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Rams free agency and draft strategy for this year and looking forward to 2014: Part 2

In my previous post I addressed the bulk of the free agent portion of my 2013 offseason as GM of the Rams. Here in Part 2, I am moving on to the 2013 draft and will attempt to tie my free agent actions together with my draft strategy and future vision for the team. As I stated in the previous post, all of these plans are intertwined and built upon one another, but for the sake of keeping the posts relatively short I have decided to address them separately and in chronological order.

As anyone who has read my comments on the subject of team building knows, I am a big proponent of building through the draft. Therefore I consider the opportunity to add talented, younger, and of course cheaper players to the organization through the draft to be of the utmost importance to the long-term success of the Rams. With that being said I also know that I cannot properly address every area of the team in one draft. I also know that there is great risk associated with drafting college kids into the NFL. Some turn out, some don't, and most do not become superstars. But if you can consistently draft solid players that can contribute to the team, you will be successful over the long-term.

In preparing for this draft I have looked at 11 updated mock drafts, including two from Walter Football, NFL.com, etc... in order to make a best guess, not at who I should take, but rather which players will be available for me to choose from. I don't see any reason in putting together a draft that includes players that most draft "experts" agree won't be available when the Rams are on the clock. At this point in time that is the best I can do as far as trying to determine who will be there when the Rams pick. On a related point, I will not be mocking any trades. While I would actively entertain trading down from 16 and/or 22 if I were in charge, I cannot realistically do that here.

In undertaking this endeavor I have tried to take into account the importance of blending youth and experience at various positions, the timing of that blending, and have tried to keep my focus on the long-term viability of the team in the process. I have attacked the draft with that strategy as my backdrop. I am sure this will be the most controversial part of my GM series. I have seen a ton of comments about who the Rams should draft and where, some of which I have agreed with and some that I have not. Everyone has their vision of who they think the Rams should take and why, and many are very passionate about it. That is a good thing. Fans should be passionate about their team. Now, on to the draft.

1st Round, Pick #16 - Keenan Allen, WR, California. Allen is the most polished receiver in the 2013 NFL Draft class, and the safest pick at WR in the draft. He has a very good skill set with speed, route-running, hands, size and play-making ability. He may not turn into an elite receiver, which is true for every WR in this draft, but he should become a good starter who is consistently productive. At the very worst, he looks like he would be a quality No. 2 receiver.

1st Round, Pick #22 - Matt Elam, S, Florida. The best Safety prospect in the 2013 draft. He played close to the line of scrimmage or in the box a lot and is a playmaker, either when blitzing or one on one in coverage. He can cover the slot receiver. He has the ability to be tremendously disruptive and blow up a play before it develops, has catch up speed to chase down a play, and is instinctive in getting his hands up to disrupt at the catch point when in coverage. Younger, faster, higher ceiling version of our former Safety Mikell, the NFL player he best compares to.

2nd Round, Pick #46 - Gavin Escobar, TE, San Diego St. As a receiving target from the TE position, Escobar is exactly what I'm looking for. He's an excellent, very natural hands catcher. He locates the ball over his shoulder very easily, picks the ball out of the air effortlessly, runs the seam like a wideout, has long strides and deceptively eats up ground. He is fluid and frequently beat defensive backs vertically. A great compliment to Kendricks.

3rd Round, Pick #78 - Kiko Alonso, LB, Oregon. A linebacker prospect with a ton of potential. He can impact the game in different ways, whether it’s in run fits, in blitz packages, or in pass coverage. He has impressive natural athleticism, he plays to-the-whistle every snap, has instinctive blitz timing, is an excellent cover linebacker who can man up and run with athletic tight ends, and he consistently gets himself into great position and makes the most of opportunities for interceptions.

4th Round Pick - Brian Schwenke, C, California. He's very quick off the snap and gets his hands inside of the defender's chest plate quickly. He has good awareness of who needs help along the line and is quick to assist on a double team. He plays with a good, low pad level and so constantly wins the leverage battle. He will be expected to replace Wells after the 2013 season.

5th Round Pick - Gerald Hodges, LB, Penn State. Has active hands and is sturdy for his size. Gets under offensive linemen and shows good strength at the point of attack. Shows good gap discipline and rarely gets caught out of position. Flashes the ability to deliver the big hit. Shows above average range in underneath zone coverage and although not a speedster he has enough burst to chase backs down from behind. Can learn behind Dunbar and hopefully can step up to replace him at WLB if he leaves via free agency after 2013.

6th Round Pick - Marquess Wilson, WR Washington St. He's a fluid and smooth athlete who possesses the size, body control and leaping ability to win one-on-one downfield battles, is very effective working against press coverage, shows an extra gear to track and run under deep throws, and catches the ball with his hands. His issues at WSU have dropped his stock, but he is a steal here.

7th round pick - Mike Purcell, DT, Wyoming. A flyer on a player who was 1st team all conference in the Mountain West and ranked 1st in tackles among all defensive linemen in the Mountain West in 2012. An incredibly consistent player who averaged 7 tackles per game in 2012 and finished the season with 83 tackles, 8 tackles for loss, 2 forced fumbles, 1.5 sacks, and 1 blocked kick. played well vs. Texas, recording 8 tackles and .5 sack.

Well, there it is. Here's an update to the depth chart post draft:

OFFENSE:

TE - Kendricks, Escobar, Harkey, McNeill
RT - Loadholt, Barksdale
RG - Schwartz, Smith
C - Wells, Schwenke
LG - Watkins, Turner
LT - Saffold, Hunter
WR - Quick, Givens, Allen, Pettis, Wilson, Avery
RB - SJax, D. Richardson, Pead, Ganaway
QB - Bradford, Davis

DEFENSE:

RDE - Quinn, Hayes
RDT - Brockers, Conrath, Purcell
LDT - Langford, Jones, Laws
LDE - Long, Sims
SLB - Alonso, Brown
MLB - Laurinaitis, Hull
WLB - Dunbar, Hodges
CB - Finnegan, Jenkins, Johnson, Pointer
S - Clemons, Elam, McLeod, Daniels

SPECIAL TEAMS:

LS - McQuaide
K - Zuerlein
P - Hekker

Coming next... Part 3.

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