There's one week left in the 2013 NFL season, so naturally, it's an appropriate time to start talking about the draft, at least for the teams already eliminated from the playoffs. The St. Louis Rams are virtually guaranteed a top-three pick in the 2014 NFL Draft, thanks to Washington's meltdown. Oh, and the Rams have another one, which is now 15th following another win this week.
With one last year of two picks in the first round from that 2012 trade, the Rams will be expected to pick lower, much lower, in the 2015 draft. But let's ramp up expectations another time. For now, let's look and see what SB Nation's NFL Draft editor Dan Kadar has to say.
2. (via Washington) Jake Matthews, OT, Texas A&M
It's true, teams coached by Jeff Fisher don't have a history of drafting offensive linemen early. But it's worth noting that when Fisher was in Tennessee, they already had Brad Hopkins locked in at left tackle. Fisher also benefited from having Mike Munchak as his offensive line coach. Munchak could coach up a second-round pick like Michael Roos. The current left tackle situation in St. Louis is murky. Jake Long has played well in his first season with the Rams, but he suffered what looked like a serious knee injury on Sunday. Rodger Saffold, who is a free agent after the season, isn't suited to play left tackle. In a scenario where no trades are performed, taking Matthews, arguably the most sure thing in the draft, is the smart play. There's no indication just yet, but don't be shocked if there is some discussion about the Rams going for a quarterback with this pick. Of course, it could be put up to the highest bidder as well.
We've been seeing Matthews mocked to the Rams here for awhile now, before Jake Long's injury. And if you recall, there was some discussion a few weeks back that the Rams might not be confident in Joe Barksdale as a long-term answer at right tackle. With Long's injury virtually guaranteed to keep out early in the 2014 season (if it's an ACL tear), they're going to have to get used to it ... unless they draft a tackle.
The Rams could always hold off, and take a tackle later in the first round. There could be five or six of them worth drafting on opening night.
15. Jason Verrett, CB, TCU
The Rams would probably prefer getting a safety like Clinton-Dix, but in this scenario he's off the board. Verrett may not be the biggest cornerback, but he has the kind of instincts and ball skills that would make him a Day 1 starter. Adding a starting cornerback would also leave the Rams open to dumping Cortland Finnegan.
Like Dan says, safety is a much bigger need for the Rams. The Rams have two starting corners in Janoris Jenkins and Trumaine Johnson. Finnegan's status, and massive cap hit, for 2014 are up in the air. There's no question the Rams need depth and another bona fide starter at the cornerback position, but the secondary's really struggling because they don't have capable cover safeties, guys who can play deep (well, that and some questionable work by Tim Walton).
If the Rams really do want Clinton-Dix, they have the draft capital to move up and get him. That said, one of the Snead-Fisher regime's strong suits has been finding talent for the secondary on the second and third day of the draft.
Let's quickly run through the other needs the Rams have for 2014, saving the hot takes for later.
1. Guards - They could re-sign Saffold, but finding starters in the draft is much better use of resources.
2. Secondary - Both corners and safeties were mentioned above, but it's a pressing enough need to repeat here.
3. Wide receiver - Yes, the Rams need another wide receiver, but not just any. A sure-handed playmaker who fits the No. 1 receiver bill would be perfect ... especially if they're committed to Sam Bradford for the long-term.
4. Quarterback - Regardless of how you fall on the Bradford debate, it's pretty clear that the Rams need a better answer at backup, a younger guy with some legitimate upside who could eventually take over.
5. Defensive tackle - Kendall Langford's been a solid starter, but would be easy to replace with a younger, cheaper player.
6. Linebacker - Jo-Lonn Dunbar is a free agent after this season, and the Rams will need to replace him. More depth at this position is a big need too.