At the conclusion of the 2012 season, the St. Louis Rams parted ways with both of their starting safeties. In a move that made most Rams fans smile, Craig Dahl was shipped to the 49ers. As if fans were anticipating playing the 49ers games enough, they can now look forward to Dahl allowing coverage to break down against players like Brian Quick, Chris Givens, and Austin Pettis……oh, and Jared Cook, Tavon Austin, and Stedman Bailey.
Quintin Mikell is still available in free agency. Mikell played very well for the Rams in 2012, but his 2013 price tag [$9mil against the cap] was more than the Rams saw as salary cap feasible.
With those two gone, the Rams were left with a bevy of ‘unproven players at safety? The veteran amongst the bunch - Darian Stewart - has played well "at times"... If trying to find deeper meaning in the term ‘at times,’ it can be better defined as ‘not very much….and behind Craig Dahl.’ And though his position on the depth chart has many fans scratching their heads, Stewart is still viewed as a viable starting option at Strong Safety for the Rams in 2013. Prior to the 2013 NFL Draft, the post-Dahl/Mikell corps of safeties didn’t scream blue chip talent. Behind Stewart - who went undrafted in 2010 - is more of the same, with undrafted free agent depth. Quinton Pointer (SS), Rodney McLeod (FS), and Matt Daniels (FS) were all selected by the Rams in 2012, and all of them were acquired as UDFAs.
Knowing safety was a need - or in need of an upgrade - the good news for the Rams was that the safety position was one of the deepest in the 2013 NFL Draft. Players like Kenny Vaccaro, Matt Elam, Jonathan Cyprien, and Eric Reid had all been previously mocked to the team, and were all within grasp of their two first round picks. So how did it all play out? In case you missed it, they did draft a safety within the confines of the first seven rounds. A safety... One... After addressing two other dire needs - WR and OLB - in the first round, and being void of a 2nd round selection as a result of a trade up to get Tavon Austin, the Rams selected hard-hitting safety T.J. McDonald [USC] at #71 overall. This may not have been the prospect that many fans anticipated, but the McDonald looks to be a lock to start in Week 1. After McDonald, the Rams made one more Day 2 pick [Stedman Bailey], and three on the Draft’s final day. None of them were safeties….though some were available.
The Barrett Jones pick is a very popular pick amongst Rams fans. Honestly, it might be one of their best too. It did, however, come as a result of passing on potential safeties such as Shamarko Thomas, Phillip Thomas, Baccari Rambo, and a slew of others. The Rams weren’t done as time expired on round 7 on Saturday, though. They did pick up some more promising players at safety, who look to push the 2012 UDFA crop and challenge for playing time. As for this year, take a look at two very interesting prospects who could be key in the Rams very near future:
Cody Davis, Safety, Texas Tech - Here’s NFL.com’s take on the Red Raider:
- After witnessing Davis' workout at the Super Regional Combine at Cowboys Stadium, NFL.com and NFL Network analyst Bucky Brooks wrote: "It's hard to find big, physical safeties with speed and movement skills. Davis was not only one of the most impressive athletes in attendance, but he was routinely cited as the highest-rated prospect in the building by several scouts. He certainly didn't disappoint evaluators by putting together a solid overall performance. Davis clocked 40 times in the mid-4.4-second range and continued to pop with impressive measurements in the vertical (41.5 inches) and broad jumps (10-foot-3). Most impressively, Davis showed exceptional change-of-direction quickness in the pro-agility shuttle and three-cone drills as well as during his positional workout. Davis smoothly executed turns and transitions while displaying better-than-anticipated balance and body control for a guy his size (6-2, 203 pounds). He also showed outstanding ball skills, awareness and hands in drills. With defensive coordinators searching for guys capable of matching up with the big-bodied receivers and tight ends dominating the NFL, Davis will certainly garner strong consideration as a potential mid-round selection" - NFL.com
Ray Ray Armstrong, Safety, Miami:
Ray Ray is another very intriguing player who looks to make a name among the bunch of unproven Rams safeties. Armstrong missed the entirety of the 2012 season after being suspended for improper contact with Miami boosters.
He now looks to return to football after a year away from the game, and could prove to be an undrafted gem for the Rams. Here’s what NFL.com’s Gil Brandt had to say last month:
"[Armstrong] could be mid-round selection in the 2013 NFL Draft, possibly as high as the fourth round."
Whether or not either makes the team is a questions for a later date. As for right now, the Rams still have a bit of uncertainty in terms of depth at safety. Darian Stewart, who seems to have be relegated to the dog house during his short stay in St. Louis, currently tops the list of Strong Safeties. Rookie T.J. McDonald should be a lock to start at Free Safety.
How does the rest of the depth chart shake out? Time will tell. There will certainly be competition for backup roles, and it appears that the Rams are comfortable with those spots being filled by undrafted players.
There’s really very little room to question anything Les Snead and Jeff Fisher have done since coming to St. Louis. They certainly look to be set at Wide Receiver. But do you think the Rams did enough in the draft to bolster their depth at safety?