Hey guys, I figured I'd take the time to share my thoughts on the upcoming offseason - often known as the Rams' Super Bowl. Feel free to leave thoughts and criticisms in the comment section.
For starters, there are two areas that the Rams need to make significant strides in this summer: Pass Protection and Pass Defense.
These are currently the Rams two weakest areas as a team, and are holding this team back from having overall success. Let's break down how we can improve each of these areas.
This one is key. We've hitched our franchise to Sam Bradford, like it or not, for at least the next year.
Sam Bradford has elite accuracy and tremendous ball placement. He hasn't performed well in the face of a heavy pass rush, but has shredded teams who couldn't get pressure on him (best example of this that I can remember is against the Washington Redskins in 2012). Giving him time to throw will be the first step in the growth of our offense into one that can thrive with either the run or the pass. Currently, we only do one of those things well.
The simplest way to do this is to bring in talented players on the offensive line.
Harvey Dahl and Scott Wells are likely gone. Dahl played admirably for us in his time here, and Wells played well when healthy. I hope that they have success wherever they continue their careers at, I just doubt that those careers continue with the St. Louis Rams.
Jake Long was returning to form before his ACL injury, and subsequently doesn't need to be replaced. Joe Barksdale also showed that he belongs in the starting lineup, and should remain with us next year.
The biggest signing we need to make this offseason is locking up Rodger Saffold for the long term. He can easily be viewed as our most valuable free agent, especially with Long's current knee issue. Saffold can fill in at LT and play RG when Long is healthy.
I believe we stay in house to find our starting center next year. Barnes and Jones will likely get an opportunity to prove themselves, as Chris Williams and Shelley Smith had this year.
Speaking of those two, I don't trust either to be our starting LG next year. That's our biggest hole on offense.
The other way to improve our pass protection is to have reliable receivers who can separate and catch. I currently like all 5 of our receivers on this roster, and believe that they can all have some success in this league. Therefore it won't be a targeted position, with the exception of Sammy Watkins. I'll explain this more later...
Our unit seemed to have an off year in coverage. While we did a fantastic job forcing turnovers, we really struggled against the league's top receivers. This can be improved in a couple of ways...
For starters, we can improve our secondary. I have faith in all of our CBs, including Cortland Finnegan. Although this year was obviously a down year for him, I think he'll be back with a vengeance next year. He isn't the type to roll over and die... This is a guy who went in the 7th round and has had to earn everything that he gets.
However, we could use a fifth corner, as we've seen what injuries can do. While this is a depth pick, the player will likely be targeted in the mid to late rounds.
Safety is an area where we could use some starting-caliber talent. Our safeties aren't atrocious, unlike last year, but they definitely could be improved. This appears to be a weak safety class, so it could be a difficult position to fill in the offseason. Had we more cap room, I'd look for a big name FA.
The second way that you can improve pass defense is by pressuring the quarterback. We already do an above average job at this, boasting one of the best defensive lines in the league.
We could use some more talented blitzers, be it in the secondary or linebacking corps. If the right player comes along, this could be an area we'll target.
So now let's get to the draft.
Sam Bradford currently has two years left on his contract. While we haven't seen enough from him yet to decide if he's the guy we want to chain our franchise to for the next decade, we also can't honestly say that it's time to move on. I mean, what quality is Bradford really missing that you look for in a quarterback from a talent standpoint? He has the strength, accuracy, and size that you look for in a QB, doesn't cause problems off the field, and has led quite a few late game drives. He just hasn't seemed to put it all together quite yet.
That being said, we need to put ourselves in a position to be able to replace him within the next couple of years if he doesn't play well after ACL surgery, or if he never progresses to that next level.
Round 1, Pick 5 (from OAK) - Sammy Watkins, WR, Clemson
TRADE! The Oakland Raiders could be our best trading partner in this year's draft. They're in desperate need of a competent quarterback, but so are the other three teams not currently residing in St Louis. We sell to them for the more than fair price of a 2014 1st, 2015 1st, and 2014 2nd.
Like I said earlier, we don't need to target a WR. That being said, when elite prospects come around you don't pass them up. Sammy Watkins is an elite prospect. Having him drawing attention on the outside will open things up for everyone else, and could be the final piece of the puzzle to having a dynamic offense for years to come.
Round 1, Pick 13 - HaHa Clinton-Dix, FS, Alabama
Clinton-Dix is one of the only safety prospects worth taking in the early rounds of this year's draft. 13 might be a bit high for him, but Mark Barron was driven up a couple of years ago due to a weak class behind him.
Round 2, Pick 4 (from OAK) - Kyle Van Noy, OLB, BYU
Kyle Van Noy could be THE missing piece on our defense. He's an excellent blitzing linebacker, and looks to be a great fit for our defense. Adding Van Noy would give us an even scarier front seven.
Round 2, Pick 12 - Gabe Jackson, LG, Mississippi State
Jackson is a powerful and smart blocker. This is right around where he's currently projected, so it's a good combination of BPA and filling a need.
Round 3, Pick 13 - Pierre Desir, CB, Lindenwood
We go local in round three and pick up another small school prospect. Pierre Desir has a ton of talent, but hasn't played against the stiffest of competition. That causes him to fall into the fourth round. I wouldn't trust him to be a starting corner right away, but the 5th corner on our roster? Absolutely.
Round 4, Pick 12 - Jimmy Garoppolo, QB, Eastern Illinois
Jimmy Garoppolo is a small school guy with big time potential. He has all of the physical skills that you look for in a quarterback, but definitely needs some refinement. He didn't start playing quarterback until later than most, and wasn't heavily recruited, but has flourished at Eastern Illinois. He'll make a great developmental project behind Sam Bradford, with potential to be his replacement should Bradford underperform.
Round 5, Pick 13 - Spencer Long, G, Nebraska
Another upside pick here, as we take a talented guy whose season was ended early with a knee injury. He'll provide good depth, and could fill in for Saffold should he continue to be injury prone.
Round 6, Pick 12 - Bruce Gaston, DT, Purdue
We need to improve our depth on the interior of our defensive line. This guy will hopefully help us do that.
Round 7, Pick 13 - Caleb Lavey, ILB, Oklahoma State
Another depth pick. We don't really have much behind JL55.
So there you have it. For those courageous enough to read all of this, I'd really appreciate your feedback.