Rams reach for South Carolina LB Ernest Jones in Mel Kiper’s 2-round mock draft

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Cameron DaSilva
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There are a lot of different directions the Los Angeles Rams could go in the second round of the draft this year, depending on who’s available at No. 57. They need help at center, cornerback, inside linebacker and edge rusher, with any of those positions being targets in Round 2.

In Mel Kiper Jr.’s latest mock draft for ESPN, he goes two rounds deep and sends the Rams a potential starter at linebacker. Kiper projected South Carolina LB Ernest Jones to the Rams at No. 57 overall, a new name for Los Angeles in mock drafts.

Here’s what Kiper wrote about the pick, acknowledging the team’s needs at center, cornerback and wideout.

This makes back-to-back teams that don’t have a first-round pick, as the Rams’ was used in the trade for Jalen Ramsey. L.A. has needs at center, corner and receiver, but I’m focusing on linebacker, where Jones could play one of the inside spots. He’s a tackling machine with long arms and the instincts to quickly diagnose at the snap. He had two games last season with 18-plus tackles.

The Rams are looking closely at wide receivers in the draft despite having four starting-caliber players already on the roster. They’re likely to draft a wideout at some point, but it’s not nearly as pressing of a need as linebacker.

Jones is a surprising pick, though. Kiper doesn’t have Jabril Cox, Baron Browning, Chazz Surratt, Pete Werner or Monty Rice going in his two-round mock, despite all of them being considered better prospects by most analysts.

Dane Brugler of The Athletic has Jones ranked 17th among all inside linebackers, giving him a 5th-6th round grade. Jones ran a 4.71 in the 40, so he’s not the fastest or rangiest linebacker, but he’s a tackling machine and did a nice job getting off blocks and making stops on ball carriers.

The Rams would probably be better off with a player like Cox or Werner, but Jones would help improve the run defense.

List

9 ILB prospects the Rams could target in the 2021 NFL draft