The Los Angeles Rams needs entering the 2017 NFL Draft are many, with ESPN guru Mel Kiper Jr. still clinging to the offensive line as the recommended choices for their first selection.
The Rams’ first pick won’t take place until April 28 in the second round (No. 37 overall), thanks to their 2016 trade to move up to the No. 1 spot to take quarterback Jared Goff.
Kiper stressed (ESPN Insider subscription required) the necessity for Los Angeles to make a selection with its first pick that won’t end up a bust. It is there that he names Troy offensive tackle Antonio Garcia as the selection. Kiper then predicts the Rams will go with Alabama wide receiver ArDarius Stewart in the third round with the 69th overall pick.
With no first-round pick (traded to the Titans in last year’s Jared Goff deal), a new coach and several holes on their roster, the Rams needs mandate that they must hit on their first pick. Adding to the offensive line could be the safest bet here. Los Angeles brought in Andrew Whitworth and John Sullivan as short-term solutions at left tackle and center, respectively, after giving up the second-most sacks in the league (49) last season, but this is still a need. Garcia started 42 games on the left side in college, and I think he could start at tackle immediately in the NFL. Stewart, my eighth-ranked receiver, is undersized (5-foot-11, 204 pounds), but he’s an all-around player and willing blocker.
Ironically, ESPN’s own internal evaluation (subscription) on Garcia, which is different than Kiper’s, says that Garcia’s only exceptional trait is his production. He received an above-average grade for his pass-blocking but was rated average in four areas (run-blocking, toughness, height-weight-speed and durability).
Garcia was ranked below average in awareness and intangibles. And as the Rams already have seen with OT Greg Robinson (the No. 2 overall pick in 2014), no guarantees exist that selecting an offensive lineman is a safe choice high in the draft.
Stewart, who had 54 receptions for 864 yards and eight touchdowns last year for Alabama, lacks the stats of a No. 1 receiver that the Rams crave. But if they’re picking in the third round, they shouldn’t expect a top-tier talent, unless there is baggage that comes along with it.
At this point, the Rams needs are such that they may have to take a flier on a player whose stock has fallen because of off-the-field issues—as long as the team’s evaluations do their due diligence on the prospect to calm any fears over red flags.