2013 St. Louis Rams: Unit Grades, Projecting The 53 Man Roster And Season Record

USA TODAY Sports

We are now approaching the second week of training camp. Many media sources have already released their team power rankings. It's a good time to enter the fray. How are the Rams' offensive and defensive units grading out? What will the final 53 man roster look like? Will the Rams have a winning record?

Training camp is now in full swing for the St. Louis Rams. 89 players fighting for positions on the final 53 man roster. Of the 89 players, 40 are new to the Rams this year. 7 were drafted in April, 27 are UDFA's, and 6 were signed as free agents. Fierce competition is expected at the outside linebacker, safety, running back, and left guard positions. The Rams will likely be the youngest team in the NFL this season, filled with promise and potential. How do the Rams' offensive/defensive units stack up against the rest of the NFL? Who will make the final 53 man roster? Will the Rams record be stellar enough to earn a playoff berth? Can all that potential translate into results on the field?

Grading the Units

The accompanying chart presents the grading system I created for assessing the Rams offensive/defensive units, and the team itself. Each letter grade has a corresponding NFL rank. For example, if the Rams offensive line was graded 12th best in the NFL, it is assigned a B+ grade. There are two grades assigned for every unit: a grade based on where the unit ranks at this point in time, and a "potential grade" [where the unit could rank by the end of the season].

The Rams are young and have plenty of "potential", on both sides of the football (please click on link).


NFL Rank Unit Grade NFL Rank Unit Grade
1 A+ 17 B
2 A+ 18 B-
3 A+ 19 B-
4 A 20 B-
5 A 21 C+
6 A 22 C+
7 A 23 C+
8 A- 24 C
9 A- 25 C
10 A- 26 C
11 B+ 27 C
12 B+ 28 C-
13 B+ 29 C-
14 B 30 C-
15 B 31 D
16 B 32 D

Offensive Line

Staying healthy will be a key to the success of the offensive line in the coming season. Four of the five projected starters sustained injuries last season, missing 21 games combined. This is a capable, veteran unit. Left guard is the only position on the line that is unsettled. Chris Williams and Shelly Smith will compete in training camp for the starting role. Depth is a concern, particularly at the tackle positions. Barrett Jones [a 4th round steal in this years draft] is recovering from a Lisfranc injury, and will provide depth at all five positions on the line. The addition of left tackle Jake Long helps make this unit the best the Rams have had in many years . A unit having the potential to be among the top dozen in the NFL.

C Scott Wells Tim Barnes
RG Harvey Dahl Brandon Washington
LG Chris Williams Shelley Smith
RT Rodger Saffold Joe Barksdale
LT Jake Long Barrett Jones

Unit Grade: B

Potential Unit Grade: B+

Wide Receiver

Last year's starters [Danny Amendola and Brandon Gibson] are both gone. To replace them, the Rams traded up in this years draft, to select the most explosive player available - Tavon Austin. They then drafted his college teammate in the third round - Stedman Bailey. They are both expected to contribute as rookies. The Rams intend to spread out the offense and create mismatches all over the field, and utilize all of their receivers in many roles and formations. Each of their receivers bring different attributes to the passing game. Chris Givens had a fine rookie season as a deep threat. Brian Quick should be able to contribute more to the offense in his second season. Both he and Jared Cook will create mismatches with their height, size and quickness. Austin Pettis is the "veteran" of the group, and is a decent 3rd down and red-zone target. The wide receiver corps is very young and inexperienced, and it will take some time for them to reach their full potential.

WR Tavon Austin Austin Pettis Stedman Bailey
WR Chris Givens Brian Quick Nick Johnson

Unit Grade: C+

Potential Unit Grade: B

Tight End

The Rams signed Jared Cook to a lucrative contract in the off season. His addition will allow the Rams to use many two-tight end sets. His height-size-speed combination will create mismatches, and he will be used as a downfield threat. Lance Kendricks is a fine blocker and improving pass-catcher. McNeill will be used mostly in the role of blocking tight end. The combination of Kendricks and Cook on the field should open up things for the wide receivers.

TE Jared Cook Lance Kendricks Mike McNeill

Unit Grade: B-

Potential Unit Grade: B+

Running Back

Steven Jackson parted ways with the Rams this off season. The solution to replacing his 8 straight 1,000 yard seasons? A running back by committee approach. Carries are likely to be spread out and vary from game-to-game. Darryl Richardson was the most productive of the returning backs, and figures to be the leader in carries. Zac Stacy was drafted in the 5th round this year, and figures to contribute in tough yardage situations. Isaiah Pead was a disappointment in his rookie season, and will miss the first game of the 2013 season due to suspension. His speed and quickness could add an explosive dimension to the backfield. Ganaway projects as a backup power runner. Who will block for Sam Bradford?

RB Darryl Richardson Zac Stacy Isaiah Pead Terrance Ganaway

Unit Grade: C

Potential Unit Grade: B-

Quarterback

Sam Bradford is the undisputed leader of this team, now that Steven Jackson is no longer a Ram. Bradford showed much improvement last season. His overall numbers were enough to have him ranked 18th in the league. He led many fourth-quarter comebacks, and was more efficient, particularly in the red-zone. Bradford is expected to continue his development this year. The improvements to the line and offensive arsenal should lead to a breakout season for Bradford. Austin Davis shows promise and is now the number two QB. Kellen Clemens was re-signed as a competent, experienced backup who knows and understands the offense.

QB Sam Bradford Austin Davis Kellen Clemens

Unit Grade: B-

Potential Unit Grade: B+

Defensive Line

The defensive line was easily the Rams best unit last season, and a major factor in the Rams co-leading the NFL in sacks. The unit returns intact, and promises to be even better in 2013. Kendall Langford should be much improved, now having a years experience at the 3-tech position. Chris Long is among the top-ten defensive ends in the game. Michael Brockers proved to be a worthy first round selection in the 2012 draft. He'll continue to improve, and has the potential to become a dominant force. Robert Quinn performed admirably in his first year as a starter; improving his run defense is a key to future success. The re-signing of William Hayes was important to the continuity and depth of the line. If the run defense continues to improve, the line will be among the top ten in the NFL.

DE Chris Long Eugene Sims
DT Michael Brockers Matt Conrath
DT Kendall Langford Jermelle Cudjo
DE Robert Quinn William Hayes

Unit Grade: B+

Potential Unit Grade: A

Linebacker

Jo-Lonn Dunbar was a pleasant surprise as a free agent addition last year. He had a productive season and helped solidify the defense. James Laurinaitis is the heart and soul of the defense, and perennially leads the team in tackles. He will be even more productive with a second year in the system. Alec Ogletree was the Rams other first round choice in 2013. A top-15 talent, he fell to the 30th selection due to off-field concerns. With his speed, ball instincts, and athleticism, Ogletree should be a nice complement to the front seven, and an immediate starter. Hull is a solid backup at MLB, and productive on special teams. Will Witherspoon provides quality, experienced depth at all three linebacker spots. Ray Ray Armstrong is an intriguing, versatile and talented UDFA signing. Sammy Brown and Jonathan Stewart will also vie for a spot on the roster.

OLB Alec Ogletree Jabara Williams Ray Ray Armstrong
MLB James Laurinaitis Josh Hull
OLB Jo-Lonn Dunbar Will Witherspoon

Unit Grade: B

Potential Unit Grade: B+

Cornerback

The cornerback position underwent a complete transformation in 2012. Cortland Finnegan was signed as a free agent. Janoris Jenkins and Trumaine Johnson were drafted in the 2nd and 3rd rounds of the 2012 draft. The results were impressive. Finnegan performed like a top-ten corner, excelling in all facets of the position. Jenkins became a starter from day one, and showed why he was rated a first round talent. He needs to be more consistent in his second season (especially in coverage), but his play-making ability is unquestioned. Johnson progressed as the season went on, eventually displacing Bradley Fletcher as the third cornerback. He should continue to improve in his second season, and will line up against the taller, bigger wide receivers the Rams will face. Brandon McGee was selected in the 5th round of the 2013 draft. His technique and coverage abilities will need to be developed. McGee is a speedy (4.4, 40), agile corner with decent size.

CB Cortland Finnegan Trumaine Johnson
CB Janoris Jenkins Brandon McGee

Unit Grade: B

Potential Unit Grade: A-

Safety

There are many question marks surrounding the safety positions. This is the weakest unit on the team. Both starting safeties from last year (Quintin Mikell and Craig Dahl) are no longer with the Rams. Darian Stewart has battled injuries and inconsistency. He has, however, shown the ability to become a quality safety in the NFL. Stewart, along with 2013 3rd round draft choice T.J. McDonald, are the favorites to win the starting safety jobs. Matt Giordano was signed as a free agent, to provide veteran depth. Giordano could push for a starting role. Rodney McLeod is also in the competition for a starting role. He excelled in his first year in the league, and has the potential to develop into a solid starting safety. Cody Davis was signed as a UDFA this year. With a 41" vertical leap, and a 4.41 40 time, he is fast and athletic. Davis will need time to develop, and will likely spend most of his time on special teams this year. Matt Daniels could also be in the mix for a roster spot. He has shown much promise, but must stay healthy.

Reports on the safeties from TST: Ryan Van Bibber and Joe Stanfill

Jeff Fisher on T.J. McDonald:

"I'm especially pleased right now with T.J.'s progress," Fisher continued. "He's really doing some good things out there. There's more and more familiarity with what we're doing. He's making more plays each day. He's just an excellent athlete and a good football player."

S T.J. McDonald Matt Giordano Cody Davis
S Darian Stewart Rodney McLeod

Unit Grade: C-

Potential Unit Grade: B-

Specialists

The Rams took a substantial risk last year, using two rookie kickers for the entire season. Greg Zuerlein had an excellent first half of the season, but was inconsistent the remainder of the year. Zuerlein is a strong-legged kicker who can nail the uprights from just about anywhere. He will be aiming for more consistency in his second season. Zuerlein is an offensive weapon that can put up a lot of points. John Hekker had a fine rookie season, averaging over 45 yards - per punt (40 yards net). McQuaide recently earned a contract extension. He is an excellent (and consistent) long snapper.

PK Greg Zuerlein
P John Hekker
LS Jake McQuaide

Unit Grade: C+

Potential Unit Grade: B+

Team Grades

Overall Team Grade: B (Floor) - Record 8-8

Potential Overall Team Grade: B+ (Ceiling) - Record 10-6

Entering the 2013 season, the Rams will likely be the youngest team in the NFL. The defense could develop into a top ten unit by seasons end, the only question marks are both safety positions. Offensively, the Rams have added many new weapons, and the line (if healthy) will be much improved. The offense now has the potential to move into the top half of the league this season. The Rams are a promising team on the rise. This may not be reflected in their record this season, given the youth and inexperience on the team. The Rams will be in the hunt for a playoff spot right up until the end of the season, and could surprise, if the ever-increasing talent level can overcome the inconsistencies inherent in young, inexperienced football teams.

How Others Grade The Rams (links)

Pro Football Talk: 17 (B)

S.I. Ramblin' Fan: 14 (B)

ESPN: 15 (B)

NFL.com: 15 (B)

S.I. Chris Burke: 19 (B-)

Shutdown Corner: 21 (C+)

The Sporting News: 14 (B)

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