It's the start of a new year, which means we're in full draft mode. Underclassmen are declaring left and right, the majority of the draft order is set, and the discussions are heating up!
This is the first of what I'm sure will be many Rams-only mock draft projections of the year, just to give an idea of some possible scenarios. Expect them to change and shift as the process goes along!
Let's start with something not entirely unexpected... a trade!
In this projection, the St. Louis Rams trade the second overall pick (TVC for Rams: 2600 pts) to the Cleveland Browns for the fourth overall pick, the 35th overall pick, and a 2015 second round pick (est. TVC for Browns: 2550 pts).
By making this trade, the Rams only drop two spots, pick up an additional pick this year, and what they have to think will be an additional Top 50 pick in next year's draft. The Browns make this move in order to ensure they get their man at QB.
With that trade in the books, let the drafting begin...
Round 1: Jake Matthews, OT, Texas A&M
-Simply put, Jake Matthews represents the best combination of both value and need for the St. Louis Rams. Jake Long injury history and latest knee issue puts his long-term effectiveness for the club in question; itís possible he could be gone after the 2014 season when his guaranteed money has been paid out. Matthews is the top offensive tackle in what looks to be a great class; the Rams would benefit by taking the best of the best at the position and grooming him to be Sam Bradfordís blindside protector for the next decade.
Round 1: Darqueze Dennard, CB, Michigan State
-Dennard is often left on an island, which is rare for the college level and speaks to his talents as a defender. He boasts capable size for the position and shut down ability, which heís displayed on some of the biggest stages available to him. Cortland Finnegan regressed severely in 2013 and may not be back at his current deal this upcoming season. If heís out, that leaves only Janoris Jenkins and Trumaine Johnson at corner, with Brandon McGee as the only real depth behind them. In Dennard, the Rams get yet another prospect who currently ranks as the best at his position in this class, and someone who should challenge for significant playing time right out of the gate.
Round 2 (f/CLE): Allen Robinson, WR, Penn State
-Robinson gives the Rams the kind of size theyíd like from an outside starting receiver, and unlike Brian Quick, Allen knows how to use his size and strength to his advantage. While Robinson isnít a burner Ė and thatís one reason he might be on the outside looking in when it comes to the first round Ė he possesses enough speed and acceleration to get the job done. Heís been incredibly consistent as a collegiate receiver this year; he caught more than five passes in all but two games this year and eclipsed the 100 yard mark in eight of twelve contests. He should compete immediately for starting time on the outside.
Round 2: Calvin Pryor, S, Louisville
-What I think will appeal to the Rams about Pryor is his versatility, and thatís something that made Kenny Vaccaro such an intriguing safety prospect for the Rams last year. Pryor is a guy who can be moved interchangeably between traditional free and strong safety roles. The one area where heís going to have to answer questions is his athletic ability and how it translates to potential man coverage assignments. If he can display the effectiveness and ability to handle that, then I think heíd be very intriguing to this Rams defensive staff.
Round 3: Daniel McCullers, DT, Tennessee
-Shades of Albert Haynesworth? Daniel McCullers will likely weigh in around the same size that Haynesworth was, and you have to wonder if Fisher will have flashbacks of the big man on the inside of his line. Heís either going to force teams to double team him, leaving Quinn, Long, and/or Brockers one on one, or someone is going to have to handle his girth by themselves. Either way, heíd be a great addition to the Ramsí defensive line rotation.
Round 4: Aaron Murray, QB, Georgia
-I donít think itís an understatement to say Kellen Clemens performed much better than most expected when he took over for the injured Sam Bradford this season. However, Clemens is a free agent and could command a decent back-upís check coming off of his 2013 performance. Maybe the Rams find a way to retain him on the cheap, but even if they do, theyíd be wise to start looking for someone younger to groom behind Sam as a capable back-up. Murray has enough ability to be intriguing in that role, but shouldnít threaten Samís job like a higher selection might.
Round 5: Jordan Tripp, LB, Montana
-At this point in the draft, the Rams are still looking for contributors; Zac Stacy is a prime example of that. Jordan Tripp is a Day Three prospect that I find intriguing because, though he lacks the physical ability to be more highly regarded, he does all the little things right and does them with maximum effort. Heís instinctive, a high character guy, and shows good technique at the position. For a Rams team in need of a situational player, Tripp may have just enough to emerge in that role.
Round 6: Brandon Thomas, OG, Clemson
-Thomas could be gone at this point in the process, but for this projection, Iím counting on his lack of ideal size limiting him to an interior position, which will decrease his value at the next level. Still, for a Rams team in need of help along the interior of the offensive line, Thomas has some intriguing qualities and should find a home at least as a back-up/reserve.
Round 7: Lynden Trail, DE, Norfolk State
-Trail was a four-star and Rivals Top 150 player coming out of high school, after which he committed to the University of Florida. However, he apparently was not playing well enough to see much time for the Gators, and transferred to Norfolk State. In the late rounds, it could be worth taking a risk on a guy with his kinds of physical tools.
Feedback and constructive criticism is always welcome!