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    PD: Rams draft needs by position

    Rams draft needs by position
    BY JIM THOMAS Posted: Sunday, April 10, 2011 8:00 am



    The Rams' first-round path seems crystal clear. If Alabama wide receiver Julio Jones is available at No. 14 overall, the team should run up to the podium with his name on a draft card.


    And what if Jones, as expected, is gone? Realistically there are three sets of options:


    Choose from a variety of defensive linemen. Tackle Corey Liuget of Illinois, or ends Adrian Clayborn of Iowa, Cameron Jordan of California, Ryan Kerrigan of Purdue, and Aldon Smith of Missouri. They could all be in play. Or even North Carolina's Robert Quinn, if he drops that far in the round.


    Alabama running back Mark Ingram. Minus Jones, he could be the best value on the board at that spot.


    Trading out of the spot. A trade down, to gain an extra pick or two, seems much more likely than a trade up.


    Obviously, what happens at No. 14 will influence what the Rams do the rest of the way. But whether it's wide receiver, defensive line, running back, offensive guard, or cornerback, the Rams have plenty of needs to address in the draft April 28-30. A position-by-position look at the Rams' depth chart and potential draft needs:

    QUARTERBACK
    The Rams picked a great year to go 1-15, didn't they? That 2009 disaster allowed them to take Sam Bradford No. 1 overall in the 2010 draft, and Bradford helped them improve to 7-9 en route to NFL offensive rookie of the year honors. In a quarterback-driven league, the Rams have their QB. Backup A.J. Feeley returns and Thaddeus Lewis, who spent most of last year on the practice squad, is under contract. There's a slight possibility the Rams could use a late-round pick on a developmental QB, but overall, Rams scouts aren't spending much time on this position.

    RUNNING BACK
    Will this finally be the year the Rams bring in a bona fide backup to Steven Jackson? The Post-Dispatch has confirmed that Alex Green of Hawaii, Stevan Ridley of LSU, and Daniel Thomas of Kansas State have been invited to make pre-draft visits to Rams Park this Tuesday and Wednesday.


    But the Rams have brought in plenty of running backs for pre-draft visits in the past and not taken one on draft day. This should be the year that changes. Other than Jackson, the only RBs under contract are Keith Toston and Chauncey Washington. Depending on how the first 13 picks of the first round go, the Rams could select more than just a complementary back. In fact, if the Rams take Ingram, they could be drafting an eventual successor to Jackson.

    TIGHT END/FULLBACK
    This looks like a position of low need. At tight end, Michael Hoomanawanui and Billy Bajema are under contract. So is Fendi Onobun, who flashed potential although he is very rough around the edges. Daniel Fells is scheduled for free agency - he's either a restricted or unrestricted free agent depending on whatever free-agent rules eventually are imposed. But offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels tried to sign Fells last season when he was head coach in Denver, and the Rams want him back in 2011.



    At fullback, Brit Miller is not Mike Karney, but he did a functional job as Karney's replacement late last season before suffering a season-ending knee injury. McDaniels' offense doesn't use a fullback very often. The Rams have done some checking on H-back, fullback types such as Nebraska's Mike McNeill (Kirkwood High) and Yale's Shane Bannon.

    WIDE RECEIVER
    There was improvement in the wide receiver corps last year, and a still-young unit has room to grow. The team expects to re-sign Mark Clayton, who was a big early-season success before suffering a season-ending patellar tendon injury in Game 5. But it would seem to be an overly optimistic approach if the Rams decided to stand pat, particularly given the injury history of Clayton, Donnie Avery and Danario Alexander. Despite improving their scoring by more than a touchdown a game last season, the Rams still averaged only 17 points a contest - to be a bona fide playoff contender they need to find another TD a game. A true difference maker on the perimeter seems to be an absolute necessity.


    Which bring us to Alabama's Jones. One longtime NFL coach described Jones as a young Terrell Owens in terms of talent. A big, strong target who will drop some balls along the way but will make plenty of plays. The Rams are looking at options all across the board at wide receiver. A few examples: They have looked at Maryland's Torrey Smith. Wide receiver coach Nolan Cromwell attended the pro day of Indiana's Tandon Doss on Thursday. Arkansas-Pine Bluff's Raymond Webber (Miller Career Academy) held a private workout for the Rams the last week of March.

    OFFENSIVE LINE
    The Rams are set at left tackle in Rodger Saffold, and right tackle Jason Smith had some rough moments, but played better than some observers think. The issue is the interior of the line; its inability to consistently hold the point on running downs was particularly obvious in short-yardage and goal-to-go situations.


    Lehigh's Will Rackley, who projects as a second- or third-round draft pick, has been invited to Rams Park for a pre-draft visit this week. The Rams also have looked at Baylor's Danny Watkins, who looks like a late first-, early second-round prospect. The team also has shown interest in Nebraska's Keith Williams (McCluer North). As is usually the case, there aren't any guard prospects worth taking as high as No. 14 overall.

    DEFENSIVE LINE
    Steve Spagnuolo likes pass rushers, lots of pass rushers. That philosophy helped him register one of the biggest upsets in Super Bowl history against New England as the New York Giants defensive coordinator, catapulting him to the head-coaching job in St. Louis. So while some observers wonder why the Rams need another defensive end, a better question might be: Why not? James Hall and Chris Long are coming off strong seasons, but Hall, 34, is closer to the end of his career than the beginning. And among C.J. Ah You, George Selvie and Eugene Sims there is no clear-cut No. 3 end.


    There are plenty of draft prospects at end who could be good values at No. 14. Smith of Mizzou and Jordan of California are among the invitees for pre-draft visits next week. The team also has looked long and hard at Clayborn (Webster Groves High).


    There's a greater need, however at defensive tackle. The Rams don't appear to have any interest in re-signing free agent Clifton Ryan, who played in only one game last season because of recurring migraines. Slowed by injury, Darell Scott was a disappointment last season. Gary Gibson is a free agent who, like Fells, is in lockout limbo - he's either restricted or unrestricted, based upon what rules are in place once free agency begins. Fred Robbins was one of the league's most underrated free-agent signings a year ago, but he's 34. So someone like Corey Liuget of Illinois could be a first-round option.

    LINEBACKER
    The Rams started four players at weakside linebacker last season and would like to add a starter there to complement middle linebacker James Laurinaitis. There aren't a lot of options there in the early part of the draft for the Rams. Von Miller of Texas A&M could be a top five pick and almost certainly won't be there at No. 14. Minus Miller, that could leave Bruce Carter of North Carolina or Mason Foster of Washington State as realistic possibilities in the second or third rounds. Carter has first-round talent but is coming off knee surgery. Foster led the Pacific 10 in tackles last season.


    Among Rams veterans, Chris Chamberlain and David Vobora have been tendered as restricted free agents; Larry Grant has been tendered as an exclusive rights free agent. They all should be back. Laurinaitis, Na'il Diggs, Josh Hull, and Bryan Kehl are under contract.

    SECONDARY
    Ron Bartell and Bradley Fletcher form a solid pair of starting corners. Bartell moves into more of a leadership role now that safety Oshiomogho Atogwe has signed with Washington. But who's the nickel back? Neither Kevin Dockery nor Quincy Butler were tendered as restricted free agents. (Dockery is another "lockout limbo" player, who is restricted under 6-year free agency but unrestricted under 4-year free agency rules.)
    So at the moment, Justin King (who was tendered as a RFA) and Jerome Murphy are the candidates for the nickel job. If the right player is there in the second or third round, it wouldn't be shocking to see the Rams take a corner.


    Safety is a much bigger need unless the coaching staff thinks they can get by with some combination of Craig Dahl, James Butler, and Darian Stewart. No matter what, the Rams have to add somebody because those are the only three safeties under contract. The team has talked to Jeron Johnson of Boise State and Robert Sands of West Virginia among other safety draft prospects.

    SPECIAL TEAMS
    The core of this unit is rock solid in punter Donnie Jones, kicker Josh Brown, and long snapper Chris Massey. As has been the case for the last few years, the Rams would like to upgrade their return game. Danny Amendola is more than adequate as a punt returner, but the Rams still lack a home-run threat returning kickoffs. The team hasn't had a kickoff return for a touchdown since Chris Johnson in 2005.


  2. #2
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    Re: PD: Rams draft needs by position

    I forgot that both New England and Denver wanted Fells, it could be a big year for him under McD if he is brought back.

    Unfortunately this article makes me realize how many holes we need to fill... WR, G, BU RB, DT, DE, OLB x2, and S.

    I'm starting to reevaluate my mindset of the absolute need to add another wide receiver. If we don't grab one of the big two, than I'll be fine with the guys we have, no need to add another 2, 3, or 4. I'd rather roll the dice with Avery, Clayton, Alexander, and Ammendola than with the DT's, OLB's, or safeties that our currently on our roster (with all due respect to Freddie "Baskin" Robbins)

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    Re: PD: Rams draft needs by position

    I was just reading a scouting report on Ingram indicating that he has soft hands and good vision for the screen game. McDaniels would have fun with two receivers in the backfield.

    Hmmmmm. I am liking Ingram very much IF Jones and Green are gone.
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    Re: PD: Rams draft needs by position

    The trade down option is beginning to look better and better. I would love to drop down to somewhere between 20-25, draft a guy we like (Would Mr. Liuget still be there?), and use whatever picks we got to patch up some other position.

    The boat still has a few holes to patch up, but at least now it's floating.

  5. #5
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    Re: PD: Rams draft needs by position

    Quote Originally Posted by Ramendola16 View Post
    The trade down option is beginning to look better and better. I would love to drop down to somewhere between 20-25, draft a guy we like (Would Mr. Liuget still be there?), and use whatever picks we got to patch up some other position.

    The boat still has a few holes to patch up, but at least now it's floating.
    Agreed. Don't you think a team like Tampa Bay, who has a big need at defensive end, would love to jump ahead of Jacksonville, New England, and San Diego, all of whom could be looking at pass rushers? It'd at least be worth a phone call.

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