Nick’s Rams Draft Primer – Offense
Welcome to the first installment of the ClanRam’s St. Louis Rams 2013 Draft Primer for the offensive side of the ball. As a draftaholic, my motto is that it’s never too early to start looking at the draft, especially since these prospects have been showing off their talents for the last four months and are ready to showcase their abilities in the next few weeks as bowl games begin.
My objective is to evaluate team needs for the Rams, identify which are of greater priority than others, and determine some prospects to keep an eye on and track through the draft process. As always, I would appreciate your feedback and opinions on anything I bring up. This should first and foremost serve as a conversation starter.
First up, identifying the Rams’ offensive needs. Let’s go position by position.
Rams Offensive Position Breakdown
Quarterback – No Need: The Rams are set with Sam Bradford, who is rebounding nicely from a down year in 2011. Despite only modest improvements along the offensive line and at receiver, Bradford is making strides and giving fans renewed confidence. Behind him, Austin Davis showed enough pre-season potential for me to feel comfortable developing him behind Sam.
Running Back – Minimal Need: Steven Jackson continues to look like a beast out there on the playing field, especially in recent weeks. However, his status with the team is uncertain beyond this season. Possibly taking the reins in 2013 is Daryl Richardson, who has flashed speed and breakaway skills as a change of pace back behind Jackson. Isaiah Pead hasn’t had many opportunities, but if Jackson leaves, the Rams will expect him to produce. Another mid to late round pick or cheap, veteran free agent could round out this committee nicely.
Wide Receiver – Primary Need: The Rams essentially have two weapons at wide receiver. One is Danny Amendola, who is expected to hit free agency in 2013 unless the Rams work out an extension. The other is Chris Givens, who has flashed ability as a rookie this season but still boasts only a limited body of work. Even with these two weapons at their disposal, the Rams offense has been too stagnant at times to feel comfortable with simply the tools they have. Doing nothing and counting on players like Brian Quick to develop is a strategy that has failed this team in the past; more talent at the position would help Bradford and company take the next step offensively.
Tight End – Moderate Need: Lance Kendricks has developed into a capable blocker, especially when used as an H-back. But he only presents an occasional weapon in the passing game, and the Rams would benefit from having a receiving presence over the middle of the field. Behind Kendricks are role players at best; if Lance isn’t the guy, then I’m not convinced “the guy” is on this roster.
Offensive Line – Primary Need: When healthy, Rodger Saffold is a capable albeit not exceptional left tackle. Across from him, the Rams are forced to use some combination of Wayne Hunter and Barry Richardson, a far from ideal duo. The acquisition of a prized offensive tackle, one that could start immediately at right tackle but also flip over to the left side should Saffold’s injury issues become a consistent concern, would be ideal. We’ve not seen enough of Scott Wells to really know about him one way or another, but his replacement Robert Turner has performed better than most expected this season and should be brought back. He could compete at the vacant left guard spot in 2013 with injured lineman Rokevious Watkins, but left guard could also be a spot the Rams look to improve upon through the draft.
Offensive Big Board
With those needs in mind (OL, WR, TE), here is how I would set up the Rams’ offensive big board, based on the players projected to enter this year’s class…
-Luke Joeckel (OT, Texas A&M)
-Jake Matthews (OT, Texas A&M)
-Chance Warmack (OG, Alabama)
-Taylor Lewan (OT, Michigan)
-Eric Fisher (OT, Central Michigan)
-Jonathan Cooper (OG, North Carolina)
-Keenan Allen (WR, Cal)
-Tyler Eifert (TE, Notre Dame)
-DeAndre Hopkins (WR, Clemson)
-Terrance Williams (WR, Baylor)
Honorable Mentions: Barrett Jones (OL, Alabama), Tavon Austin (WR, WVU), Zach Ertz (TE, Stanford)
If you’re the Rams, and you’re in need of offensive line help, this is a great year to have the versatility of two first round picks. Luke Joeckel has likely earned a spot in the Top Five, which barring a trade up or a Rams/Redskins collapse, would put him out of reach for St. Louis. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t other very intriguing prospects to consider. His Texas A&M teammate Jake Matthews is very intriguing to me as a guy who could come in immediately and play on the right side, but would also be capable of shifting to Sam’s blindside if need be. Also keep an eye out for Taylor Lewan and Eric Fisher in Round One, or guys like Warmack and Cooper if the Rams opt to bolster their interior.
Though I believe the Rams have enough youth at receiver between Quick and Givens and should invest in a free agent receiver instead, they will have some options in the draft to consider if they’d like to add a perimeter weapon. The frontrunner to be the first receiver off the board right now is Allen from Cal, whose health will have to be evaluated during the offseason. While he’s not of the elite caliber of an A.J. Green, he should be worthy of consideration in the 10-20 range if he checks out healthy because of his prototypical height and athletic ability. Behind him, the rankings generally vary depending on whom you talk to. DeAndre Hopkins ranks as my second receiver in this class at the moment, though Baylor’s Terrance Williams could close quickly on him. While I’m a personal fan of Tavon Austin from my alma mater of West Virginia, I don’t think he becomes an option unless the Rams fail to bring Amendola back. At tight end, Eifert is the de facto top player at his position, and he deserves it. The Rams could really benefit from a weapon over the middle of the field, which Eifert really specializes in. There will be some other tight ends worth consideration, such as Stanford’s Zach Ertz, who boasts Gronkowski-like size.
Games to Watch
Interested in seeing some of these guys in action? Here are some bowl games to keep an eye on in the coming weeks…
Little Caesars Bowl (Dec 26): Western Kentucky vs. Central Michigan
-Check out arguably the nation’s top senior tackle in Eric Fisher.
Chick-Fil-A Bowl (Dec 31): Clemson vs. LSU
-Check out how DeAndre Hopkins fares against a talented group of LSU defenders.
Outback Bowl (Jan 1): South Carolina vs. Michigan
-Keep an eye out to see how Taylor Lewan holds up against South Carolina's Jadeveon Clowney.
Cotton Bowl (Jan 4): Texas A&M vs. Oklahoma
-Two top rated offensive tackles (Joeckel & Matthews) will be on display in the beginning of the year.
BCS Championship Game (Jan 7): Notre Dame vs. Alabama
-Watch to find out if Eifert can carve up the ‘Bama defense, but also check out the other side of the ball to see how interior linemen Chance Warmack and Barrett Jones perform.