Drafting well is one of the most important aspects of building a championship team. Jeff Fisher, Les Snead and Kevin Demoff did well in their first year together calling the shots on draft day. I believe they will do well again.
On the first day of the 2013 NFL draft the St. Louis Rams will get to continue enjoying the bounty of picks the Washington Redskins gave them for the right to draft RGIII in 2012 when they take the Redskins' first round pick.
But some of the most important draft picks come in the middle or later rounds. That's where a general manager can really earn his paycheck by finding an underappreciated gem.
With that in mind let's take a look at some of the candidates to wear the golden Rams' horns in 2013.
As of December 2, the Rams are projected to pick 13th and 15th (Washington's picks) in the first round of the 2013 NFL draft.
Despite Jeff Fisher's tendency to take offensive tackles in the later rounds and develop them, I think the need is so great—with Barry Richardson currently number one on the depth chart at right tackle—that they have no choice but to take a tackle in the first round.
Sadly, top-rated tackle prospect Luke Joeckel is not likely to be there when the Rams' first pick rolls around. That leaves either Taylor Lewan or Jake Matthews—the second and third ranked OT prospects in the draft, respectively—for the Rams to choose from, both of whom are projected as solid mid first-round picks.
I'd be satisfied with either one of them.
The second first-round pick is a source of much debate among Rams fans and I admit I could see them choosing to go a number of different ways.
The areas of need are wide receiver—which I'm praying they stay away from—outside linebacker, safety, tight end and maybe even an offensive guard. OG's don't normally get taken in the first round, but Alabama's Chance Warmack is considered an exceptional talent.
I think the safety position is the most glaring of those needs. Craig Dahl is a rock-solid football player but he's not a game changer. Quintin Mikell is not the player the Rams' previous regime thought he was when they brought him in (shocker).
LSU's Eric Reid will be an upgrade the Rams badly need.
The knock on Reid is that he is overly aggressive—getting drawn in by fakes and breaking containment by over-pursuing. He also might be, according to cbssports.com, "the most violent striker in the SEC." That would make him just the kind of player that Jeff Fisher loves to have.
And that is precisely why I love to have Jeff Fisher coaching my team.
The need for an offensive guard, outside linebacker and tight end remains.
If Stanford tight end Zach Ertz is there for the Rams in the second round, I think they need to grab him.
At 6'6" and 252 pounds he has the physical potential to be a beast of a tight end in the NFL.
He currently leads Stanford with 58 receptions, which is twice as many as the team's second-ranked receiver.
CBS Sports ranks his "willingness to help his teammates," his "persistence to get open" and "his effort-blocking at all levels of the field" as some of his attributes that are impressing NFL scouts the most.
UCLA tight end Joseph Fauria is an intriguing prospect that will be available in the later rounds, but I don't think the Rams fans or Sam Bradford have the patience to wait on another developmental project. If they can get Ertz in the second round it's a plug-and-play draft pick that will immediately provide much-needed help for the offense.
Outside linebacker is a position with good depth in the 2013 NFL draft.
I would love it if the Rams could get their hooves on Southern Mississippi's Jamie Collins, but he is projected to be a second or third-round pick and his stock is rising, meaning he will likely go in the second round.
Jelani Jenkins is known for his sideline-to-sideline speed and his "plus instincts."
He projects as a solid three-down backer whose speed will allow him to excel in passing situations—a solid pick in the third round.
Despite Jeff Fisher's penchant for taking dominating defensive tackles early in drafts, I wouldn't be surprised to see the Rams pick up a DT in the fourth as they could use another good player in the rotation.
Penn State's Jordan Hill and Florida State's Everett Dawkins project to go in the third to fourth rounds. If one of them is available, look for him in blue and gold next year.
Hill's average size means he won't generate a lot of push off the line but his speed and lateral quickness will make him a menace on the interior line for opposing offenses.
Dawkins' skill set is very similar to Hill's, both specializing in interior quickness.
Other fourth round DT options include Indiana's Larry Black and Georgia's Kwame Geathers.
With the possible departure of Steven Jackson, the Rams may look to add depth at running back in the later rounds.
Utah State's Kerwynn Williams is projected as a fifth-rounder. Williams is a senior finally getting his shot after the departures of Robert Turbin and Michael Smith to the NFL. He has gained over a thousand yards this year and projects as possibly a versatile third-down back in the NFL.
Other options may include Nebraska's Rex Burkhead or Nevada's Stefphon Jefferson.
You have no doubt noticed that I haven't included any wide receivers in my draft projections. That is because I am a vehement proponent of the idea that the Rams need to bring in an established No. 1 receiver.
Greg Jennings, Dwayne Bowe and Mike Wallace are all slated to hit the free agent market in 2013. If the Rams are willing to pony up the cash, they can get the number one wideout they so desperately need.
If not, they might take a flier on a late-round pick.
Corey Fuller is an ex-track star walk-on at Virginia Tech. He only recorded two catches for 19 yards as a junior in 2011, but 2012 has been something of a breakout year for the speedster. His stat line: 41 catches, 769 yards and five touchdowns.
Former track stars are iffy, but if he is more of a Chris Givens than a Trung Canidate, the Rams may find themselves with an unpolished gem.
If I'm the Rams, I go with another safety here.
Michigan's Jordan Kovac has a touching story to tell, and the guy is a bona fide football player too. The scouting report is reminiscent of Craig Dahl but Kovac may be able to evolve into a better coverage safety.
The rap on Syracuse's Shamarko Thomas is similar to that of Eric Reid in that they both struggle in on-field discipline but definitely love to throw their weight around. Two rookie safeties that both have trouble with discipline might be more of a headache than Fisher and company want to deal with, but don't underestimate his affinity for these guys either.