Rams Fill More Needs on Draft's Final Day
Nick Wagoner Senior Writer
Whether by design or not, the Rams finished their 2013 NFL Draft with three players who combine strong football resumes with impressive off the field credentials.
In what turned out to be one of the shortest final days in recent Rams draft history, the team added Alabama offensive lineman Barrett Jones in the fourth round followed by a pair of fifth round picks in Miami cornerback Brandon McGee and Vanderbilt running back Zac Stacy.
The tie that binds all three, aside from being the newest members of the Rams and filling important needs? All bring leadership credentials that made them team captains at their respective universities.
“There’s definitely something to it,” general manager Les Snead said. “We were well aware of that and that helped us make the picks but it was probably more of a coincidence than ‘OK, today is going to be the day for team captains.’”
To kick off the final day, the Rams addressed yet another need by grabbing one of the most decorated and versatile players in the draft with Jones.
“What Barrett has been able to accomplish down there is pretty impressive,” Fisher said. “Those kinds of guys find ways to play in this league for a long time and that’s what our hope is for Barrett.”
In his four years at Alabama, Jones won three national championships, claimed the Outland Trophy as the nation’s best interior lineman and won the Rimington Award as the country’s best center.
Making those accomplishments even more impressive is the fact that Jones played musical positions throughout his career without much of a chance to settle in to one position. Never complaining about the constant shifting, Jones simply plugged into each task and got the job done.
“I’ve played a lot of different places,” Jones said. “If you ask me where I feel most comfortable right now, probably center because that’s where I played last year. That being said, I’ll play anywhere they want me to play. I’m just looking to help the team, wherever I can do that best, that’s where I’ll be.”
After playing just three games as a freshman, Jones became a starting right guard on the Tide’s 2014 BCS Championship team. The following year, he held down the right guard spot again before moving to left tackle in 2011. He also spent time at right tackle, left guard and center during the season as the Tide dealt with a variety of injuries on the line.
Jones finally settled at center in 2012 and had no troubles with the shift. That should be no surprise given his intelligence. He was an Academic All American, posting a 4.0 GPA in accounting before earning a masters of accounting again last year.
The Rams are expecting that intelligence and instinct to translate to the NFL level where the 6’4, 306-pound Jones figures to step into the role of interior swingman vacated by Robert Turner, who left for Tennessee in free agency.
Jones is coming off a Lisfranc injury in his foot but Fisher said he’s going to continue his rehab and be brought along during the spring to prepare him for training camp.
“He’ll come in and compete inside,” Fisher said. “What he does almost immediately is he gives you the comfort level of knowing you have got a guy who is not a starter who you know can backup multiple positions and go in if something happens.”
In keeping with the theme of filling needs, the Rams turned their attention to the secondary for the second consecutive day by adding some much-needed depth at cornerback in McGee.
McGee spent four seasons with the Hurricanes, starting every game over the past two seasons. At 5’11, 193 pounds with 4.4 speed in the 40-yard dash, McGee proved to be an athletic talent capable of playing sticky coverage in his 44 career games as well as contribute on special teams.
As a senior, McGee posted 54 tackles with a fumble recovery, two interceptions and seven passes defended. He said he plans to bring a lot to the table.
“I think the football intelligence aspect of it, understanding the game, being able to learn the game, being able to draft a game plan, and also just being athletic,” McGee said. “Using my speed to my advantage, being able to adjust during the game, also being able to run with just about anybody, just about any receiver, being able to play inside in the slot position, I think those are really my biggest assets.”
For the Rams, McGee figures to step into a depth role behind Cortland Finnegan, Janoris Jenkins and Trumaine Johnson, the team’s top three corners. The only other corner currently on the roster is Quinton Pointer so there is an obvious opportunity for McGee to step into a depth and special teams role right away.
“He was a gunner and covered very well,” Fisher said. “(He has) a track background but a good football player. He’s got good size and he was under 4.4. He’s got cover skills and understands the game. We are looking forward to him having the opportunity to come in and fill in at the fourth corner spot.”
Having gone almost two full days without making a trade, Snead decided he didn’t want to wait around anymore to fill the one glaring need the Rams still needed to fill: running back.
So it was that the Rams pulled off a trade with Houston to move back into the fifth round and bring their 2013 NFL Draft to an end a bit early. The Rams sent their two sixth round picks – Nos. 184 and 198 overall – to the Texans in exchange for No. 160 overall.
The target was Stacy, a rolling ball of butcher knives at just under 5’9 and 216 pounds who happens to own essentially every major rushing mark in Vanderbilt history.
“He was one of probably the last guys on our board that we were really jacked about,” Snead said. “We had been managing that running back board a little bit and he was a guy we liked for awhile and it went from deep to think pretty quickly so we went and nabbed him.”
Carrying the load for his final two seasons in Nashville, Stacy completed his career with 3,143 rushing yards and 30 touchdowns on the ground, both of which are school records.
Stacy adds a physical running element to what figures to be a revamped rushing game following the loss of mainstay Steven Jackson to Atlanta in free agency.
“I feel like St. Louis is a great situation for me,” Stacy said. “I just want to go in, compete and win. The overall goal is to win.”
With the likes of Daryl Richardson, Isaiah Pead and Terrance Ganaway already in place, Stacy can enter the mix and compete for opportunities as more of a big, physical runner who can complement the speed and elusive style of Pead and Richardson.
“Zac is a very explosive runner,” Fisher said. “He’s an outstanding young man, smart, good out of the backfield, pass protector, he’s a complete back. He’s a strong inside, kind of power runner that kind of gives us a change of pace. You can’t have too many of these guys.”
Now that they’re seven-player haul from the 2013 draft is complete, Fisher, Snead and their respective staffs will turn their full attention to undrafted free agency, a bonanza that immediately follows the draft and requires a lot of people working the phones.
Including the seven draft picks, the Rams have just 59 players on the roster, leaving plenty of room for undrafted free agents. That could turn out to be quite beneficial for the Rams in landing their top targets because it means St. Louis is something of a land of opportunity for them.
“We recognize that we still have holes,” Fisher said. “We have some roster spots available but fortunately for us when this is all said and done today if you are choosing between Club A and Club B and Club A has three linebackers and Club B has six, you are going to choose the Rams because you are going to get the opportunity to come to camp and compete. We are banking that we’ll have some success later on this afternoon in that area.”