock drafts out there to help formulate a rough estimate of how far the Rams might be able to trade back and still snag one of Kiper’s seven, “elite” prospects. By staying in the Top 10, St. Louis could almost guarantee one of those players. However, it appears as though maintaining a spot in the Top 13 might be high enough to land someone like Taylor Lewan or Mike Evans.
In all, assuming the Rams are in the market for an offensive lineman, pass rusher, or receiver, it certainly appears as if they’re a “lock” to snag one of the “blue chip” prospects. In fact, with the right cards and enough luck, the Rams could come out of the opening round with two of those “sensation seven.” One could only imagine how Mel Kiper would grade that St. Louis draft…