In our own twist on projecting the makeup of the 2014 St. Louis Rams, we’ve decided to skip right past the offseason, not pass “Go”, and move directly to opening day 2014. It is way too early to be making projections like these, as we still have free agency, the draft, and training camp to look forward to as the offseason is just now getting underway. Think of this more as a way to both monitor the teams’ progress throughout the spring and keep tabs on how areas of need are being met. With that said, here is the February edition of cover32 St. Louis’ So-early-it’s-stupid projections for the Rams’ 2014 offensive starters.
QB – Sam Bradford
The debates have raged over whether Bradford is the guy moving forward, but at the very least he’s the guy for the short-term. Should he recover from his mid-season knee injury in time for the 2014 opener, he will be under center regardless of any additions the team has made to the roster through the draft or free agency.
RB – Zac Stacy
Duh. Stacy burst onto the scene in a huge way as a rookie in 2013, so much so that the team developed an entirely new identity surrounding his hard-nosed style in the wake of Bradford’s injury. At this point, Stacy is a lock to be the Week 1 starter.
WRs – Austin Pettis, Tavon Austin, and Sammy Watkins
No single Rams receiver (outside of Austin’s few big games) managed to truly separate themselves from the pack in terms of becoming the team’s No. 1. I would argue that Pettis is the most reliable among the trio of the position’s old guard, which includes himself, Chris Givens, and Brian Quick. Additionally, Stedman Bailey – while a promising prospect – may still be too raw to be inserted into the starting lineup Week 1. Austin won’t likely be on the field every play, but he figures to be a force out of the slot for the foreseeable future as he continues to adjust to the NFL. That leaves rookie Sammy Watkins on the other side, who the Rams will have selected with their first pick in the draft, either at No. 2 (a bit of a reach, I know) or slightly further back barring a trade. Love it or hate it, Watkins and Austin suddenly make this offense uniquely versatile and remarkably dangerous.
OTs – Jake Long and Joe Barksdale
The offensive line is the area that seems to be the most in-transition among Rams’ position groups, even including the defense. At this point, should Long fully recover from his injury, he’s at least earned the chance to start from Day 1 based on his highly prodictive 2013. This mock lineup assumes that head coach Jeff Fisher will stick to his historical tendencies and not select an offensive tackle on the first day of the draft, therefore leaving the incumbent (and stout) Barksdale in perhaps a more permanent role on the right.
Gs – Cyril Richardson and Rodger Saffold
If I’m going to completely butcher any position as these mock lineups evolve over the course of the spring and summer, it’ll be this one. Our February mock assumes that Fisher and general manager Les Snead get the interior line help that they desperately need in the form of Baylor guard Cyril Richardson, who can likely be scooped up in rounds two or three of the draft. Richardson is then inserted into one of the holes left by the departures of Chris Williams and Harvey Dahl, who were casualties of the Rams’ tight cap situation. This mock also assumes that the Rams will be able to re-sign Saffold, which – given emerging reports that he seems likely to test the waters of free agency – may be more wishful thinking than it is a likely scenario.
C – Tim Barnes
This may be a stretch, but Barnes filled in admirably in the injury-driven absence of starter Scott Wells. Wells, along with Williams and Dahl, may also fall victim to the cap, and even if the Rams draft a center in the mid-to-late rounds, Barnes’ game experience (as little as it may be) will put him slightly above any draftee or C/G Barrett Jones.
TE – Jared Cook
The Rams’ 2013 leading receiver will resume his role as the starting tight end, but the team will likely expect him to build on those numbers in 2014 to help justify his lofty price tag. Backup Lance Kendricks generally improved across the board in 2013, but Cook is still the guy for Week 1.
What do you think of our way-too-early projections? Agree? Disagree? Expect our early look at the 2014 defense on Wednesday.
Read why the Rams should just say no to Eric Decker if he becomes available.