Yesterday I read an article from my fellow Rams fan ramsrock. In this article there was a breakdown of needs that were argued to be one of the best options for the St. Louis Rams this offseason. As a fan, I loved the article, but wanted to share my points on why we might want to change the draft board just a little.
The upcoming off-season will be one that challenges this organization's front office in a big way. We have a QB who will be rehabbing his way back from surgery, that costs a ton a money, yet has not lived up to the cash. He will be trying to gain confidence in his leg while Les Snead gains confidence in the future of Sam Bradford being with the organization.
We have multiple offensive linemen that will be walking into free agency, yet at present are looking like a world class line. We have a big decision on one of my personal favorites, minus the high horse of judgement, Jo-Lonn Dunbar.
The bottom line is who do we keep, who do we let test the market, who do we let go and who do we get rid of?
We must start with the needs, which will dictate how we move forward and with whom we move forward. The needs and their prioritization are noted below based on my own view. A view I will try my best to convey and convince why this is the best road to take.
1. Safety - This is a position that could use an upgrade which is meant as no disrespect to the players that are there now, but we need a true shutdown safety. I would want us to look into taking someone in the first round at this position. I could be wrong and maybe this season, we see that player of the future on our team growing right now? Yet in our games I feel like although we have been playing good ball, we could sew that position up with none other than HaHa Clinton-Dix. When looking at Walterfootball.com, he is the player that is sitting at the top of the pile right now in ranking. He is a player in every sense of the word. Whether in coverage or roaming the middle of the field freely, he always seems to make his presence known.
If we can't go that route, we know there is a connection between Tim Walton, the city of St. Louis and Jairus Byrd. He will be on the market this season and could be a serious upgrade to anything we have in the stables today. He has familiarity with Tim Walton and his coaching style. He is young enough to still have a peak to hit and also be a mentor to some of the other young guys in that position.
2. Cornerback - Yeah I know, we got plenty of them, good ones, but what about a premier talent to come from behind Cortland Finnegan? Surely we will try to sign Finnegan on a restructured contract and with the CBA that is in place, premier talent is not as expensive as it used to be. I say we lock up another first round talent by trading down, getting more picks and grabbing Loucheiz Purifoy out of Florida towards the bottom of the first round. He's big, he's fast as hell and only needs to be coached up by our staff to become a world class Pro Bowler.
3. Offensive Line - I am actually glad we picked up Barrett Jones like we did last year, I know he hasn't played a snap of regular season ball this season, but I do believe he is a piece for 2014 and beyond. I say we start looking at a lineman in the 3rd round. The staff can get that lineman ready to take Roger Saffold's place as Jim Thomas over at the Post has said multiple times that he does not see him sticking around. Whether it be for money or dissatisfaction, we will need to prepare for the hole he will leave. A free agent is gonna be expensive and my thought on expensive lineman is that they have to be as good as Jake Long for us to sniff at him. We have good depth today and we need to continue to foster that. If David Yankey from Stanford or Zack Martin from Notre Dame are there in the 3rd, we should grab one of them quickly. Big, versatile and tough. That's what these guys are and Coach Boudreau can get these rough diamonds a shining for the season. Believe that!
4. Defensive Tackle - Not mad at our current starters and depth. Good time to grab someone that can benefit from good coaching and become a beast for us. In the 4th round, I am looking at none other than the high motored Bruce Gaston, Purdue. As of early November, 35 tackles, 6.5 tackles for a loss and three sacks. Bringing that in to an already top tier group will only groom him to become one of the best in the league.
5. Quarterback - You knew this was coming right? Let me first start this section by laying what I think of our current QB situation. It's good. Yeah I know there are a lot of Rams fans that will disagree, but if not for an irresponsible season ending hit to Sam Bradford in the Carolina game, I think we easily could either be in the same place we are right now or a far better record. I also feel like Kellen Clemens should be our back up. The reason being is that I can see what is going on at Rams park. What many don't know is that Kellen Clemens was integral in helping the rooks make the transition from college to the pro game in B team practices and practice squad. The guy has a lot of heart and is bringing guys along the right way. So that leads me to wonder, what happened with Austin Davis from 2012 to now? How did an older player who everybody counted out to return this season and some even begged for the Rams to let him go (my hand is raised by the way, come on you did too, don't lie), beat out an up and coming rookie that surpassed Brett Favre's record's from college?!! Don't know and by the time the draft gets here, no one else will if he hasn't shown enough to be kept around. I say let's check out Logan Thomas, Virginia Tech. Big QB that needs work, but could be an even bigger option if Sam does not come back as quickly as we would like. He has accuracy issues and will need to be coached up major as he seems to lead defenses to his options by staring them down. With Sam still our starter, Kellen Clemens behind him and this young man getting polished as number 3 for year one will be the way to go.
6. Tight End - Seeing how the Tight Ends have come along and how one of them has actually morphed into a Full Back (Corey Harkey), we might need to look at an upgrade on that squad. All three guys have done great jobs so far given their skill set and knowledge of the playbook. Yet if any of them goes down, we do lose a major part of our game. Lance Kendricks is an all around TE. He can catch most times, he can pass block and run block. Jared Cook is just an over sized receiver. That is why he was paid the way he was. He can achieve greatness at his position if he could just block. He is getting there. If it were possible, and I doubt that it will be, but if Nick O'Leary of Florida State dropped to the 5th or 6th round, I would want him then. Not a huge guy, but a versatile one that can contribute to the pass and run game if needed.
So there is my take on our needs and their priority. Sure, anyone with a lick of football knowledge can take guesses in the draft and future of a team, but all of us here on Turfshowtimes not only watch football, we study football. A majority of us if not all of us play GM with our fantasy leagues every season and know what a good player looks like. I think these guys would fit in what Les Snead and Jeff Fisher have done so far.
It would be wrong for me to lay out what I think we need without also talking about the areas where I think we are set for some time.
Wide Receiver - Uh huh, I said it. We are ok here. I believe that the second year players that we see doing a little more than last year will truly break out in 2014. We will see Brian Quick make a jump. I know that there has been frustration with his growth in some forums, but I also have to take a step back and check out where we snatched him from. Appalachian State. That is not a criticism of the program or the coaching. It only speaks to the history of players from the program to the pros and how long those players took to get fully acclimated to being in the NFL.
Click this link and tell me in the comments if anyone stands out to you historically? Point made.
Bottom line is that I would say we have almost become a dangerous core by adapting our play to suit our current strengths with receivers blocking better for down field runs and dump offs. I see Stedman Bailey battling for every play he gets the chance to make. I see that Tavon Austin has awakened and Austin Pettis is sacrificing his body for blocking to extend the play. The catches and game changing plays will come from this crew.
Running Back - Yessir, said this one too. We are actually in great shape here. We have "tree-stump of a man" Zac Stacy as our guy taking it down the field, we have Ben Cunningham as his backup and clone, Daryl Richardson the one cuttter, Isaiah Pead the forgotten one and Chase Reynolds of Special Ops. Fans, you may not want to believe it, but we are good.
Linebacker - We should keep Jo-Lonn Dunbar, bring Ray Ray along and maybe bring in a young vet who knows the system to take Will Witherspoon's spot.
Ray-Ray Armstrong Massive HIT no flag St Louis Rams (via Curry Russell)
Defensive End - Man please. Do I really have to even speak on this? Click the link! Riiiiiight.
Special Teams - Our Long Snapper is under contract for a while since he got an extension before the season. Johnny Hekker and Greg Zurlein are beasts at what they do. Shut the door on really doing anything here.
Lastly, any gems on the practice squad that can make a push for the 53 next year? Maybe...
Sammy Brown - hard hitter and good enough to have been stored away on the practice squad.
Justin Veltung - I got the chance to go to a few of the open to the public practices (thanks again Rams organization for that opportunity, real classy!) and this guy has what it takes. He needs some polish on his route running, but it is clear that if Tavon Austin went down and they needed someone to spell him, this could be the guy. Super stupid mad ups on this guy, check the video unless you already know
56' Inch Standing Box Jump- Unversity of Idaho WR/KR- Justin Veltung (via FordSportsPerfromance)
Mason Brodine - I am glad they kept this player around. He is motor and power rolled into a massive body. He made some noticeable plays during preseason. Click the link, this is one of his most memorable from the preseason.
Sean Hooey - Damn that dude is big! 6'9", but skinny at only 295 for a Tackle in the NFL. So they may be fattening him up like the turkeys most of us are eating today.
So we're on the right track, but patience is a virtue for a St. Louis Rams fan nowadays. The last two wins have surely calmed my frustrations, but never my dreams for another St. Louis Super Bowl celebration. Happy Thanksgiving everyone!! Be thankful.