St. Louis Rams 7-Round March Mock Draft
For draft nerds everywhere, this time of the year slows to a crawl due to the unbearable anticipation leading up to the NFL Draft.
Fortunately, there's only about a month remaining until the the big day (April 26th).
Until then, we can only stimulate our minds with the various mock drafts around the web. Personally, this will be my second-to-last mock that I'll produce (the final mock will be released several days before the actual draft).
Some of you will inevitably freak after reading this latest mock, as it seemingly gives way too much attention to the offensive side of the ball.
However, there's no such thing as too much offense for the St. Louis Rams this April.
Here's a neat fact mentioned in a previous article I wrote:
If the Rams defense held opponents to just 15.0 points per game (making them the third-best defense in the NFL in 2011), the team still would have lost 12 total games.
On the contrary, if the Rams offense improved from 12.1 points per game to a mediocre 20 points per game by adding 7.1 points to the final score of each game (making them just the 24th-ranked offense), the team would have finished with a respectable 7-9 record.
Obviously there are other variables that would come into play, but it's still telling nonetheless.
Clearly, the offense will the difference between the Rams being a two-win team or an eight-win team.
So with that in mind, here is the mock draft for the month of March...
Round 1 (6): Justin Blackmon, WR (Oklahoma State)
Joe Robbins/Getty Images
Weight: 207 Pounds
40-Yard Dash: 4.46 Seconds
Vertical Jump: 35 Inches
School: Oklahoma State Cowboys
Nothing to see here...basically every mock draft known to man has Justin Blackmon falling to the Rams at No. 6 overall.
Cornerback Morris Claiborne (LSU) will likely be the pick if he slips to the Rams, but he won't get past Tampa Bay at No. 5 overall.
Running back Trent Richardson (Alabama) is another alluring option to keep an eye on.
But in the end, the Rams will make the logical move and add a great talent to their receiving corps.
Blackmon is not as intriguing as some of the most recent prospects (A.J. Green, Julio Jones), but he's the best receiver in the draft and will provide quarterback Sam Bradford with a reliable target for years to come.
Round 2 (33): Stephen Hill, WR (Georgia Tech)
Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images
Weight: 215 Pounds
40-Yard Dash: 4.36 Seconds
Vertical Jump: 39.5 Inches
School: Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets
In this scenario, the Rams shock the entire league with this pick.
Jeff Fisher and Co. would never initially plan on drafting back-to-back receivers so high in the draft, but if Stephen Hill falls into the second round, then the Rams front office could ultimately pull the trigger after a full night of visualizing the possibilities.
After an admirable Combine performance, Hill is expected to land in the first round. However, Kendall Wright (Baylor) and Michael Floyd (Notre Dame) could ultimately prevent that from happening.
The Rams can get their primary receiver at No. 6 overall with Justin Blackmon, who will presumably be their 80-catch receiver.
And on Day Two, they get their tall speed demon who can stretch the field.
Blackmon, Hill and slot-receiver Danny Amendola could instantly make the Rams' receiving corps a team strength.
Round 2 (39): Zebrie Sanders, T (Florida State)
Marc Serota/Getty Images
Weight: 320 Pounds
40-Yard Dash: 5.41 Seconds
Vertical Jump: 27 Inches
School: Florida State Seminoles
The Rams signed Pro Bowl center Scott Wells in free agency, which already gives their offensive line a significant boost.
In addition, if the team dedicates a high draft pick towards another lineman, then the Rams could enter 2012 with a respectable unit up front (assuming left tackle Rodger Saffold recovers from his sophomore slump).
Zebrie Sanders could possibly be the top offensive lineman available when the Rams are on the clock with their No. 39 pick.
He lacks the strength to be immediate force as a run blocker, but he excels at pass blocking.
Fortunately for the Rams, pass protection if far more valuable to them than run blocking after surrendering an NFL-high 55 sacks in 2011.
Also, Sanders played both right and left tackle in college, so his flexibility will allow the Rams to experiment with various options on the line.
Round 3 (66): LaMichael James, RB (Oregon)
Stephen Dunn/Getty Images
Weight: 194 Pounds
40-Yard Dash: 4.45 Seconds
Vertical Jump: 35 Inches
School: Oregon Ducks
If you've followed my previous mock drafts, then you're not the slightest bit surprised by this pick.
For three seasons, running back LaMichael James was the focal point of one of the most dangerous offenses in college football.
He's too small to carry the entire workload, but he'll provide the Rams with an invaluable wildcard weapon on offense with his ability to score on any given play.
The Rams will use the bruising Steven Jackson to wear down defenses in the first three quarters. Then, in the final quarter, the Rams can take advantage of their opponent's fatigue by setting James loose.
Round 4 (96): Emmanuel Acho, OLB (Texas)
Erich Schlegel/Getty Images
Weight: 238 Pounds
40-Yard Dash: 4.73 Seconds
Vertical Jump: 35.5 Inches
School: Texas Longhorns
The Rams need help alongside middle linebacker James Laurinaitis.
Laurinaitis has been one of the few bright spots on the roster, but the Rams will not be able to fully utilize him unless they can find upgrades at both outside linebacker positions.
Emmanuel Acho will require some development, particularly in pass coverage, but he'll be an immediate starter on the weak side due to the Rams' thin depth at the position.
Round 6 (160): Jaye Howard, DT (Florida)
Streeter Lecka/Getty Images
Weight: 301 Pounds
40-Yard Dash: 4.82 Seconds
Vertical Jump: 27.5 Inches
School: Florida Gators
The Rams signed Kendall Langford in free agency, which provides them with a capable starter at defensive tackle.
However, they still need to fill the other tackle position.
Darrell Scott and Jermelle Cudjo are the only other tackles currently on the roster, but neither of them are viewed as full-time starters.
Jaye Howard is a valuable option in the sixth round. He has solid athleticism and faced high-end competition in the SEC.
Howard will require years of development, but hopefully between him, Scott and Cudjo, the Rams can get some unexpected production at defensive tackle with the proper motivation from the coaching staff.
Round 7 (192): Bryan Anger, P (California)
Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images
Weight: 208 Pounds
40-Yard Dash: 4.75 Seconds
Vertical Jump: N/A
School: California Golden Bears
The seventh round is typically used to find depth or camp bodies, but teams rarely find starters in the final round.
As a result, drafting punter Bryan Anger would be a great way to maximize the value of the Rams' final draft pick.
Punter Donnie Jones entered free agency this offseason and the Rams failed to retain him, so they certainly have a need at the position.
Anger is the top punter in the draft. He would be cheaper than any veteran punter on the market, which will free up slightly more money for the cash-strapped Rams.