This will be an intriguing, difficult off-season for the St. Louis Rams. There will be tough decisions to make regarding pending free agents. Potential issues with the quarterback position and offensive line will command the Rams' attention. Ultimately, the team will be looking to put the final pieces in place for a playoff run in 2015. The Rams' offense has struggled at times this season. Should the Rams be looking to upgrade their receiving corps in the off-season?
Walter Football is already publishing weekly 3-round mock drafts, in anticipation of the 2015 NFL Draft in April. In last weeks mock draft, Walter Football has the Rams selecting LSU OL La'el Collins in the first round, and Oklahoma WR Dorial Green-Beckham in the second round:
"Brian Quick has emerged as a solid starting receiver - though he's finished for the year - while Tavon Austin can be used on trick plays, but the Rams need to find another wideout to put into the lineup. However, if Stedman Bailey keeps this up, I'll change this pick soon enough."
To complete the mock draft, the Rams select Oklahoma LB Eric Striker in the third round.
Selecting versatile players at positions of need - like Walter did in the first and third rounds - is hard to disagree with. The Rams will certainly need the infusion of talent on the offensive line next year, and selecting a linebacker adds much-needed depth to the LB corps. However, the selection of a WR in the second round (and Walter's comments) leave a lot of room for discussion.
Walter's mock draft brings to light a number of questions needing to be answered by the Rams in the off-season:
- Is the team satisfied with the development of Tavon Austin, Stedman Bailey, and Brian Quick, precluding the need to invest an early draft pick at the WR position in the upcoming draft?
- Kenny Britt becomes a free agent in 2015. Has he done enough this season to merit a new contract with the Rams? The Rams will only have 4 WR's on the roster if Britt is not re-signed.
- If the Rams believe the WR positions need to be upgraded, should they be looking at eligible free agents from other teams this off-season, instead of drafting one? This years stellar group of eligible free agent WR's includes: Demaryius Thomas, Randall Cobb, Jeremy Maclin, Dez Bryant, Torrey Smith, and Michael Crabtree.
- In Walter's mock, the Rams pass on selecting a quarterback. Given the Rams' current QB situation, should they be looking to select a QB in the early rounds of the 2015 NFL Draft?
Before his injury, Brian Quick was showing signs of blossoming into the player the Rams envisioned he would become, when they selected him with the 33rd overall pick in the 2012 draft. Quick should continue to progress in 2015. Stedman Bailey has looked like a Number 1 WR in his last four outings, with 19 receptions and 310 receiving yards. Tavon Austin is gradually being incorporated more effectively into the Rams' offense, and continues to be a dynamic home-run threat. Kenny Britt has brought quality production and veteran leadership to the unit. The Rams should make every effort to re-sign him to a reasonably-priced contract.
Signing a Dez Bryant or Randall Cobb holds a certain amount of appeal. The major issue would be the exorbitant cost of signing one of them. It could wreak havoc on the Rams' overall salary cap structure, and limit the Rams' ability to re-sign their own free agents, both now and in future years.
Selecting a wide receiver like Dorial Green-Beckham, DeVante Parker, or Jaelen Strong could be an attractive option for the Rams come April. The downside of selecting a WR early in the draft is the opportunity cost of doing so. Bolstering the offensive line, and adding a quality quarterback, should be the Rams' primary early-round considerations entering the 2015 NFL Draft. Selecting a WR early in the draft limits the Rams' ability to address more critical needs.
Barring an unforeseen circumstance, it's difficult to envision the Rams' wide receiver corps looking any different than Britt, Givens, Austin, Quick, and Bailey in 2015.