I've been waiting for a while to post this for a number of reasons, the most disruptive of which are being a college sophomore and free agency. Now that school is slowing down and free agency (before the draft) has just about wrapped, I figured now is as good a time as ever.
I apologize for the length but I hope if you read it all you will come away with a few different viewpoints on things and possibly some guys to keep an eye on during the draft this May.
A few things to keep in mind: one, this is a mock draft by which I think the Rams will benefit the most. It is not necessarily what I believe they will actually do. Secondly, I am Pro-Bradford (sorry RVB). Third, I am more of a need-based drafter - especially early - because the picks are easy to make sense of and can be defended. The problem here is that teams vary wildly on how "need-based" they decide to draft. Last but not least, any trades made are not just because I say so, they will be valued fairly by the draft value chart found at Draft Countdown.
Let's get started.
Trading at the Top
Ideally, the Texans take a QB. Since that is looking less likely in favor of Clowney, we may end up stuck at 2. It'll take a team to fall in love with someone to move up to grab him here and if that is the case, I'm not comfortable with moving past the Falcons at 6 because I think the elite talent drops off. Trading 2 to the Browns for 4 and 26 is actually fair value but it won't happen. Trading 2 to Oakland for 5 would be ideal but I don't think there is a player they like enough to do so. Trading 2 to Atlanta for 6 makes a lot of sense and I'd say it is inevitable if Clowney is not selected 1st. If he is off the board, Snead can beg Dimitroff til he's blue in the face, but I don't think it'll go through.
SURPRISE the Texans trade with freaking Minnesoter (canadian accent) and they select Bortles.
Immediately Snead picks up 6, 37 and a 2015 3rd rounder. We actually lose this trade in terms of value by a max of 354 value points (if the Falcons win the Super Bowl and end up with the last pick of the third round in 2015) but it seems that teams moving back are ok with losing some value, a trend I picked up on in looking at early draft trades since 2010. This also could be "chart error" as I argue there is not an 800 point difference between the 1st overall and 3rd overall pick.
So this hardly plausible scenario brings us to 6.
6. Greg Robinson - Tackle - Auburn
Why: He can come in and immediately shore up the line. He's a road grader that can consistently gouge holes for 30. Put him at left Guard from day 1 and never look back. He's Jonathan Ogden 2.0 and can play left tackle in the case that Jake Long isn't 100% at the start of the season not to mention replace him a few years down the line. Sam cannot throw from his back and although our line was decent last year, they are gonna have to play lights out especially while Sam gets the cobwebs out after returning from an ACL.
What has been Greg Robinson's highest praise to this point? His upside. How can you not want a player with the highest upside playing for one of if not the best O-Line coach in the league in Boudreau?? Robinson was the 2nd ranked guard coming out of high school so he is familiar with the position and his current skill set probably translates to guard better than tackle at this point anyway. This is a perfect fit and will continue to be for the next decade - whether it be at guard or tackle.
Why not Watkins: Well he's probably gone by 6, but say he's available. What don't we have on our roster besides the stupid label of a "Number 1 WR" that Watkins will bring? You want quickness, agility, and a slot presence? Tavon Austin. Intermediate possession guys with sure hands and clean routes? Stedman Bailey and Austin Pettis. Red Zone guys? Brian Quick (more on this later) and even Austin Pettis who has shown a knack for scoring TDs at the goal line. Even if you say BQ is no Sammy, he is taller, stronger, and more physical. Sammy isn't a red zone guy. Ok so Sammy can fill the deep threat role, right? And be a stud? And answer the prayers of Rams fans? Wrong. Chris Givens and Kenny Britt. Hell even lil Tavon. Would you believe me if I told you that Chris Givens ran a faster 40 than Watkins? Well he did. And he has two years with Sam Bradford. Experience and familiarity is vital to developing rapport. So Ramsrock, I apologize, but where does he fit? And do you really give Stedman Bailey the boot already? After showing such promise at the end of last year? You could say drop Pettis but then you take the most experienced WR off the roster and still hinder the development of Bailey - who I think can be an excellent WR - by taking away playing time. You say Bailey is too slow, he can't get open, Sammy is quick and can do things he can't do! Like what? Run a little faster? Sammy ran a 4.43 and Sted ran a 4.6. Guess who ran a 4.7? Marty Gilyard? Mike Sims-Walker? Perhaps Dane Looker? Nope. Jerry Rice. Bailey runs beautiful routes, has incredible hands, and "gets it" mentally - something I think Watkins may struggle with. If the Rams go this route I will be disappointed, but not as much as if they draft this next guy...
Why not Mack: Probably there at 6, but we've seen him all over the place by draft pundits everywhere. My first point here is that Mack played as an OLB in a 3-4 scheme at Buffalo. So he has to learn a new position - probably transitioning to a strong side OLB were he to play in the 4-3 of the Rams. Secondly, Jolonn Dunbar is still around. He's a locker room guy (see Chris Long's tweet from when Dunbar was re-signed) that can still get the job done. His 2012 season was great (probably helped by PED's) and Gregg Williams thought enough of him as the D Coordinator of the Saints to bring him over to the Rams with him before that season began. His lackluster 2013 probably wasn't helped by his suspension but he didn't play poorly. Reading between the lines, I'm under the impression that Williams is a fan of Dunbar and has a spot for a run stuffing OLB in his defense. My main point for not drafting Mack, however, is that Williams loves the Nickel. If Mack is only gonna be on the field as an OLB 50% of the time, how can you draft him at 2? Who do you take out to leave him in on Nickel situations? Ogletree? No. JL55? Can't do it. Put him on the line? and move Chris Long inside? Plausible but remember Mack isn't a straight up DE either. Another new position he's gotta learn. Bottomline, I like the kid but let him flourish in a 3-4 rather than trying to fit a square peg in a round hole.
Why not a QB: Do I even need to explain this?
Why not Matthews or Lewan: I wouldn't mind either of the two to be honest, but I think they become insurance for Jake Long rather than a winning piece for this year. Perhaps Barksdale has a sub-par season after doing well last year and they can take his place. I take Matthews over Lewan because I've seen enough personal foul penalties against the Rams in the last few years to last a lifetime.
To recap, we picked up Greg Robinson at 6 and now have the 37th pick to go along with 13 and 44 in the top 50. Mocking on to 13.
******13. HaHa Clinton-Dix - Safety - Alabama****** (Not the actual pick - keep reading)
What needs to happen in order for this to be the pick:
Detroit trades up to snag Watkins, Tennessee takes whichever top corner the Rams fall in love with, Evans isn't allowed to fall out of top ten (Tampa, Buffalo, Detroit, NYG).
This pick scares me. HHCD is the best free safety prospect in a thin class of safeties but he also has worn the crimson colored jersey for the last few years - notorious for creating false value. It sucks that we couldn't get Jairus Byrd in the offseason but the money didn't make sense. Clinton-Dix doesn't jump out on tape to me (had some poor games, especially vs A&M) and appears late to the ball on multiple occasions. Is he an improvement over McLeod? Yeah I think so - which becomes the overarching rationale behind this pick. I think TJ McDonald is on his way to being a stud at strong safety and I believe in Tru and JJ on the outside. Clinton-Dix can come in to create a capable secondary. I wouldn't call it elite but it will be a unit that is certainly loaded with potential. If Gregg Williams can fashion Clinton-Dix to be the ballhawk that Malcom Jenkins was a few years ago in New Orleans, we'll be alright.
Why not a Corner: I draft a corner here if Fisher and Snead are under the impression that Trumanine Johnson isn't the answer across from Jenkins. Johnson has proven that he can be a starting corner in the league and is of the mold of some of the Seahawks secondary - a big guy that can saddle up on any receiver and physically beat him up and shut him down for 60 mins. It's tough to draft a corner to be a nickelback right here because they're only on the field 40 or 50% of the time. There is value deeper in the draft for a nickelback, but if the Rams go corner here to play the nickel, it is something I wouldn't mind - though I'm scared of the free safety talent after Clinton-Dix if they opt for a corner at 13 and want to pick a FS up later. Side note: I'm certainly not reaching for Brad Roby at this spot (wtf walter football?).
So here's what I want to happen come May 8th...
7. (From Tampa Bay) Mike Evans - Wide Receiver - Texas A&M
Wishful thinking scenario: The Rams trade 13 and 37 to the Bucs for the 7th and 143rd (5th rd) pick to grab Mike Evans. We actually lose this trade too (only by 140 value points) but you can look at that as a desperation constant in the equation of success. When the Bucs traded Mike Williams to the Bills, my heart sank. They had a hole to fill at WR. I don't think there is any way Evans gets past them at 7 nor will he get by both Buffalo and Detroit, so Snead is gonna have to wheel and deal to pick him up. I'm ok with jumping up because we already fixed a major issue on the offensive line in Robinson, and still have the 44th pick to pick up a safety or corner.
Why Evans: He's everything that we wanted Brian Quick to be and more. Catches anything thrown his way, stretches the field on deep balls, comes down with the majority of 50-50 balls (not like Slingin Sammy B will need to throw jump balls unless he wants to with his new & improved line), and is freaking 6'5". Hello Red Zone TD's. He'll have to apologize to Greg the Leg for taking all his field goals away. My rationale here: we can hold San Fran and Seattle to 13 points a game all we want but if we only score 10, it wont matter. Austin in the slot, Bailey and Evans on the Outside, then Cook making things happen in the seam sounds alright to me - not to mention takes a giant burden off the shoulders of Mr. Stacy. Evans makes the Rams receiving corps complete from day 1.
Let's say that Snead got the deal done.
Recapping: Robinson at 6, Evans at 7. Rams gave up 13 and 37 but got 143. 44 is up next.
44. Terrence Brooks - Free Safety - Florida State
Here the Rams pick up their free safety of the future. First thing that jumps out at me - his name. Terrence Brooks is a fantastic safety name, yeah? He's also one hell of a football player. Insticts, athleticism, and closing speed make up for any height concerns. The kid runs a 4.4 and he's 5'11" - mark me down for "not that concerned". Excellent ball tracking skills and an aptitude for hitting people - hard - make this a perfect selection for a Gregg Williams defense. True center fielder that is one of the smartest football players out there according to Jimbo Fisher. The more tape I watch of the kid the more I like him - the opposite of which is true for a guy like HaHa. I think he'll end up being the best NFL player between himself, Clinton-Dix, and Pryor.
We've covered a piece of the OL, a WR (go ahead and label him a #1 if you want, Mel Kiper), and the FS of the future. Moving on to 75.
75. Lamarcus Joyner - Defensive Back - Florida State
Back to back with the Florida State boys here. I just hope he is still available at this point. Joyner is an outstanding and extremely versatile football player. Stand up character and love for the game make him an easy target for the Rams. Honestly what's not to love about this kid? Breaking it down:
Versatility: Jim Thorpe Award finalist in 2013 - started 6 games at corner and 8 times at nickel. Started all 13 games at free safety his sophomore year at FSU. Started all 14 games his junior year as their strong safety AND he returned punts and kickoffs every year. Jesus H he'd be a godsend! If he could play receiver he'd solve every problem the rams had for the past 5 years! He had 1,090 all-purpose yards on just 79 offensive touches his senior year in High School so, I mean, we do have Schotty. Just sayin...
Production: I'll just do his senior year, even though his stats going all the way back are incredible. How about 69 tackles, 4 pass breakups, and 2 picks on the ballhawking end. 7 TFL, 5.5 sacks (ranking 1st among NCAA defensive backs), and 3 forced fumbles on the attacking end. Gregg Williams, if you're reading this are you licking your chops yet?
Durability: Ok the kid is 5'8", there is no way he can stand up to the rigors of the NFL. Think again, folks. He did not miss ONE game in his four years at FSU, starting 41 consecutive games to finish his career.
I'll give you a second to lift your jaw back up off the floor..
Lamarcus Joyner starting as the Rams Nickelback/Punt & Kick Returner/Defensive Weapon (that we can actually use in our scheme) would make my freaking year.
110. Aaron Murray - Quarterback - Georgia
Since we're gonna do it at some point, might as well do it here.
Aaron Murray lacks in size, but makes up for it in his professionalism and polished form. He's coming off reconstructive knee surgery in November, but that's fine for the Rams as we have a QB in place. He can take his time and learn the game at his own pace. He is not one who will whine about not playing because he is content with being a QB of the future. It is a little early to have that in place for the Rams, but with Bradford - you never know.
Murray does many things well as a football player; his mental game is elite, footwork is polished, delivery is compact, and arm strength is not an issue. Great velocity and trajectory on deep balls and a personality that oozes leadership. The guy has TD and passing yardage records in the SEC - generally coined as the conference most comparable to the NFL. He had to be doing something right.
Regarding his knee, he looked well on his way to recovery at the Gruden QB camp on ESPN. Say what you want about Jon Gruden, but when he says that Murray is one of the best QB's he's seen come through there, he's not kidding. I have watched a bunch of Murray's film and there is no doubt he has the ability to be a great NFL QB. The only thing I'm worried about with him is the "grooming" process will be in the hands of Brian Schottenheimer. Ugh.
Murray can sit behind Sammy B for however long he needs to because with his attitude and mental preparation, he will be ready to go when called upon.
So at this point, we've drafted OL, WR, FS, CB/Nickel, and a QB. As far as I'm concerned, the "needs" have been taken care of. Now with 8 picks left, it becomes a careful balance of BPA and adding depth to positions - perhaps taking a few chances on projects (especially with Waufle or Boudreau) because of the number of picks we have.
143. (From Tampa Bay) Matt Patchan - Offensive Tackle - Boston College
Am I a little biased living in Boston right now? Probably. But given the track record, I'll take my chances with a Lineman from BC any day. Last ten years? Dan Koppen, Chris Snee, Jeremy Trueblood, Gosder Cherilus, Anthony Castonzo, and Emmett Cleary - not to mention Paul Boudreau graduated from BC in 1973. I think the connection there is clear. As for Patchan himself, he's 6'6" 306. Not the heaviest guy, but as a result he runs a 4.9 and has extremely quick feet. He helped pave the way for Andre Williams and a BC rushing attack that averaged 218 yds/game.
He plays with good knee bend and smooth lateral movement yet is explosive to the second level and aggressive in taking on blocks. Sounds like he's your ideal depth lineman.
He has the talent but off the field is where the red flags are found. Patchan has a hard time staying healthy (2013 was his first injury-free year in a while). While playing for the Florida Gators - the place in which he originally committed and played 27 games - he tore an ACL when he was hit by a car, tore a pec before the 2012 season, fractured a wrist and has even taken a bullet to the shoulder in a drive-by shooting. Yikes.
Obviously there's some risk involved here, but when healthy he performs extremely well. He can provide valuable depth at Right Tackle - a position that should keep him from sustaining too many injuries.
153. Max Bullough - Michigan State - Middle Linebacker
I've seen predictions for Bullough all over the map. Going back to last year, people thought he had the potential to be a top 20 pick. Then he went out and had a huge year in 2013, becoming the face of a defense that was 2nd in the country. Then he got suspended, which is where his stock began to fall. Despite being suspended for the Rose Bowl and showing up at the East-West Shrine game 20 lbs above his playing weight, the Rams should pick up Bullough.
He crushed the combine, showing great athleticism for a guy who's 6'3". He got his weight down to 249 in a month and ran a 4.78 40, second-fastest among MLB's there. He put up 30 reps in the bench press - second in his class and performed well in the on-field drills.
He put up an All-America season in 2013, making 76 tackles with 9.5 TFL. He had 1.5 sacks and forced a fumble. Bullough can be planted firmly behind another Big 10 guy in James Laurinaitis and learn from one of the games most consistent tacklers. BTW - the Rams backup MLB is a guy by the name of Caleb McSurdy (Darren Bates is listed as an OLB) which is another reason for making this pick.
188. Shamar Stephen - Defensive Tackle - Connecticut
Let me preface: because I don't expect to draft any other D-Linemen, I'll say now that I'm still EXTREMELY bitter about the Rams letting Gerald Rivers leave the roster last year. He was the most fun player on the entire team to watch during the preseason.
Anyway, Shamar Stephen is 6'5" and 309 lbs. Good size for his position. What he brings is a run-stuffer that made 60 tackles for UConn last year as well as notching 10 TFL and 3 sacks in 12 games. He's got great point-of-attack explosiveness and doesn't allow blockers (even double teams) to push him off the line of scrimmage. This is a perfect guy to throw into the strength of the Rams team. He can take coaching from the best in the business and learn from guys on the D Line who are not only experienced but extremely talented - something the Rams can't say at most other positions. Could be a rotation guy by the end of the season given he taps some of his potential.
202. (From New Orleans) Tre Boston - Safety - North Carolina
Made a little trade here with the Saints so we get into the 6th round again and have the original 12 picks instead of 13. The Rams give up pick 226 and 241 for pick 202.
Energetic hard hitting ballhawker. Can play either safety position, though he projects as more of a free safety. All-ACC Second Team last year with 85 tackles and 4 picks. Raw talent wise, but an athletic guy who can come in and provide depth and competition for the previously drafted Terrence Brooks. Also gets points for a solid safety name.
214. (Compensatory) Deanthony Thomas - Running Back - Oregon
He's one of if not the most explosive player in the 2014 draft who is a threat every time the ball is in his hands. Sound familiar? Zac Stacy and Benny Cunningham look like they're ready to take the reins to the Rams running game, but having Thomas would provide an explosive option out of the backfield. You can put your fastest defender on one guy - Tavon - but what if there are two Tavon's? Thomas gives you that option. The only thing holding him back will be Brian Schottenheimer. Shocker.
249. (Compensatory) Brandon Thomas - Guard - Clemson
The poor kid tore his ACL at a pre-draft workout. That absolutely sucks. If he doesn't do that, he's probably gone in the top 50. I dont know if he'll make it this far but if he does, picking him up here would be ideal for the Rams. Let him rehab for a year without worrying about coming back in time to play in 2014 and go into 2015 with a fantastic guard hungry for a taste of the NFL. Think about the line in 3 or 4 years with this pick:
Robinson - Thomas - Jones - Saffold - Barksdale
I like it.
250. (Compensatory) Steele Divitto - Outside Linebacker - Boston College
Diamond in the rough potential with Divitto. The guy loves football more than life itself. He drove from his hometown in CT to Don Bosco Prep every day to play at the highest level he could. Made 107 tackles last year for the Eagles and was 4th in the ACC in tackles/game. He will excel on special teams initially and with an elite work ethic and football IQ, this kid is an extremely safe pick. Played strong-side LB for most of his time at BC and could become Jolonn Dunbar's eventual replacement. Couldn't find a reason that he doesn't have a 3rd or 4th round grade on him after watching tape.
6. (From Atlanta) Greg Robinson - OL
7. (From Tampa Bay) Mike Evans - WR
44. Terrence Brooks - FS
75. Lamarcus Joyner - CB/Nickel
110. Aaron Murray - QB
143. (From Tampa Bay) Matt Patchan - OL
153. Max Bullough - MLB
188. Shamar Stephen - DL
202. (From New Orleans) - Tre Boston - S
214. (Compensatory) Deanthony Thomas - RB
249. (Compensatory) Brandon Thomas - OG
250. (Compensatory) Steele Divitto - OLB
I apologize again for the length but I hope you enjoyed reading! I think the Rams are almost there and this draft has the chance to put them over the hump as one of the elite teams in the NFL.