Hello fellow Rams fans!
I wrote a very extensive and detailed report, full of opinions that are my own. If you would like to see just the results and not the explanations please scroll to the end of each section. Of course, not reading the whole thing may cause you to not truly understand my decisions. Also, this is my first article, so be nice please. Thanks! :)
Well, here we are, the final week of our 2013 NFL season. It has been another roller coaster, but this ride is ending in hope for us Rams fans. Our young players, many only rookies and sophomores, have been making many of the plays for us. Plays that have resulted in the crushing defeat of top teams like the Saints, Colts, and Bears. Those three victories each came with the very average, but "scrappy", Clemens behind center. With Bradford at the wheel we may have easily had a couple more wins on our record. Fast forward a little bit to today, and Robert Quinn is playing for the first ever Deacon Jones Award and Defensive Player of the Year honors. The possibility of finishing 8-8 without your franchise QB, the youngest roster in the NFL, and a 23 year old DPOY fills Rams fans with optimism. Even if we fall short on the 8-8 record or Quinn fails to land those prestigious awards, knowing we came that close still gives us more hope then previous years. Oh, and did I mention a top five and mid-first round pick in the 2014 draft as well?
Which brings me to the next section, and the main "beef" of this article. Yes, we will be entering the 2014 draft armed with a pick that may be as high as #1 and no lower then #5, as well as a mid-first rounder. Adding a couple more solid picks to a team already full of youthful talent makes many wonder if we are starting to form a possible dynasty. The Rams were so close to a dynasty back in the Greatest Show on Turf days, only to see things fall apart almost as fast as they came together. This is our chance to see a talented team run the league again for years to come. Surely when Snead and Fisher came to St. Louis this was their game plan. They weren't going to just draft RG3 and add a couple free agents for the hopes of maybe winning one championship. No, they cut all the fat and moved a rare draft pick for the chance at talent that will stick around for years. And it is starting to pay off. As we have witnessed, it takes time for these young players in such crucial roles to gain the experience to show us the success we desire, but it is coming together. These next two years will make or break this "dynasty". Another couple of drafts like the last two may very well secure it. So here is my attempt at playing Snead, and what I would do these next two years to move us closer to this dream.
Trimming the Fat
First thing is deciding which vets we will be parting ways with this year. My four candidates are Scott Wells (C), Harvey Dahl (G), Cortland Finnegan (CB), and Kendall Langford (DT). All are overpaid, and the first three have missed decent playing time. Wells and Dahl are both older and shadows of their former selves. Finnegan is not getting younger either and just has not been himself. Maybe he is suffering from a lack of safety help, maybe it is a collection of injuries, who knows. Langford is playing slightly out of position, and although he hasn't been bad, he hasn't been worth the money and is the weak link of the defensive line. I believe Wells and Dahl are the two players that absolutely need to go. I like both and have loved Dahl but they do us no good on the bench, take up too much cap, and don't fit the age trend of this team. The choice of Finnegan and Langford depend on which direction we go for acquiring players in 2014. I think getting rid of both this year is overkill, but one of the two should go. I was on the boat for getting rid of Langford this year, and giving Finnegan another chance, but a weak safety class has caused me to like this new dream path I've developed. So in this scenario we will be cutting Wells, Dahl, and Finnegan freeing up about 12 million dollars according to Over The Cap's cap calculator. That leaves us with 16 million dollars before resigning any free agents and draft picks. (Just for the record cutting Langford would free up about 4 million dollars). Now I'm not going to spend the next few hours trying to figure out if my plan is 100% financially possible. Maybe for this to work Langford would have to be cut as well, I don't know, I'm just trying to be as realistic as possible without doing a crazy amount of number crunching.
Losses: Wells, Dahl, Finnegan
Our Free Agents
According to Over The Cap we have 12 players hitting free agency this year. The players I think we should resign are: Tim Barnes (C), Rodger Saffold (OG), Shelly Smith (OL), and Kellen Clemens (QB). I don't think we should throw Barret Jones into the center position virtually alone since his ability is still largely unknown. Barnes knows the system and provides either a starter or depth. Saffold becomes a must without Dahl. We already need one new OG, not bringing back Saffold would make two starting OGs a need. Saffold has made a good OG and Bradford's protection should be no.1 priority this year. Smith has been great depth, and offensive line depth will be important to keeping Bradford up and giving Stacy some holes. And lastly Clemens has been what we need at back-up QB: A guy who can win games. He knows the system and plays to win. Clemens won't be around much longer though, so we need to find some young blood to raise behind him. Some late round QB won't be ready to be a serviceable back-up so having Clemens is still important, for both depth and tutoring purposes. The others we won't be keeping are Giordano (FS), Dunbar (OLB), McNeil (TE), Williams (OL), Stewart (FS), Quinn (QB), Veltung (PR/KR), Pointer (CB). Giordano and Stewart just aren't that good and injury prone, Dunbar is weak in coverage and was in Fisher's dog house earlier this year, McNeil is expendable as Harkey has done well as our 3rd TE, Williams is not good, Quinn is hurt and only here for emergency purposes, I feel Veltung does not have enough special teams talent to warrant him a spot solely for that purpose, and Pointer would lose out in this years CB training camp race. Dunbar is the one who I would most want to bring back in that group, but we won't have the camp room in this scenario. And hopefully Armstrong or someone else can rise to the occasion. So out of this list the only one I feel is a MUST and that costs a decent amount of money is Saffold.
Losses: Giordano, Dunbar, McNeil, Williams, Stewart, Quinn, Veltung, Pointer
*None gained in regards to our roster from 2013. We will technically be resigning: Saffold, Clemens, Smith, and Barnes.
Snead has proven over the past couple of years that just because Rams were rebuilding and making a youth movement didn't mean we wouldn't go for some big name free agents. This year I think we have a chance to land a guy who can not only make a very large impact, but maybe stick around for a while too. We need safety help and this years draft class doesn't give me much hope. I feel that Dix is overrated and would normally be a second round talent. The others all seem like mysteries as well. So here I have us making a play from Jairus Byrd (FS). He has had quite some beef with the Bills and there is a decent chance he could be packing his bags. Byrd sounds to me like he is just what the doctor ordered for the Rams. He is a ball-hawking safety, having 22 interceptions in his first four years. As I am sure many of you are aware he was given Pro Bowl honors again this year after racking up four interceptions despite only playing in ten games so far. Essentially the way I see this in my mind is we are swapping out Finnegan for Byrd. Moving on from one failed experiment to a new one, and taking advantage of a class that is stronger in corner backs then it is safeties. And also one could easily make the argument that Byrd is better at his position of free safety, then Finnegan was at his position of CB before St. Louis.
The 2014 Draft
Now we are at the draft. I spend much of my time doing mock drafts and I have more then one for the Rams. Each of those mocks is based on what we do in free agency, in regards to both our free agents (like Saffold) and other free agents (like Byrd). So this is my mock based on the scenario played out above. Please note that although I realize I am FAR from a draft expert, I do watch draft eligible players quite often, so I am not completely making stabs in the dark. For example I actually mocked Stacy to the Rams in the 5th round last year months before the draft. I did this because I watched him and thought he was exactly what we needed for running back. In this mock I am assuming we get the #2/#14 picks of the draft. So here we go:
- #2: Jake Matthews (OT). Get Bradford some protection. Matthews is a stud. Done. I like a number of the first round receivers, but I feel next year has more of what we are looking for: 6 foot 5 guys with speed who can be a no. 1 WR. Also we have a lot of young receiving studs already, let's give them more time to develop and see what we got. So I am passing on first round WRs for 2014. If we don't take Matthews I feel we have to trade down. The only other person I'd be happy with here is Sammy Watkins, although as I said, I'd prefer just to wait.
- #14: Jason Gilbert (CB). I've always been a big fan of this guy, I actually was mocking him to the Rams in the 3rd round before the season started, then of course he rose quickly. Guess I've got an eye for talent...or something like that. With Byrd locked up and Finnegan gone Gilbert is a big need here. Gilbert, Jenkins, and Johnson should be a great young CB trio.
- 2nd: David Yankey (OG). As I said earlier, we need two guards. Plus with Saffold/Long's injury histories we need more talent. Barksdale and Smith should be good back-ups if our starters are Saffold, Long, Matthews, Yankey, and Barnes/Jones. I would love Cyril Ricardson or Gabe Jackson here but I think they are both gone by this point. Many complain about Bradford and our offense, but I firmly believe with elite protection he will do wonders. This is another step towards that protection.
- 3rd: Telvin Smith (OLB). With Dunbar gone this will give us either a starter or depth to compete with Armstrong.
- 4th: Tre Boston (CB/S). Boston will have a chance to compete for both positions. He isn't super athletic but he is smart. Could be a nice grab here. Will take 5th CB spot on roster, but can come in for safety if necessary. Provides further issuance if Byrd or Gilbert don't pan out. I was thinking Dion Bailey here because he is also a versatile defender who's physical play I know Fisher would love (not to mention he is from USC) but I feel he will be a riser and get drafted higher.
- 5th: Jimmy Garappolo (QB). A guy who could be something of a steal with the right coaching and time to develop, a local favorite.
- 6th/7th/7th: Won't get into to much detail here, but we have two 7th round picks due to a trade a couple years back. We go DT, OL, and LB for depth and competition. Maybe something along the lines of DeAndre Coleman (DT), Prince Shembo (OLB), and Cornelius Lucas (OT).
After a successful offseason that saw the Rams defense take the next step to become an elite NFL defense by vastly improving its secondary, and the offense beginning to show talent after protecting Bradford, we finally make the playoffs. As many predicted, Year 3 of the new regime was the breakout year. We now have a team that can contend, so time to put the icing on the cake. Since this draft is so far away and a million things could happen I am just going to do the first three rounds here.
First round: Dorial Green-Beckham (WR). As I said, we are putting the icing on the cake. We need an elite no. 1 WR. Quick has gotten better, but isn't a super bowl caliber no. 1 option. We do whatever it takes to land this guy. We have most of our other positions filled with young talent so we have draft picks to spare. Amari Cooper and Jalen Strong are the first two receivers off the board, leaving this local star to us. A perfect fit. DGB is already a household name in Rams territory, and he becomes an instant favorite. The guy who almost every Rams fan wears on their jersey. The guy Bradford chucks it up to without a worry. A couple drafts ago I mocked Alshon Jeffery to us. I cried when we passed on him and seeing his success this year only rubbed salt in the wound. This pick makes us forget about that. With Tavon, Givens, Cook, Stacy, and Bailey giving defenses enough to worry about, DGB becomes the knock-out punch.
Second round: Brandon Ivory (DT). Langford's time is up. He takes up too much cap room which we really need and his production can be outdone by an early round rookie.
Third round: Ishaq Williams (OLB). This pick? Well I'm running out of picks and OLB could be the next weakest link since Armstrong and my pick Telvin Smith are complete mysteries.
So there it is. This article list one of many paths the Rams can realistically take. With two solid back to back drafts, adding a mix of top offensive and defensive talents, on top of our 2012/2013 drafts we have a great team for years to come. I know many will read this and disagree with me in many aspects, but there is one things we can all agree on: Our future is finally bright. There is no right answer to our future because we have so many viable options at this point. Let's thank Snead, Fisher, our current players, and the Washington Redskins for putting us in a prime position.
For those wondering, here is one of my mocks assuming we don't land a big free agent like Byrd:
Alternative 2014/2015 Mock!
Resign Saffold and Dunbar, release Wells, Dahl, Langford.
1A: Matthews (OT)
1B: Dix (FS) or Hageman (DT)
2: Pryor (FS) or Johnson (DT)
3: Martin (OG)
4: Bailey or Boston (DB)
5: Garapollo (QB)
2015, release Finnegan.2015 Draft:
1: Dorial Green Beckham (WR)
2: Byron Jones (CB)
3: Ishaq Williams (OLB)
Thank you for reading! For more St. Louis Rams or Chicago Bulls news and updates check out my sports twitter: @Rams_Bulls_News
(Sorry for spelling mistakes, I wrote this thing at like 2 AM out of boredom and to get all these swirling thoughts out of my head).