For years, I have sat back and admired teams that not only go out and get the big fish, they also build through the draft, going for the players who have the talent to be great, but haven't put it all together yet, and drafting for value rather than strictly for need.
The best example I can think of is the Green Bay Packers. Even when they weren't very good, they consistently chose the best player available. Aaron Rodgers is a perfect example. They saw a guy that they considered the best value where they were picking, and they took him. They didn't look at their draft board and say "well, you know, this guy is the best rated player we've got here, but defensive tackle is a more pressing need (it was), so we'll take Luis Castillo instead." They looked at their board, saw Rodgers was still up there, and took him.
That's the point where the Rams are now, and I can't think of too many people that I'd rather have making the decisions than Jeff Fisher and Les Snead.
That being said, here is my value over need mock draft:
16. Tavon Austin. If he's still available, the Rams have to take him. The only thing that scouts hold against this guy is his size, but last time I looked, Steve Smith of the Carolina Panthers did a pretty damn good job carving out a career for himself with similar characteristics. Bradford needs another weapon, and Austin can turn a three yard slant into a 65 yard touchdown in the blink of an eye. Not a bad weapon to have in your arsenal.
22. Trade with Baltimore for their 32nd overall pick, and 2nd rounder. I think that the Rams will be tempted to take Jonathan Cooper here, but Fisher and Snead will take a chance that he'll still be available later on.
32. (from Baltimore, see above). Jonathan Cooper. I know, Cooper is one of the highest rated players in the draft, but he lacks the value for a higher level pick because of his position. Guards just don't get drafted highly in the NFL, and this year will have one exception, but it won't be Cooper. The Pouncey brothers are a good example. I like Cooper due to his quick footwork, making it possible for him to be slotted in at center after Scott Wells is retires or gets released (I honestly don't see him making it all the way to the end of his contract.
Rd. 2a Matt Elam. With the highest rated safeties off of the board, the Rams go with Matt Elam with their first pick in the second round. If it weren't for Jonathan Cyprien's rocket-like rise up draft boards, Elam would probably be the second highest rated safety in the draft. This is one of the rare situations where value and need collide, and the Rams jump on it like Tonto.
Rd. 2b Jelani Jenkins. Here's where the need may outweigh the value a bit, but if Jenkins lives up to his ability, he's a good value. He's got the speed and quickness to keep up with and chase down the mobile quarterbacks in this division.
Rd. 3 Kyle Long. He's got the ability, but he's going to take some time to develop into an everyday starter. He provides a lot of value because he can backup any of the positions on the line other than center. He should be ready to start by 2014, and he can take over for Cooper when the Rams move him over.
Rd. 4 Marcus Lattimore. If he can regain his form after the horrific knee injury he sustained against Tennessee, he'd be the highest value pick the Rams could possibly make. All signs point to him coming back strong, but he'll need time. The Rams have the luxury of letting him rehab, getting him ready to go in 2014, while they figure out exactly what they have with Pead/Richardson/Ganaway.
Rd. 5 Tyrann Mathieu. He's the perfect player for Jeff Fisher. He's not ideal as a corner, but if the Rams can coach up his tackling ability, he'd provide depth at corner and possibly work out at one of the safety positions. He's a playmaker, and that's valuable.
Rd. 6 Marcus Davis. This pick gives the Rams and Bradford another big target to throw to, but he'll need some time to develop.
Rd. 7 Alex Hurst. The Rams are going to need a big bodied right tackle available when Rodger Saffold inevitably leaves for more money. Alex Hurst needs to develop, and he may never be a starter, but offensive line depth is invaluable in today's NFL, and in a pinch he couldn't be a whole lot worse than Wayne Hunter.
There's my draft, focusing on value over need (for the most part) but managing to hit all of the team's current needs, and giving them the luxury of going for straight value in the 2014 draft. Tell me what you think.