The St. Louis Rams are a team on the rise. Even without starting quarterback Sam Bradford for half of 2013, they remained a fiery, competitive unit. That was all thanks to solid coaching, a steady rushing attack and an elite pass rush.
If the Rams can only improve their pass defense and get consistent play from under center, they could be a dangerous squad in 2014. While they’re just pre-draft rumors for now, word has sprung around that the Rams have eyes for Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel. With Bradford coming off of a serious knee injury and still not being able to take his game to the next level (and also being owed over $14 million), the Rams could seriously consider moving in a different direction at quarterback.
Let’s dissect that and the Rams other top needs a little further as we prepare for the upcoming 2014 NFL Draft:
Offensive needs: OT, WR, QB
Quarterback isn’t a need as it stands, but it’s pretty clear the Rams have thought about what they should do under center for the future. If Bradford’s price tag and inconsistency have soured them, trading him and moving on with Manziel at the #2 overall pick becomes a very real possibility. Just imagine Manziel controlling that offense with his speed on the turf.
St. Louis making a drastic move like that isn’t impossible, but it’s probably not all that likely. After all, Bradford might be hurt a lot, but he’s still a pretty sure thing. Manziel isn’t just yet. For now, we’ll assume the Rams keep the safe approach as they’ve been accustomed to doing, and simply grab the best available player at the second overall pick. That should end up being an offensive tackle, with Greg Robinson probably being their first choice, and Jake Matthews a close second.
The Rams could also draft Jadeveon Clowney if he’s there, and no one would be able to blame them. Of course, if St. Louis gets an amazing offer like they did from the Washington Redskins in the RG3 trade, they’ll have to listen.
St. Louis also has a second first rounder, down at #13. If they don’t grab a tackle at two, they can hope Michigan stud tackle Taylor Lewan slides down. If he’s not there, the insanely versatile Zack Martin could be in play.
Wide receiver is also a huge need, which could put Clemson receiver Sammy Watkins in play at second overall. Reports suggest the Rams won’t pounce on Watkins there, but that doesn’t mean they wouldn’t draft a receiver 10 picks later. Mike Evans or Odell Beckham are two hot names that could make some sense.
Back to quarterback, the Rams should still grab a signal caller at some point in the draft. They did bring on the reliable Shaun Hill to be Bradford’s top backup, but grabbing someone they can groom wouldn’t be a bad idea, either. Tom Savage might be worth the snag in round three if he’s still available, while a project in round sixth like Logan Thomas could be tempting, as well.
Defensive needs: S, CB, LB
The Rams need help at safety pretty badly. T.J. McDonald figures to be penciled in as one starter, but he’s not amazing, which really creates two holes for St. Louis on the back of their secondary. At the very worst, they need to land one stud safety to help mask his issues, and hopefully he eventually turns into a solid player. Ideally, they use the 13th overall pick on Ha Ha Clinton-Dix or Calvin Pryor. Clinton-Dix is the best overall safety and is the more balanced of the two, but Pryor is a ferocious hitter who might have more upside.
St. Louis could also use their two first rounders elsewhere and still get a very quality safety in round two. Dion Bailey, LaMarcus Joyner and Craig Loston are just three names to monitor.
The Rams let Cortland Finnegan go, so grabbing depth at corner is a must. They might even want to bring someone in who can push to see the field right away, but worst case they need someone who can compete and offer depth. They should at least consider adding someone in the 3-4 round range.
Linebacker is an interesting case, as the Rams have two highly-skilled and immensely talented linebackers and one very average one. They need one linebacker for the outside. This might be where the Khalil Mack love comes in, as he is athletic enough to shore up that linebacker spot. That’s probably not going to happen, though, so the Rams will likely just get some competition in the middle rounds.
*Photo Credit – Johnmaxmena2