The St. Louis Rams were the Russian roulette team of the NFL; you never knew which team was going to come out that week. Specifically, you never knew which defense was going to show up that week.
With injuries across the board on both sides of the ball (the most significant one coming on Oct. 20th to Sam Bradford), there was no model of consistency for the Rams. Add in the factor of an extremely young and untested secondary, with a washed-up corner in Cortland Finnegan, the Rams were a precarious bunch to predict.
With new defensive coordinator Gregg Williams joining the coaching ranks, hopefully continuity will be restored onto the defense. Though I do not have the same faith for Schottenheimer and his Iliad-length playbook, the future looks bright for the Rams. Currently holding the second and 13th overall picks in the first round of the upcoming draft, the Rams are in position to have a very good draft, and they have struck gold with the talent-to-need prospects in this draft. In the positions they are in, there are prospects across the board that not only fit the scheme of the Rams on both sides of the ball, but they are prospects worth their draft value of the Rams’ picks. So to begin, here are the needs for the Rams to fill, hopefully, in the draft.
Sam Linebacker: The Rams currently have James Laurinaitis at the Mike and Alec Ogletree at the Will in the linebacking corps for their defense. With a front seven as solid as theirs, only one position seems to be lacking in that front, the Sam linebacker. The duo that attempted (and under-performed) was Jo-Lonn Dunbar and Will Witherspoon. Obviously the weak point in this defense, the two could barely read guards, couldn’t guard the their zones in coverage, and were allergic to tackling. This position must be addressed in the draft.
Safeties: If there was a pair of safeties that you could count on to completely screw up a fly read, tackle thin air, or completely botch their zone read, it was McLeod and McDonald. Albeit young, both of these safeties had no concept of adjustment reads or switch zones on fly or post routes. Especially in the off-man, zone coverage scheme of the Rams, these two were essential in keeping plays in front of them at all times and only adjust to either motion, not bite on play-action plays, or watch tight end fly/seams/breaks and follow/switch zones, but nearly every game, they forgot what position they were playing. Maybe it’s a system fit problem, but what we know is that these two are not fit for the Rams’ defensive scheme.
Offensive Line: Jake Long is coming off a major knee injury, plus has a laundry list of other injuries. Add in the fact that Rodger Saffold is moving to guard and somewhat unproven Joe Barksdale is taking over at right tackle, and you have a potential recipe for disaster. Sam Bradford already has taken a beating throughout his entire career, and if he continues at this pace, Bradford is going to end up with David Carr-esque PTSD. An addition to the offensive line will be paramount for not only Bradford’s life, but also the development of Zac Stacy.
Cornerback: What Trumaine Johnson and Janoris Jenkins have done in the past year was admirable for young corners. Take out the factor of Cortland Finnegan being beyond useless in off-zone coverage; Johnson and Jenkins did a good job in read coverage and sustaining zones. But with the talent of cornerbacks that are in this draft, from rounds one all the way to four, there is just too much talent to let it pass by. An additional slot corner to help in third-and-long and two-minute, nickel situations would help dramatically in an otherwise lacking pass defense.
Wide Receiver: If Sammy Watkins is there, not at two, but if the Rams trade down to (theoretically) the four spot with Cleveland, the Rams MUST grab him. He’s too much of a talent to pass up. And though many are high on the potential of Tavon Austin, take out the Colts game and you have a disappointing season. Austin seemed to get lost after jams at the line, adjustments between man and zone, and couldn’t seem to shake off his man. The Rams may have Bailey, Austin, Givens, and co., but an additional receiver could do this offense wonders.
Quarterback: Sam Bradford hasn’t exactly lived up to being a number one overall pick. Yes, he had his best season in his career before going down with the knee injury last year, but take out the outlier and he hasn’t shown that he can be a franchise quarterback. With the array of talent at the quarterback position in this draft, the Rams might be poised to take a quarterback, not only with their third to fifth round picks, but even take a risk with their second overall pick.
To conclude, with the needs that the Rams have, they are in the perfect position for this draft. They have hit the draft gold mine. Every position in need, they will be in the position to draft, especially in the first round. Rams fans, be excited, for this draft may help the Rams to not only contend in the NFC West, but help win the NFC West overall.
In the next article, I will be discussing potential prospects for the Sam Linebacker and Safeties that the Rams could pick in this draft.
Part One: Team needs
Part Two: Sam linebacker/safety prospects
Part Three: Offensive line/cornerback prospects
Part Four: Wide receiver/quarterback prospects
Part Five: Potential trades
Part Six: The seven-round Mock