As the season heads toward its end, NFL fans will begin to fix there sights on positions they absolutely know their favorite teams need to improve. They begin to caucus with other like minded fans, and come up with what they'd like to see happen in the 2013 NFL Draft, and invariably they'll be wrong. I, on the other hand, will be incredibly, pathetically - down right woefully - wrong. But that won't stop me from writing a Mock Draft, now will it?
If I had to pick a Rams fan "Party", I'd have to say I'm in the dbcouver camp. Historically, the Rams have had great offensive linemen, or at least they did before Orlando Pace left. After that time, linemen became an after thought, or at least lower on the draft food chain The Rams ability to judge linemen talent waned too, so I'll call this the "Greco-Incognito-Smith era".The coaches who came and went through what seemed like a revolving door at Rams Park would start building a team the next coach up didn't want to continue. Around this time, they began to believe offensive linemen could be found just about anywhere too.
Free agents were signed to big money, but the Rams specialized in finding players who'd never play well again. Whether its the Jacob Bell-s of 2010, the Jason Brown-s of 2011, or the make shift-s of 2012, they all contributed to Sam Bradford being on pace for being sacked over 100 times in his three year career by the end of this season.
BUT... There's always a "but" - or complication - in our best laid plans, and in 2013 it will take the form of "Best Player Available". This draft doesn't have an Andrew Luck, RGIII, or any supremely talented player who could be labeled a "franchise player". It's not that this next draft lacks talent. In fact, this may be one of the strongest offensive lineman drafts in recent memory, and the number of defensive skill-position players is impressive too. The only player I see who could cause teams to move up to get him is Luke Joeckel, the outstanding left tackle from Texas A&M. In other words, I don't see a whole lot of trading of picks in the first round in the 2013 NFL Draft. This is a "position upgrade" draft, and the new CBA may drive choices more than many will think possible.
The Collective Bargaining Agreement signed prior to the 2011 season has taken some time to evaluate by NFL front offices. In fact, I think we'll see an enormous amount of veteran players in contract years being released. The free agent market is going to be crowded with 5 to 8 year veterans, many of whom were starters this year. Economic forces will whirl, and the prices for free agents will begin to tip downward simply because the supply will outpace demand and salary cap space. Draft picks cost less to sign now, especially in the first round. The St. Louis Rams C.O.O. Kevin Demoff hinted at how payroll planning is key now more than ever. Should I continue to babble on about my ill conceived notions of how the NFL works?
This is where you say something along the line of: "Doug! Put the Cheetos down and hop in the Yugo. We need you in New York City by the end April 2013, and if you leave now you might make it!" Well calm your hearts my fellow Rams fans, because your favorite, fearless, wise, and damn good looking Editor is ready! No, I'm not talking about Eric Nagel or VT...
Based on the Rams win/loss record so far this year - and the dismal performance against the New York Jets - I'll add in a projected record for the Rams: 5 -11. Ouch, right? But the Jets game tells me the best case scenario right now doesn't have much "best" about it..
I'm going to project the following for the 2013 NFL Draft order:
#1 - Kansas City Chiefs
#2 - Jacksonville
#3 - Carolina
#4 - Oakland
#5 - Cleveland
#6 - Buffalo
#7 - Philadelphia
#8 - Arizona
#9 - Tenessee
#10 - St. Louis Rams
#11 - San Diego
#12 - New York Jets
#13 - Miami
#14 - Detroit
#15 - Minnesota
#16 - Dallas
#17 - Pittsburgh
#18 - St. Louis (Via Washington)
#19 - Indianapolis
#20 - Cincinnati
#21 - Tampa Bay
#22 - Seattle
#23 - New Orleans
#24 - New York Giants
#25 - Chicago
#26 - Baltimore
#27 - Houston
#28 - Green Bay
#29 - Denver
#30 - Atlanta
#31 - New England
#32 - San Francisco
Based on the pick positions, I doubt the Rams can get two top-notch tackles in this draft. Alabama guard Chance Warmack would be a decent choice, but he's projected to be one of the top three offensive linemen in the 2013 Draft. Another thing to consider is the two linemen I most covet are juniors: Luke Joeckel and Jake Matthews. If either of these two decides to return for their senior year at Texas A&M, the draft board for linemen will shift quite a bit.
While I've confessed to being a dbcouver-ite - wanting offensive linemen above all else - the nature of this draft will create the need for accepting it won't happen the way I desire. Every year, there seems to be those who won't waver in their wants, and when they fail to materialize these same people forecast gloom and pending disaster because their "perfect train of thought" wasn't followed (see: Justin Blackmon-ites 2012). I mentioned earlier that this draft - in my opinion - is a "best player available" class. So I'll have to take my list of positions I think the Rams need, and shop accordingly. Here's my needs list in the order of importance for the Rams as I see it: 1 - Offensive tackle, 2 - offensive guard, 3 - Safety, 4 - hybrid DE/OLB, 5 - Tight end, 6 - wide receiver.
Given the likely pick position for the Rams, I doubt Joeckel or Warmack will be available. I'll need to consider if taking the second or third best player at the tackle or guard position is the best use of my picks. Remember, these picks - and the choices in 2014 - will more than likely set the future of the Rams for the next decade. I honestly can't recall a Rams draft where the pressure to hit on picks was higher.
Michigan tackle Taylor Lewan will be there at #10, but is he worth this high of a pick? If I go DE/OLB, Jarvis Jones could be there. I think he'll be this draft's Da'Quan Bowers, and his stock will plummet at the NFL Combine due to medical worries. Jones started out his college career at USC, but the medical staff refused to clear him due to spinal stenosis - a narrowing of the spinal column. While Georgia cleared him to play, I'm not sure many in the newly safety conscious NFL will gamble on a condition that could worsen with age. Jones is out for me, so who's next?
If the pressure for the Rams two first round picks is as high as I think it is, should I remove any player with a recent medical condition? If so, Cal wide receiver Keenan Allen posterior cruciate ligament tear will need close examination. There are definitely quite a few "if-s" in this draft.
With the #10 pick, if Barkevious Mingo is there (and Joeckel and Warmack are long gone), I'd have to take the LSU standout DE/OLB. He'd help to finish the Rams defense by adding both a pass rushing threat and a great run defender. If he's not there, I'd have to consider taking either Texas safety Kenny Vaccaro or Tennessee wide receiver Justin Hunter. If this is in fact a "BPA" draft, both these players would be a solid upgrade at their positions.
The #18 pick would be the most interesting pick, and it would allow some latitude. If Lewan is available here, I'd take him in a heart beat. But if he isn't, I may try to trade down with the two team who have double picks in the second round: Miami and San Francisco. While it's a long shot the Rams would trade with a division rival, Miami may have gotten over the Jeff Fisher slight. I really don't think either team will want to trade though. The 49ers could trade to move up into the top 15 picks for Kenny Vacarro, since they may need an affordable replacement if Dashon Goldson leaves in free agency.
Assuming I can't make a decent trade down, my choice at #18 in order would be: Lewan (OT), Eifert (TE), Eric Reid (S), Barrett Jones (C-OG-OT).
There's no telling how much salary cap space the Rams will have next season. With Danny Amendola, Steven Jackson, Bradley Fletcher, Robert Turner all being free agents at the end of this season, the ability to shop for another veteran player or two may be limited. If the money could be found after signing the aforementioned, there is one free agent the Rams should seriously think about, and you'll think I'm nuts... His name is Wes Welker, and I don't think the Patriots are going to resign him.
I think it's time we notice a few things about Sam Bradford. One thing that stands out is his preference for lightning quick, sure handed receivers. We have to get over the "tall receiver" mindset as being necessary for Bradford to succeed. For those who think the Rams can't use another slot receiver, consider how many times Amendola has split wide this year versus being in "the slot". Imagine for a second what it would be like to have Amendola and Welker buzzing around opponents secondaries to the left and right of Bradford. I'm just sayin...
If you'd like to check out the enormous amount of possible free agents in 2013, here you go!
So who would you take if the Rams pick at #10 and #18? Give me your best guesses in the thread. I'm going to take the best picks based on the reason you picked them and create an article based on them.