Yeah, it's that time of year when we start seeing mock drafts and big boards. I've even made a few mocks myself using my own big board. But let's take a look at the bigger picture, who needs to go, who needs to stay, who needs to be brought in and who needs to be drafted. Buckle up 'cause you're about to be hit with some premium high-octane knowledge.
Watching the Cap:
Heading into the offseason the Ram's have the lowest available cap space in the NFL ($17,718) but will recieve another $18 million in space from lower cap hits on Laurinaitis and Finnegan as well as dead money off the books. On the other hand, there will be around $17 million in cap hit increases from Bradford, both Long's, Cook, and Dahl. So the Ram's will be pretty strapped for cash unless adjustments are made.
Trimming the Fat:
Snead and Fisher have brought in veterans in the last 2 years to help lead this young squad, but unfortunately most aren't worth the money they're being paid. Long has performed well at Left Tackle and Dahl has been solid, but not great. Meanwhile, Finnegan and Wells look like shells of their former selves. Here's some cuts that would help the cap problem:
1. Scott Wells, $4.5 million - Wells' has been decent but not worth the money. In his absence, the undrafted free agent Tim Barnes has played promisingly and there's still question marks surrounding Barrett Jones. Either way there wouldn't be much of a difference in production.
2. Cortland Finnegan, $7 million - I saw the logic in signing him and I was in love with the pick up at the time. Unfortunately, Finnegan has been a non-factor in 2013 which makes him expendable. It made sense to put a veteran amongst young corners like Jenkins and Johnson but now that merit is irrelevant.
3. Harvey Dahl, $4 million - I like Dahl, I really do. I feel he's a solid guard that has helped this offensive line. But he'll be another year older and Saffold has played like a pro-bowler since moved inside. There's enough talent in the draft that he can be replaced.
4. Kendall Langford, $4 million - Once again, another guy who's been solid but not worth the money. Throughout the year he's been interchangeable with William Hayes and we can get the same production for cheaper in the 2-4th rounds of the draft.
That'd give us around $20 million in cap space to work with. Around $7 million will have to be used to sign the draft class, leaving the Rams with $13 million to sign some impact free agents and resign Saffold. Let's take a look at who's available in 2014.
With Saffold resigned to play guard, enough cap space will be available to haul in a veteran receiver. Here's who will be available come 2014...
2. Anquan Boldin - A big body possession reciever that proved he can still play at 33 years old. The Ram's haven't had a big body possession guy in a while and he could take some heat off Tavon Austin. Meanwhile, Boldin is an older reciever who wouldn't be around for too long.
3. Jeremy Maclin - The home town kid. When he's on the field he's electric. Unfortunately for him he's blown out both knees and there are questions about his ability to perform. With his injury in a contract year the Ram's can bring the Kirkwood kid home for a bargain.
4. Eric Decker - My favorite of the bunch. Measuring in at 6'3" 216lbs, Decker is a threat at all levels of the field. At only 26 years old he could be a staple of the Ram's receiving core for years to come. He'd probably pull a hefty price tag but would most certainly be worth it.
I dont see the Ram's signing Nicks but it's very likely that a play will be made for Boldin, Maclin, or Decker.
Now we get to the fun stuff. Still reaping rewards from the RGIII trade, the Ram's are in a prime position to trade back again and acquire more picks. Holes to fill include S, DT, OL, CB and possibly WR. A back-up QB wouldn't hurt either. Here's my big board for the positions we need:
1. AJ McCarron, Alabama - 2-3rd
2. Zach Mettenberger, LSU - 3-4th
3. Aaron Murray, Georgia - 5th
4. Stephen Morris, Miami - 5-6th
5. Logan Thomas, Virginia Tech - 6-7th
6. Tom Savage, Pittsburgh - 7th-FA
1. Sammy Watkins, Clemson - 1st
2. Marqise Lee, USC - 1st
3. Mike Evans, Texas A&M - 1st
4. Jordan Matthews, Vanderbilt - 1-2nd
5. Donte Moncrief, Ole Miss - 2-3rd
6. Kelvin Benjamin, Florida State - 3rd
7. Mike Davis, Texas - 3-4th
8. DeVante Parker, Louisville - 4th
1. Jake Matthews, Texas A&M - 1st
2. Taylor Lewan, Michigan - 1st
3. James Hurst, UNC - 2-3rd
4. Morgan Moses, Virginia - 2-3rd
5. Seantrel Henderson, Miami - 3rd
6. JuWaun James, Tennessee - 3rd
1. David Yankey, Stanford - 1-2nd
2. Cyril Richardson, Baylor - 1-2nd
3. Gabe Jackson, Mississipi State - 2nd
4. Zach Martin, Notre Dame - 2-3rd
5. Anthony Steen, Alabana - 3-4th
6. Ryan Groy, Wisconsin - 5-6th
1. Louis Nix III, Notre Dame - 1st
2. Timmy Jernigan, Florida State - 2nd
3. Ego Ferguson, LSU - 2nd
4. Anthony Johnson, LSU - 2-3rd
5. Dan McCullers, Tennessee - 3-4th
1. Darqueze Dennard, Michigan State - 1st
2. Justin Gilbert, Oklahoma State - 1-2nd
3. Jason Verrett, TCU - 1-2nd
4. Louichez Purifoy, Florida - 2-3rd
5. E.J. Gaines, Missouri - 2-3rd
6. Aaron Colvin, Oklahoma - 3rd
7. Marcus Roberson - 3rd
8. Deion Belue, Alabama - 5-6th
1. HaHa Clinton-Dix, Alabama - 1st
2. Calvin Pryor, Louisville - 2-3rd
3. Ahmad Dixon, Baylor - 2-3rd
4. Terrence Brooks, Florida State - 3rd
5. Ty Zimmerman, Kansas State - 3-4th
6. Ed Reynolds, Stanford - 5th
Honorable Mention: OT Cyrus Kuondjio (too raw), OG Cyril Richardson (going too high to be worth the pick), DT Will Sutton (concerns about size), CB Ifo Ekpre-Olomu (not physical enough for our secondary), S Craig Loston (injury problems)
In 2014 the Rams will be picking top 2 with Washington's pick and will probably land around the 10-16 range with our pick. I propose the Ram's trade the 1-2 back to 5-6 in return for a 1st, 2nd or 3rd, and a future 1st. We could possibly trade back again like we did for Brockers but that all depends on draft order and who's available. Here's a plausible Mock operating under the assumption that we bring in Boldin, Maclin or Decker in free agency.
Trades: #1 to Jacksonville for #5, #37 and future 1. #5 to Jets for #14, #47, #111 (they are trading up to guarantee themselves an elite receiver)
#12 OT Taylor Lewan, Michigan
Best run blocking OT in the draft, with above average pass protection skills to boot. Elite toughness and work ethic with a motor that doesn't quit. Tackle for the future opposite Jake Long, kicks to LT when Long retires.
#14 CB Darqueze Dennard, Michigan State
Things could go a lot of different ways here. I could see this pick be traded back to around #20 to take someone like Jordan Matthews. For simplicities sake, I have us taking the premier physical corner in the draft. Adds a 3rd highly talented corner to the likes of Jenkins and Johnson.
#37 OG Gabe Jackson, Mississipi State
Ideal build with quick feet, a strong punch, and a strong anchor. Can step in and start opposite of Saffold from day 1. Great durability, has played in every game since his redshirt season.
#44 DT Timmy Jernigan, Florida State
Proven Seminole run-stuffer that has first round talent but most likely drops because Nix III, Heageman and Sutton are taken ahead of him. A bit on the lighter side, but has time to add bulk. Will probably share time with Hayes his rookie year but will start from there on out.
#47 OT Morgan Moses, Virginia
With most major needs filled, we take have the luxury of adding depth from this extremely deep pool lineman. A hulk of a man, the 6'6" Moses enrolled at UVA at 355lbs but has worked hard to cut down to the 325-330 range. A natural Right Tackle, he's the perfect candidate to fill in at RT once Lewan moves to Left. Some may want to take a safety here, but I think we can wait.
#75 QB AJ McCarron, Alabama
Although not the most talented QB in the class, he's a competitor that knows how to win. McCarron possesses all the tools to be a starter and could be a great #2 option if Bradford goes down again.
#106 S Ty Zimmerman, Kansas State
Yeah, yeah, we could've nabbed a safety earlier. Nevertheless, this kid is worth waiting on. Not as much flash as the safeties ranked higher but he gets the job done, and does it well. He's an above average cover safety while also being reliable in run support. What really impresses me is his intangibles. Noted as being the first in the facility and the last out at Kansas State, he's also a two-year team captain to boot. His leadership would really benefit this young secondary down the road
#111 WR Mike Davis, Texas
A reciever with prototypical size but lacks bulk. Davis is one of the better route runner's in his class, but has just average hands. If he puts on a little bulk he's a great target opposite Maclin/Boldin/Decker outside the hashes with Tavon in the Slot.
#141 OG Ryan Groy, Wisconsin
Just keep padding this line with depth. Prototypical height/weight and an average pass blocker and slightly above average run blocker. Great career backup or average starter.
#175 HB Carlos Hyde, Ohio State
Some people think he'll go higher but if you watch the tape you'll realize this is where he fits. Coming in at 6'1" 235lbs, he would be another change-of-pace back. He would find his niche on power runs or as a fullback.
#203 OLB Prince Shembo
A solid member of the Fighting Irish defense, Shembo could add some depth to our linebacking core and be a possible special team standout
So there it is. Here's a look at the potential revamped Rams:
QB: Bradford, McCarron
HB: Stacy, Cunningham
FB: Hyde (position change)
WR: Maclin/Boldin/Decker, Austin, Davis, Givens, Quick, Pettis
TE: Cook, Kendricks
LT: Long, Moses
LG: Jackson, Groy
C: Barnes or Jones
RT: Lewan, Barksdale,
DE: Long, Quinn
DT: Brockers, Jernigan, Hayes
OLB: Ogletree, Dunbar, Armstrong, Shembo
CB: Jenkins, Dennard, Johnson, McGee
That's a playoff caliber squad.