The San Francisco 49ers and the Baltimore Ravens are in the Super Bowl, perhaps you've heard that news. Arguably, neither of these teams starts a top 5 quarterback. However, both teams share qualities that the St. Louis Rams are looking to address this off-season.
Ed Reed, Donte Whitner, Dashon Goldson, and Bernard Pollard. Not a bad group, eh? Between them they accounted for 9 interceptions and lots of scared wide receivers this season. Ed Reed has been giving wide receivers nightmares and psychologists business since he came into the league. Bernard Pollard is the patriot killer. And Dashon Goldson and Donte Whitner perform a similar function for the 49ers. The 49ers and the Ravens each finished in the top 6 in turnover differential in their respective conferences with a +9 differential. The Rams tied for 11th in the NFC with a -1 differential.
Each of these safety tandems can cover and hit. Throughout draft history safety has been a position that has rarely gone high. Between 2003 and 2010, only 7 safeties went in the first round. The restructuring of the rookie wage scale could cause a rise in the number of safeties taken early in the draft and the Rams could be the start of that rise this year.
The Rams obviously need to improve at safety. Quintin Mikell is serviceable, but not game-changing and Craig Dahl is game-changing but not in the good way.
Great Run-Blocking Offensive Lines
According to FootballOutsiders.com, the 49ers are the #1 ranked run blocking team in the NFL and the Ravens are the #6. Both the Ravens and the 49ers have maulers up front who help gash defenses with the run and set them up for play-action. The Rams will hopefully address this need in the draft.
Mock after mock has the Rams taking an offensive linemen in the first. Most mocks have them taking an offensive linemen who specializes in run blocking - Chance Warmack and D.J. Fluker. If the Rams can improve the run game through free agency or the draft it will help relieve defensive pressure and open up the passing lanes.
Dependable Pass Catching TE's
Pro Football Focus calculated TE's drop rates during this season. The Drop Rate is Drops divided by Catchable Passes. As of December 6th 2012, Baltimore's Dennis Pitta ranked 4th with a drop rate of 2.2. Vernon Davis wasn't too far behind ranking 8th with a drop rate of 5.1. Lance Kendricks may have taken a step forward this year, but could still only manage a 15.2 drop rate and a rank of 40th. There is no doubt in my mind that finding a dependable TE in the passing game is an area of need for the Rams. Lance Kendricks is an outstanding blocker, but I've seen enough to say that the Rams need a TE that's a threat in the passing game.
The three areas mentioned - pass catching TE, offensive line, and safeties - have all been on the Rams "needs" list since last off-season. With the Rams having no shortage of draft picks, these are three of the top priorities for the Rams in the off-season. If the Rams can solidify these three areas, they will be well on their way to making the playoffs. Which players in this years draft would you like to see the Rams draft at these three positions?