EARTH CITY, Mo. -- The Los Angeles Rams once again find themselves in a sort of no man's land when it comes to quarterbacks and the NFL draft.
After a 7-9 campaign in 2015, the Rams continued their tradition of being not quite good enough to turn the corner and make the playoffs but not quite bad enough to put themselves in position to draft a franchise signal-caller.
So it is that they head to this week's scouting combine in Indianapolis with the 15th overall pick and no guarantees that they can land the top quarterback they so desperately need. That's not to say they can't find one at No. 15 or even later as there are plenty of examples of successful quarterbacks drafted outside the top five.
But in looking at this year's draft, there doesn't appear to be a Jameis Winston or Marcus Mariota available. And while players like Cal's Jared Goff and North Dakota State's Carson Wentz could go in the top 10 or even the top five, neither player is thought to be the level of prospect of either of last year's top two choices.
Which means that drafting 15th will likely leave the Rams with little in the way of a solution to their quarterback quandary unless they choose to chase a prospect who might not be ready to play right away.
ESPN draft analyst Mel Kiper Jr. recently released his second mock draft and decided to send Mississippi receiver Laquon Treadwell to Los Angeles instead of Memphis quarterback Paxton Lynch, the player he chose for the Rams in his first edition. In fact, Kiper dropped Lynch out of his first round altogether.
"I had Paxton Lynch there," Kiper said. "That would be the pick that would make sense if you want to develop a quarterback. If you have somebody that you're OK with -- Paxton Lynch is not going to be ready right away -- and you would be better to watch for a little bit. I think if you look at Treadwell, if he runs a good 40, he could go the top 10. I put him at 15 to be conservative knowing that speed is not his forte, but he's a great player. So if you get Treadwell then you could maybe come back and there's some second-round quarterbacks who could be intriguing."
Kiper's opinion that Lynch could take some time to get up to speed is not singular. The book on Lynch is that he has all the physical tools to succeed but he's coming from an offense that didn't ask him to make NFL progressions or push the ball downfield with any regularity. While still intrigued, Kiper currently views Lynch as a better option for a team early in the second round or late in the first.
But Lynch isn't the only prospect who could be available at that time. He lists Michigan State's Connor Cook, Penn State's Christian Hackenberg and Mississippi State's Dak Prescott as other potential second-round options.
The Rams have two second-round picks, so it's possible one or more of those players could be available or, if the Rams wanted to ensure they had their pick of the litter, they'd be well positioned to package those picks to move up to get the guy they want.
"And who is to say Lynch couldn't be an early two?" Kiper said. "I didn't think Derek Carr would be an early two when he got drafted. Andy Dalton, a lot of people had him in the first round, early second. I look at which quarterback could be a viable second-round pick and I just gave you several."
Kiper even sees value at quarterback beyond the first two rounds, perhaps more so than in other years.
"You're looking at middle-round guys that are intriguing, would be guys like Brandon Allen from Arkansas would be a nice pick at that point," Kiper said. "Vernon Adams from Oregon. Jacoby Brissett [of] NC State, Cardale Jones [of] Ohio State. So there's going to be a lot of guys in play, I think, in that fourth-, fifth-round area this year, and like I said, there's going to be three or four that have the ability to be second-round picks."