I was inspired by Jared Stanger over at Fieldgulls. Don't judge me.
The 2nd year of Jeff Fisher and Les Snead is on its way and the Rams have plenty of reasons to be excited. The Rams improved upon their 2-14 record this year and are looking to make a playoff push next season. After sitting on pins and needles last year waiting to see how our new coaching staff and front office would handle the draft, this year we have a better understanding of how Snead and Fisher will go about making decisions. We don't have access to the Rams draft board for 2013, but we can make some approximations.
The Rams front office have proven to be risk takers (if you haven't read Doug's piece go do it). Have attitude issues? The Rams will take you. Have a history with drugs? You'll fit right in! The Rams not only threw away the four pillar approach, they tore it up, threw it in the mud, and spat on it. Looking at the lone Fisher/Snead draft, we are able to deduce some semblance of their draft day strategy:
1. The flashy pick may not always be the right pick. The Rams had plenty of opportunities to go flashy in round one in 2012, but chose not to. The Rams traded out instead of drafting RG3. They also passed up on Morris Claiborne, a player hyped as the best corner in the draft. Instead, the Rams elected to select Michael Brockers, a defensive tackle - not exactly the sexiest pick - but Brockers transformed the Rams run defense.
2. If a talented player drops due to off-the-field issues, the Rams are not afraid to take a chance. This topic has been covered at length:
3. Fisher and Snead like players with high ceilings. The Rams 2012 draft was filled with players who were far from their talent ceiling. Coming into the 2012 eason Michael Brockers was deemed a projected with immense upside, Brian Quick was touted as a physical specimen who needed more time to develop, and the same can be said for Rokevious Watkins, Trumaine Johnson, and Isaiah Pead. Gone are the days of the Rams taking players who have peaked in college.
4. The pursuit of a pass rush is never over. Jeff Fisher loves him some pass rush. While defensive end seems to be one the Rams stronger units, if William Hayes exits through free agency, the Rams will be void of any depth. Don't be surprised if the Rams add a defensive end and/or a rush linebacker.
The Current Roster:
The Rams have a few important players potentially entering free agency:
WR Danny Amendola, C Tim Barnes, QB2 Kellen Clemons, LB Rocky McIntosh, LB Mario Haggan, DT Jermelle Cudjo, CB Bradley Fletcher, WR Brandon Gibson,S Craig Dahl, S Darian Stewart, DE William Hayes, HB Steven Jackson (voidable option), RT Barry Richardson, OL Robert Turner, WR Steve Smith, and G Chris Williams.
I am going to use the Tevin Broner model: Which FA's Should The Ram Re-Sign?
Danny Amendola - Danny struggles with staying on the field, but his importance to the Rams offense cannot be denied. He hold more value for the Rams than he would anywhere else. The Rams will do what it takes to retain his services.
William Hayes - Outside of Amendola, William Hayes is the most important Rams free agent. William Hayes was an absolute beast this season. Hayes and the Rams should be able to come to agreeable terms. Hayes has made it clear he wants to stay in St. Louis.
Steven Jackson - Steven Jackson will return to the Rams at a reduced rate. Steven embodies the definition of loyalty. We love you Steven.
Brandon Gibson - While Gibson is certainly not a starting wide receiver in the NFL, he does provide consistency and depth. He will be retained because he is cheap and reliable.
Kellen Clemons - Clemons is cheap and reliable. He also has spent a year in the system.
Robert Turner - Turner wont garner a lot of interest from other teams, so the Rams will keep him as depth for a line that frequents the injured reserve.
Bradley Fletcher - Fletcher will fall victim to the Rams having a wealth of young talent at his position. Have fun on the Saints Fletch.
Barry Richardson - Hell no, get this man off of the Rams.
Darian Stewart - Stewarts inability to beat out Craig Dahl for a starting job is indicting. Stewart is gone.
Justin Cole - Who?
Jermelle Cudjo - Cudjo didn't develop as planned and will not be returning to the Rams.
Chris Williams - Williams was brought in to be a spot-fill for a battered Rams line and still couldn't stay on the field.
Steve Smith - HAHAHAHHAHA NO!
Mario Haggan - No thanks. He was given a chance and didn't do anything with it.
Craig Dahl - ………………………………………
Rocky McIntosh - -8.4 PFF Grade in 456 snaps. No thank you.
Projecting and Conjecting:
After looking at the current roster and the free agents, we can agree on a list of positions of need for the Rams: RT, G, WR, FS, TE, DT, OLB.
I began looking at potential first round picks and Jeff Fisher's draft history and removed the possibility of the Rams taking two offensive lineman in the first round. I also removed WR, and DT from my first round pick considerations due to last years selections and these positions appear to have a deep talent pool. That left me with one slot for an offensive linemen, and SS/FS, TE, and OLB.
While some people want the Rams to go best player available (BPA), I believe that is a farce, and value and need must always play a role. Based off of need, I narrowed my first round targets down to offensive line and safety.
The offensive line prospects, who have the potential to drop to the Rams are Eric Fisher, Chance Warmack, and Jonathan Cooper. With Jake Matthews opting to return to Texas A&M and Taylor Lewan returning to Michigan, all of the potential left tackles who entered this years draft are given a nice little bump. I believe Fisher will be off the board by pick 16 and Jonathan Cooper's value doesn't matchup at pick 16, so Chance Warmack it is. Many believe Chance won't make it to the Rams at 16 - but he's a guard - so there is always a chance.
The instant Chance Warmack gets drafted will be when he becomes the best run blocker on the Rams. Warmack is a difference maker in the run game. He destroys people - just ask Manti Te'o. He would immediately provide a boost to the Rams 19th ranked run offense, which would take some pressure off of Sam and the wideouts and allow for a more effective play-action game. Missing only 6 assignments in 657 snaps, Warmack was nearly flawless in 2012. He also lead Alabama with 36 pancakes. Alabama ended the year averaging 224.6 yards on the ground in part due to Chance Warmack's dominating performances week in and week out.
1st Round Pick 16 - Chance Warmack G Alabama
After selecting an offensive linemen in round 1, and eliminating the possibility for two in the first round, the Rams look to the safety position at pick 22.
This is the best safety class in recent memory. Eric Reid, Kenny Vaccaro, Matt Elam, Tonny Jefferson, Josh Evans and Baccari Rambo headline a class of playmakers. Out of these safeties, I can only foresee two going in the first round: Kenny Vaccaro and Eric Reid.
Reid was LSU's 3rd leading tackler with 91 tackles and also had 7 passes defended. Reid has the size and athleticism to propel himself into the first round. Eric Reid also got a nice boost from all of the draft pundits who habitually steal their rankings from the internet when our very own 3k ranked him atop the 2013 safety class.
Kenny Vaccaro is NationalFootballPost's 7th overall prospect and their first overall safety and I believe he will be available when the Rams select at #22.
Out of the two, the Rams decide to go with Kenny Vaccaro as he comes across as the more complete safety. Vaccaro has good size for the position and displays above average balance and change of direction ability. He has fluid hip movements and is outstanding in zone coverage. Vacarro reads plays well and is rarely found out of position. All of these attributes are going to be coveted by a team who has had to deal with Craig Dahl at safety.
1st Round Pick 22 - Kenny Vaccaro FS Texas
Day two is when the Rams will start taking some chances. The Rams will look to fill the rest of the holes (RT, WR, TE, DT, OLB).
Day two is when the decisions began to get more difficult. The Rams are yet to fill their most pressing need, right tackle, but after the first round, the talent level at tackle begins to level off. Similarly, outside of Tyler Eifert and Zach Ertz, the tight end class lacks a player whose value and draft position would fit for the Rams in the 2nd round. That leaves WR, DT, and OLB. This OLB class lacks star power, but has sufficient depth to allow the Rams took look at more pressing needs in the 2nd. That leaves us with WR.
The wide receiver class also has some interesting options. Quinton Patton, DeAndre Hopkins, Cobi Hamilton, Da'Rick Rogers, and Stedman Bailey all look to be day two picks. If the Rams should look to go WR in the 2nd round, DaRick Rogers would be the perfect compliment to the current Rams WR core.
Da'Rick Rogers is Julio Jones reincarnate. He possesses a rare combination of size, and speed that Jeff Fisher and Les Snead will drool over. Da'Rick Rogers is also a player that will fall down some boards due to off-the-field issues. This guy sounds like a Jeff Fisher selection. He is currently projected as a round 3 selection, but the combine is bound to give his stock a nice bump.
Running back, tight end, defensive tackle, and outside linebacker all contain players who could be viable options in the second round. From Eddie Lacy to Zach Ertz, Jeff Fisher and Les Snead will have playmakers to decide between. However, I think the tantalizing propect of a number 1 WR will be too much for them.
Round 2 Pick 46 - Da'Rick Rogers WR Tennessee Tech
G, FS, and WR are all filled thus far, leaving the Rams with needs at DT, RT, and OLB.
Of the available tackles, there are only three projected to go in round three. Of those three, I see one fitting the Rams better than the others, Oday Aboushi.
Aboushi was named to 2013 Senior Bowl roster, an honor only top seniors in the country receive. I've watched tape of Oday and listened to interviews, he seems to fit the Rams. Oday is one of the most athletic tackle prospects in the 2013 class. He retreats quickly in order to pick up incoming blitzers. Arm length is something that causes a lot of left tackle prospects to drop, but Aboushi's arms so long that he often neglects his technique and uses his arm length as a crutch. Aboushi could use another 10 pounds of muscle to improve his run game at the next level. I believe Aboushi has the skill set to be a reliable right tackle in the NFL, and the potential to move to the left side.
Chris Long's brother, Kyle Long, could also be an option. He is an athletic blocker with great bloodlines. Those two things together could be cause for a rise up draft boards.
Round 3 Pick 78 - Oday Aboushi T Virginia
As the Rams head into day 3, they are looking at two positions specifically: OLB and TE.
The Rams have been known to look in their own backyard for prospects coming out (Greg Zuerlein). Missouri University has a player that could very well be the Rams next homegrown sleeper.
Zaviar Gooden, OLB, for the Missouri Tigers, had a disappointing senior season. Fortunately for Mr. Gooden, he is flush with athletic ability. It has been rumored that he will clock in the 4.4's in the 40. He never had the breakout season people expected of him, but the physical tools are all there. I would love to see what Jeff Fisher could do with someone with his natural ability.
Round 4 Pick 110 - Zaviar Gooden OLB Missouri
TE, DT, and DE are the positions with the biggest need left. Sam Bradford could use a deep threat over the middle, Brockers could use some beef next to him and Quinn and Long need a break every now and then.
The TE's who will be available in the middle rounds all of some deficiencies in their game. The Rams will look to secure a pass catching tight end, seeing as they already have a superb blocking tight end, Lance Kendricks. Brandon Ford of Clemson and Mychal Rivera of Tennessee seem like likely targets.
Brandon Ford is undersized, standing at 6'3 235lbs. Ford uses his body better than his size would indicate and is projected to run in the 4.6's in the 40. Ford would present matchup problems in the passing game, but couldn't be counted on to win one on one battles when run blocking.
Mychal Rivera is slightly undersized as well. Rivera is 6'3 and 244lbs. He comes in as NationalFootballPost.Com's 4th ranked TE. Rivera possesses good hands, speed and route running ability. He could use some strength to help improve his run blocking ability.
Out of the two TE's, Rivera is the better down the field threat and will be the player the Rams take a chance on. He has some weaknesses, but Sam Bradford desperately needs someone who can attack the deep middle of the field and Rivera can be that player.
Round 5 Pick 142 - Mychal Rivera TE Tennessee
Going into the final two rounds of the draft, the Rams are looking for players who can add some depth at their position. The Rams are still searching for depth at DT, DE, S, and RB.
The Rams will go back to their formula of drafting players who have talent but dropped due to off-the-field issues.
Montori Hughes a DT from Tennessee-Martin is a monster of a man. Montori is a true nose tackle weighing in at 327 lbs. However, his character concerns have killed his draft stock - Hughes was dismissed from the Tennessee Volunteer's football program. Montori Hughes comes with a ton of baggage. His effort was constantly in question. This would be a high risk, high reward selection.
Adding a player such as Montori, could help the Rams solidify the inside of the defensive line and offer relief to Robert Quinn and Chris Long on the outside. Hughes ended his 2012 season with 8.5 tackles for a loss and 4 sacks.
Round 6 Pick 174 - Montori Hughes DT Tennessee-Martin
In the 7th round in 2012 the Rams took a shot on a small school prospect with some playmaking ability, Daryl Richardson. The Rams will go down a similar path in 2013.
Malcolm Bronson is an electrifying safety out of McNeese State. Bronson has elite speed. He was elected to three straight years of first-team All-Southland honors. I expect people to start hearing his name more once the combine rolls around in February. Bronson would join the Rams and immediately challenge for playing time and would be a fit on special teams. With the Rams letting Craig Dahl and Darian Stewart go, a void in depth was left at the safety position. Drafting Vacarro and Bronson would go a long way in filling that void.
Round 7 Pick 206 - Malcolm Bronson S McNeese State
1 - G Chance Warmack
1 - FS Kenny Vacarro
2 - WR Da'Rick Rogers
3 - LT Oday Aboushi
4 - OLB Zaviar Gooden
5 - TE Mychal Rivera
6 - DT Montori Hughes
7 - S Malcolm Bronson
There you have it, my idealistic, unrealistic, never-gonna-happen mock draft!