Being from upstate NY, fellow Rams fans are few and far between - so it is a welcome sight to find a community of such avid followers of a franchise which has endured such ridicule over the past few years. That being said, here are my thoughts on a draft that has the potential to spring the Rams into the national spotlight - given that they are operating in a situation in which all but one of their FA's are retained this offseason.
Round 1, Pick 16: Chance Warmack - G - Alabama
Gimme the big hunk of southern lovin' that is Chance Warmack. With Joeckel and Lewan gone somewhere before the 16th pick, Warmack is the next best option as well as the top rated guard in the draft. We're one monster figure away from having a top 10 offensive line (we were 19th this year in Rush yds/game) and the addition of Warmack will provide a plug n' play option for Jeff Fisher. Moving a versatile Rob Turner to the bench will provide depth for a team who has struggled with O-Line injuries for a decade.
Round 1, Pick 21(ish): Eric Reid - S - LSU
For those of you who watched the Rams defense blossom into something they could be proud of this year, there was always one glaring inefficiency that caused costly hiccups in an otherwise competitive gameplan. Luckily for us fans - this inefficiency, Craig Dahl, is a Free Agent this offseason. The upgrade from Dahl comes in the form of Eric Reid. He may not be the best cover guy on the planet, but my god does this kid love to hit - something I never found myself saying about Mr. Dahl. Put him at SS from day 1, and you have a formidable secondary of Finnegan, Mikell, Reid, and Jenkins. Character issues? Enter Jeff Fisher - who has shown that said issues will not be tolerated (see the suspension of Givens and Jenkins for a game). Still not sold on Reid? Watch this and tell me you don't want him on your football team.
Round 2, Pick 48: Zach Ertz - TE - Stanford
I will use this opportunity to share my thoughts on the pass catchers for the Rams as a whole. I operate under the philosophy that the WR need in St. Louis has been diminished to no more than a thought in the stubborn minds of those who will forever have the expectations of a receiving corps reminiscent of the fantastic trio that was Holt, Bruce, and Az Zahir Hakim. Yes, our wideouts need work, but they need to be given a chance to gel as a unit. With veterans (a term which, for the rams, qualifies as a player with only a few years of NFL experience) like Amendola and Gibson who you know will produce and provide a comforting sight for Bradford as well as our wily second year spark plug in Givens, the 'core of our corps' if you will, is set in place - hopefully for years to come. Then you have Brian Quick, a developing guy with Dez Bryant like size & speed, and Austin Pettis, a great route runner and red-zone threat who flashed greatness at times this year; (see 3rd & 7 catch in Buffalo that kept the drive and the Rams' hopes of winning alive). The Rams already have an established TE in Lance Kendricks who has shown undeniable chemistry with Bradford in his first 3 seasons as well as ample improvement in run-blocking. But in today's NFL, a two tight end system has been shown to work wonders for teams, *cough cough New England*. The 6'6" Ertz gives the Rams another weapon on offense without disrupting the development of our WR's. Our red zone offense was near the bottom of the league - again - scoring TD's on only 50% of our trips inside the 25. Ertz gives them the opportunity to massively improve this stat and will have Bradford licking his lips. Oh yeah, did i mention he's a Stanford guy? No problem learning the Brian Schottenheimer offense.
Round 3, Pick 80: Montee Ball - RB - Wisconsin
Where Daryl Richardson and Isaiah Pead are the Lightning for the Rams of the future, Montee Ball will be the thunder. This pick will set the stage for the post-Jackson era Rams giving them one of the most productive backfields in the NFL. Can't go wrong with picking a guy who scored more TD's than anyone in the history of college football.
Round 4, Pick 112: Everett Dawkins - DT - Florida St
Defensive Line was the most improved unit for the Rams this year in my mind. The Rams had 52 sacks in 2012 which tied the Broncos for most in the league. 80% of these sacks came from the D-Line. Kendall Langford and Michael Brockers have done an exceptional job for the Rams and adding Dawkins will not only continue the improvement but add much needed depth for a team that could prove to have a top 10 defense in the NFL for years to come. I'm sure Laurinaitis wouldn't mind having the 6'2" 304lb Dawkins plugging holes in front of him.
Round 5, Pick 144: Brandon Jenkins - OLB - Florida St
The Rams take back-to-back Florida St. guys here and get a steal in the 5th round with drafting Jenkins. The only reason he isn't off the board in the 2nd or 3rd round is because of concerns over a broken foot which kept him out for almost all of the 2012 season. Jenkins will bring a much needed nose for sacking the QB to the Rams D, racking up 25 sacks in two seasons under Jimbo Fisher. To put that in perspective, Rams linebackers altogether had only 10 sacks this season. Jenkins will bolster a unit that includes the quarterback of the Rams defense in James Laurinaitis as well as Jo-Lonn Dunbar, a newcomer that has flourished in St. Louis. Jenkins will fight for playing time with current-starter, Rocky McIntosh. Competition breeds success, eh?
Round 6, Pick 176: Omoregie Uzzi - G - Georgia Tech
A three-year starter for the Yellow Jackets and 2-time first team All-ACC pick. For a Jeff Fisher team who has begun to develop an identity as a running-oriented squad, who better to take than a guy who has been a cog in the O-Line for the past three years on a team who runs the ball more than any other in college football. Did I mention he's 6'3" 300lbs and runs a sub five-second 40? Depth and potential wrapped up into one pick.
Round 7, Pick 208: Ace Sanders - WR/KR - South Carolina
This kid is explosive. Period. He sits 3rd in the NCAA with an average of 15 yds per punt return and had a ridiculous TD bringing a punt back against Missouri this season. (see here). We know Amendola has had his fair share of injuries so why continue to leave him back there vulnerable to getting popped? Continuing with Amendola, I believe the Rams' success is directly correlated to the amount of time he spends healthy and in the slot, readily converting 3rd downs of any distance. Before his injury in week 6, he was on pace to go over 100 receptions and 1,000 yards on the year. Keeping him healthy should be a priority for Jeff Fisher, which can be easily done with the addition of Sanders and the exclusion of Amendola from punt/kick return duties. Steve Spurrier called this kid's return abilities "special" and he knows a thing or two about football. Finally, for you fans out there under the belief that the Rams are still desperate for Receiver help, Sanders provides shiftyness and speed at the position when he isn't busy being a stud on special teams.
Round 7, Pick 240: Michael Mauti - LB - Penn State
Happy Valley, PA was anything but happy this past summer when the NCAA handed down unprecedented sanctions on the football program in the wake of the Sandusky scandal. Enter Mauti, the physical and emotional leader for the Nittany Lions. Mauti held together a group of guys under Bill O'Brien who could've just as easily left the program for greener pastures. Mauti's draft status is questionable at this juncture, as he tore his ACL in a game against Indiana on November 17th. Despite this, he still was named a Butkus Award semifinalist (the nations top Linebacker) and provided 95 tackles for Linebacker U. Mauti brings a stand-up character guy to the Rams defense and a born leader that will provide depth for the linebacking corps.
Thanks for reading. Please comment with any concerns/changes that you guys have.