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Thread: Nick’s Rams Draft Primer – Defense

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    Nick’s Rams Draft Primer – Defense

    Welcome to the second installment of the ClanRam St. Louis Rams 2013 Draft Primer, this time for the defensive 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 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’ defensive needs. Let’s go position by position.


    Rams Defensive Position Breakdown

    Defensive End – No Need: Chris Long remains one of the best pass rushing defensive ends in the league, leading the NFL in quarterback hurries. Robert Quinn is tied for 6th in the league with ten sacks, and he’s capable of playing even better. Behind the two starters are William Hayes and Eugene Sims, who are capable backups especially against the run.

    Defensive Tackle – Minimal Need: Inside, Michael Brockers is emerging as a talented force in the middle and has graded out as one of the league’s best run stoppers at his position. Kendall Langford hasn’t quite lived up to that $24 million contract, but he’s shown enough to warrant a second year as the starter beside Brockers. Jermelle Cudjo is solid enough as a back-up, but don’t be surprised if Jeff Fisher brings in more talent to compete for roster spots here.

    Linebacker – Moderate Need: James Laurinaitis received a big $42 million extension in September, and though some would argue it’s been a down year for the man in the middle, he continues to make his mark on the box score and has locked down the inside job for the foreseeable future as one of the NFL’s better young middle linebackers. Beside him, JoLonn Dunbar has been a pleasant surprise, specifically against the run and as a pass rusher. Thankfully, he is signed through 2013, but the Rams should consider an extension if the price is right. Rocky McIntosh hasn’t been particularly impressive though, so it’s possible the Rams could look for a young, athletic talent to fill his shoes.

    Cornerback – Minimal Need: The Rams’ best cornerback this year has arguably been Bradley Fletcher, whose worst game (vs. New England) was because of penalties rather than blown plays. Cortland Finnegan and Janoris Jenkins have had flashes of both great play and some head scratchers, but look to be the starting duo on this defense for years to come. Trumaine Johnson has supplanted Fletcher as the team’s nickel corner, which means the coaches like what they see from their second rookie corner of the 2012 class. While it’s possible Fletcher could walk as a free agent, the Rams’ need at this position appears to be for depth players only.

    Safety – Primary Need: Quintin Mikell’s 2013 salary jumps up to $6 million, but he may have a case to argue for keeping it there, as he ranks as Pro Football Focus’ 6th best safety in the NFL. This is primarily because of what he brings to the table up near the line of scrimmage, defending the run and rushing the passer. It’s worth noting he is PFF’s 58th ranked safety when graded on coverage skills. The other starting safety on this team, Craig Dahl, is the target of many fan criticisms, and for good reason. He simply is not playing starting-caliber football for this defense, and is arguably their weakest link. He ranks as one of the worst run defenders at his position by PFF, and finding his replacement should be an offseason priority for St. Louis.


    Defensive Big Board

    With those needs in mind (S, OLB, depth), here is how I would set up the Rams’ defensive big board, based on the players projected to enter this year’s class…

    -Jarvis Jones, LB, Georgia
    -Star Lotulelei, DT, Utah
    -Manti Te'o, LB, Notre Dame
    -Damontre Moore, DE, Texas A&M
    -Sheldon Richardson, DT, Missouri
    -John Jenkins, DT, Georgia
    -C.J. Mosley, LB, Alabama
    -Eric Reid, S, LSU
    -Matt Elam, S, Florida
    -Kawann Short, DT, Purdue

    Honorable Mention: Khaseem Greene (LB, Rutgers), Kenny Vaccaro (S, Texas), Phillip Thomas (S, Fresno State), Anthony Barr (LB, UCLA), Chase Thomas (LB, Stanford), Arthur Brown (LB, KSU)

    The 2013 Draft is one that’s going to be rich with prospects for the trenches; on the defensive side of the ball, there simply isn’t much need up front. Having said that, I simply could not in good conscience completely remove guys like Star Lotulelei, Damontre Moore, Sheldon Richardson, and Jon Jenkins from the big board, because if they happened to be the best player on the board at the time when the Rams pick, I could see a guy like Jeff Fisher pulling the trigger.

    Having said that, my top defensive prospect for the Rams at this point is Jarvis Jones, and I say that as someone who had previous trepidation about Jones playing upright in a 4-3 scheme. I don’t think it’s his best schematic fit, but Jeff Fisher’s defense does ask their linebackers to rush the passer enough where I feel like we’d get appropriate use out of Jones’ specific talents while coaching him up in other aspects of the position. A group of Jones, Laurinaitis, and Dunbar could be very fear-inducing for opposing offenses.

    With the Rams currently slated to pick outside of the Top 15, one prospect to keep an eye on is Alabama’s C.J. Mosley. He doesn’t have the name recognition that former Crimson Tide linebackers Dont’a Hightower and Courtney Upshaw had, but there are some that believe he could be the better pro.

    At safety, there seems to be two prospects leading the pack to be the first selected at their position, and they are Eric Reid and Matt Elam. Reid has seemingly held the frontrunner spot for most of the year, though there are some that prefer Elam’s tape. Both could be good value in the late first round.


    Games to Watch

    Interested in seeing some of these guys in action? Here are some bowl games to keep an eye on…

    Chick-Fil-A Bowl (Dec 31): Clemson vs. LSU
    -Watch Eric Reid in action as he helps slow down the country’s sixth best offense.

    Capitol One Bowl (Jan 1): Georgia vs. Nebraska
    -Keep an eye out for Jarvis Jones and John Jenkins as they look to handle the nation’s 28th best scoring offense.

    Sugar Bowl (Jan 2): Florida vs. Louisville
    -After you check out Reid in the Chick-Fil-A Bowl, tune in to see Matt Elam and the Florida defense take on Louisville’s offense.

    BCS Championship (Jan 7): Notre Dame vs. Alabama
    -On one side of the ball, Manti Te’o will be dishing it out. When Notre Dame’s offense is on the field, keep an eye on C.J. Mosley.
    AvengerRam and Torry Holt like this.


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    Re: Nick’s Rams Draft Primer – Defense

    Excellent thread, Nick. I have heard (SWDC) that C.J. Moseley and Matt Elam are returning to college for their senior years.

    At any rate there certainly appears to be sufficient talent for the Rams to fill several of their defensive holes.

    I also agree that if Fish has Sheldon Richardson or Jarvis Jones, and/or John Jenkins with high grades he will in all likelihood pull the trigger on one of them with our first pick.

    Just can't see him passing on a high quality front 7 guy.


    WHAT SAY YE?

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    Re: Nick’s Rams Draft Primer – Defense

    Quote Originally Posted by RAMarkable View Post
    Excellent thread, Nick. I have heard (SWDC) that C.J. Moseley and Matt Elam are returning to college for their senior years.
    Couldn't find anything definitive yet on Elam, but you're right about Mosley, apparently he announced he was staying. Ah well.

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    Re: Nick’s Rams Draft Primer – Defense

    Reading your overview of our needs, it's clear that Safety is the biggest need. Do you think any of these players will have a first round grade on them and do you think we will pull the trigger on one in the first Rd if we don't address it in free agency?

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    Re: Nick’s Rams Draft Primer – Defense

    Very nice, as always, Nick.

    You should check out one of my sleepers, Jamie Collins, OLB, So. Miss. He had 98 tackles, 19.5 tackles for loss, and 6.5 sacks as a Junior, and 92 tackles, 20 TFL and 10 sacks this year. He'll be playing in the Senior Bowl.
    Last edited by AvengerRam; -12-21-2012 at 06:34 PM.

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    Nick’s Rams Draft Primer – Defense

    Great analysis as always sir. I would love a combo of Elam and an O lineman for our 1st round picks.



    Isn't Jarvis Jones the number 1 rated player on most draft experts big boards right now?

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    Re: Nick’s Rams Draft Primer – Defense

    Quote Originally Posted by Rambos View Post
    Reading your overview of our needs, it's clear that Safety is the biggest need. Do you think any of these players will have a first round grade on them and do you think we will pull the trigger on one in the first Rd if we don't address it in free agency?
    I wouldn't be surprised either way - Reid or Elam could cement a first round grade with a good combine showing and individual workouts, or they could slip into the second. I don't think either of them are locked in stone right now either way; when you get into the latter half of the first round, especially in the 20-32 range, it often times just depends on how teams have their boards stacked. The lower you go, the closer these guys get in grades, and the more interchangeable they become.


    Quote Originally Posted by AvengerRam View Post
    Very nice, as always, Nick.

    You should check out one of my sleepers, Jamie Collins, OLB, So. Miss. He had 98 tackles, 19.5 tackles for loss, and 6.5 sacks as a Junior, and 92 tackles, 20 TFL and 10 sacks this year. He'll be playing in the Senior Bowl.
    Sounds good, I'll look out for him.


    Quote Originally Posted by bruce4life View Post
    Isn't Jarvis Jones the number 1 rated player on most draft experts big boards right now?
    Yeah, the first couple of names on that board are probably not realistic in terms of where we're picking, but had I not included them, then I probably would have had to answer questions as to why they weren't listed.

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    Re: Nick’s Rams Draft Primer – Defense

    Great and insightful post Nick. Sorry to hear about Mosely returning to school, but I agree that Safety will be a more pressing need.

    I'm interested to see how our draft board will look considering we have to very mobile QB's (Kaepernick & Wilson) in our division and we'll be seeing them every year for a 1/4 of our schedule. Does that mean more work in the OLB area or in the DB category? I feel that we have DL area pretty well covered. Your thoughts?

    Go Rams!

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    Re: Nick’s Rams Draft Primer – Defense

    Quote Originally Posted by mde8352gorams View Post
    Does that mean more work in the OLB area or in the DB category?
    My gut would say OLB, but that kind of scheming may be above my pay grade. Still, with one OLB spot basically set with Dunbar, I don't think the Rams would have to move heaven and earth to find a capable Will linebacker. Finding guys to fill that role doesn't strike me as exceptionally difficult; I would prioritize the need at safety above OLB, but it would just depend on who is on the board in any given situation.

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