Coming off my less than herald-ed draft trade in the big Mock Draft this past weekend, I'm a bit hesitant to offer an opinion on the Rams potential position needs... Just kidding! I will never cower from offering my
suspect, flawed, intellectually renowned prowess when it comes to NFL Draft talent.
I'll start this off by saying the dream pick for roughly 422% of Rams fans won't be there at #16, in the first round of the NFL Draft. Yup, Tavon Austin has his draft "mojo" set on high, and I seriously doubt he's going to last beyond pick #10. All the offensive linemen the Rams could possibly covet - Joeckle, Fisher, Johnson, Warmack and Cooper - should be posing with Goodell on stage at the Radio City Music Hall, long before pick #16 happens too. No, really! So based on my perfect record of draft pick predictions - 0 for 1.2 ka-jillion - I can safely say two things. First, just because the package that just arrived from the TST's Rams war room is ticking, it doesn't mean it's not a signed Justin King jersey, given as a "thank you" for all my help in "The Trade". Second, I think it's time for Rams fans to think about other positions of need.
In a recent article by CBS Sports' Mike Freeman, he cites a team executive source as saying this draft may be "the worst draft class in 10 to 12 years, or longer..." While I'm not sure I agree totally, I do think this draft reminds me of the 2009 NFL Draft. It doesn't take a rocket scientist to see the rather steep drop off in "star quality" talent after the top five or six pick prospects. NFL fans cringe at the phrase "Best Player Available", but this draft will be all about it, and not franchise changing talents like RGIII and Andrew Luck from only a year ago. This class has a crowd of "potential/high-ceiling" players. It's going to be a gambler's NFL Draft, with the Cordarrelle Patterson-s, Bjoern Werner-s and Geno Smith-s skewing the odds more than just a little.
If I look at the draft class, I think defensive tackle and safety are the deepest. Sharrif Floyd and Star Lotutelei head a stud class at their position, which will offer talent deep into the late rounds of this draft. Floyd and Lotutelei are gold, pure and simple. Sheldon Richardson has the tools, but he's just outside the "best bet" range, as is Sylvester Williams, though he's rising fast up many Mock draft boards.
I'm not even going to touch the safety class here. It's been pounded into everyone already, with an ethereal battle existing between Kenny Vacarro, Jonathan Cyprien and Matt Elam. Based on the depth of the safety position, I'm not a fan of using a first round pick on this position. There is safety depth all the way through the 4th round in this draft.
Another position the Rams need to address, is an outside linebacker/ defensive end hybrid. Dion Jordan is in a class by himself on every draft board. Barkevious Mingo and Jarvis Jones are next in this group, and both have question marks. Mingo may have the "Aaron Maybin boom or bust factor" sewn up in this draft. He's an athlete, with question marks about attitude. As a pure pass rusher, he may do well at the NFL level. Yet, if he's considered a first round pick, it's a high price tag to pay for a one or two down player. Jones' medicals are a coin flip, and why I llllllove doctors so much: Spinal Stenosis, no Spinal Stenosis... Just how hard is it to read an MRI, anyway?
As hard as it may be to read, I'm going to give you my four choices - without blaming DC or dbcouver - for the Rams #16 and #22 picks. I base these picks on the above surmises, so bare with me...
At #16, the St. Louis Rams select: Sheldon Richardson, DT, Missouri, or Xavier Rhodes, CB, FSU.
Close those agape mouths, and stop shaking your heads. The Rams have two needs, and both these players fit the bill. First, Richardson provided both depth and starter quality at defensive tackle. While some may hold William Hayes and Jermelle Cudjo as the swing players for the Rams Kendall Langford at DT, Richardson provides a step up in class. Haye's had a great 2012 campaign, but he's just not big enough to hold the interior of the defensive line. The DT/DE gap last season was a weak spot early in the season. Brockers was a fantastic pick last year, but there's a genuine need to his left, especially in the NFC West where R/O quarterbacks in San Francisco and Seattle will attack the DT/DE gap more often.
Rhodes is a different rational, but the pick holds true to need. With Trumaine Johnson's DUI, and possible league penalty coming his way (4 game suspension if he's found guilty?), and Cortland Finnegan being 29 years old, Rhodes provides a key piece to a long term puzzle. At 6'2, 210 lbs., and 33 3/4 arm length, he's a prototypical NFC West corner back. This is a solid kid, who may not make it to #16, but I'm buying if he's there. The Rams have to have more quality depth at corner back than Finnegan, Jenkins and Johnson going into the 2013 season.
At #22, the St. Louis Rams - Are you ready to scream? - select: Jonathan Cooper, OG, UNC, or DeAndre Hopkins, WR, Clemson.
Before you scroll back up to see where I said Cooper would be long gone, remember what happened in 2012, 2011, and 2010. At least ONE highly touted offensive lineman slipped down into the high 20s. Last year, David DeCastro - widely held as the best all round talent in the 2012 draft (see: Warmack, 2013) - slipped to #24. It was the same in earlier years, with guys like Gabe Carimi slipping out of the top 20 prospects on draft day in 2011. It happens every year as far as I can tell, and this year I think it'll be Cooper. He fills a great need, so this would be a no-brainer.
DeAndre Hopkins is a popular pick here, and though that may be, I rank him 4th among the preceding picks I've made. Yes, he's got the style, skills and size - 6'1", 214lbs, 33 3/8 arm length, plus ginormous hands (10 inches! Luke Joeckle has 10 1/8 inch hands). His 40 yard dash time at the NFL Combine wasn't awe inspiring , but Hopkin's game speed will impress. He's a game changer, with a great portfolio of moves to bring with him to the NFL, and a good football mind to boot. But every wide receiver is a risk, so substituting Keenan Allen or Robert Woods here wouldn't hurt my feelings. I do think Hopkins' ceiling is higher than those I mentioned. He has a very high "boom" factor, with less "bust" worries than some may think.
Bonus Prediction: The 2013 Da'Quan Bowers Award winner for sliding most on draft day: Alec Ogletree, LB, Georgia - Early to middle 2nd round.
So... I hope you'll take this, not so much as another evidence that I'm bonkers, as an opportunity to expand your draft day considerations. Few Mock Drafts get things right, and the only immutable fact about the draft I know is: I'll be wrong. By the way, the package I mentioned earlier is still ticking...