5 Biggest Draft Needs for St. Louis Rams
The NFL draft is essential for teams looking to restock their rosters and upgrade their level of talent.
Free agency offers some relief when teams must fill an immediate need, but generally speaking, great teams and perennial playoff contenders are built almost exclusively through the draft.
There's nothing more vital to an NFL franchise than a competent front office capable of nailing draft picks year after year.
And fortunately for the St. Louis Rams, few teams were able to outshine GM Les Snead during the 2012 NFL Draft.
The Rams accumulated four starters (Michael Brockers, Janoris Jenkins, Chris Givens, Greg Zuerlein) and two role players (Trumaine Johnson, Daryl Richardson) with their 10 picks.
Snead's savvy draft-day tactics undoubtedly played a key role in the team's turnaround this season—a turnaround that featured a 7-8-1 record after going 2-14 in 2011.
Now the Rams must continue to fortify what is shaping up to be a young and extremely talented roster.
Another slam-dunk offseason can put the Rams over the edge and turn them into a playoff-caliber team for the first time in nearly a decade.
With that said, here are five positions the Rams are surely looking to upgrade this April.
The Rams are solid in the front eight and possess two capable corners in Cortland Finnegan and Janoris Jenkins, but they are rather weak up top.
Quintin Mikell was elected to the Pro Football Focus Pro Bowl team for 2012 and is one of the better tackling safeties in the NFC, but his coverage skills need work.
Meanwhile, Craig Dahl is a disaster and a clear weak link on the defense.
If an opposing offense gashes the Rams defense for a big play, there's little doubt that Dahl was involved on some level.
As a result, there's a solid chance that the Rams will grab a safety in the first two rounds.
For St. Louis, adding a capable safety could turn the defense into a Top 10 unit.
Current Depth: Quintin Mikell, Craig Dahl (Free Agent), Darian Stewart (Free Agent), Rodney McLeod
Draft Day Options
Kenny Vaccaro, Texas
Whether it's Michael Huff, Michael Griffin or Earl Thomas, there's no doubting that Texas constantly produces capable NFL safeties.
Kenny Vaccaro is the next in line and has just as much promise as the three aforementioned players.
Vaccaro finished the season with 91 tackles and a pair of interceptions.
His tackling skills are intact, while his coverage abilities are better than any safety currently on the Rams.
Matt Elam, Florida
Matt Elam has recently confirmed that he'll be leaving Florida and heading to the NFL (according to NBC Sports).
Elam's four interceptions this season confirms that he's a playmaker, possibly of Janoris Jenkins proportions.
If Elam has a solid combine, he could easily separate himself as the top safety of this draft class.
Despite the resurgence of quarterback Sam Bradford and the new level of confidence throughout the team, the St. Louis offense was still very mediocre in 2012.
St. Louis modestly ranked 23rd in the NFL with 329.0 yards per game, while ranking 25th in point production (18.7 points per game).
There's no question that the Rams are still desperately in need of firepower, preferably in the form of receivers.
Danny Amendola was a weapon when healthy and Chris Givens is developing into an all-around threat, but they still need a physical outside threat capable of getting downfield and playing jump ball in the end zone.
The team drafted the 6'3" Brian Quick in the second round a year ago, but Quick was a major disappointment as a rookie (11 catches, 156 yards) and cannot be counted on.
As a result, don't be surprised if the Rams spare no expense in finding explosive weapons this offseason.
Current Depth: Danny Amendola (Free Agent), Chris Givens, Brandon Gibson (Free Agent), Austin Pettis, Brian Quick, Steve Smith (Free Agent)
Draft Day Options
Justin Hunter, Tennessee
The 6'4" and 200-pound Justin Hunter was one of the more physical college receivers in 2012 and is certainly an appealing option for a late first-round pick.
Hunter lacks elite explosiveness and playmaking abilities, but his solid production (1,083 yards, nine touchdowns) and physicality are hard to ignore.
Da'Rick Rogers, Tennessee Tech
Da'Rick Rogers is Hunter's former teammate at Tennessee, and Rogers was clearly the better player when the two were together.
Rogers was kicked off the team for a positive drug test (according to NBCsports), which forced him to play for small school Tennessee Tech.
Rogers is arguably the most talented receiver in the draft class. The Rams were willing to take a similar risk when they selected Janoris Jenkins a year ago, so don't be surprised if they do it again.
Lance Kendricks turned in a successful sophomore season in the NFL (519 yards, four touchdowns), but he's still far from being the game-changing talent the Rams thought they were getting.
Kendricks improved as a blocker and offers something in the aerial game, but the Rams need more.
The Rams need a tall pass-catching tight end capable of causing mismatches in the red zone, and the 6'3" Kendricks does not provide that.
There are several capable tight ends in this draft, and the Rams will be giving them their full attention.
Current Depth: Lance Kendricks, Mike McNeill, Matthew Mulligan, Cory Harkey, Cameron Graham
Draft Day Options
Tyler Eifert, Notre Dame
The 6'6" Tyler Eifert has been a reliable weapon for Notre Dame in recent years and has the towering size St. Louis is searching for.
Eifert dropped from 803 yards in 2011 to 624 yards in 2012, but regardless of the slight decrease, he has still been relatively consistent.
Zach Ertz, Stanford
Like Eifert, Zach Ertz is a tower of a human being at 6'6" and 252 pounds, which fits the mold of St. Louis' future tight end.
Ertz has been Stanford's most dominate pass catcher this season after turning in 66 catches for 837 yards and six touchdowns.
Harvey Dahl has been an anchor at the right guard position, but left guard has been a weak spot for several years now.
Robert Turner did an acceptable job at times, but he's better suited as a backup. Not to mention, he's a free agent and there's no guarantee that he'll return.
This leaves a gaping hole that may be too deep for Rok Watkins or Shelley Smith to fill.
If the Rams can grab a blue-chip interior lineman in the first round, they'll pounce at the opportunity.
Current Depth: Harvey Dahl, Robert Turner (Free Agent), Rokevious Watkins, Shelley Smith
Draft Day Options
Chance Warmack, Alabama
Chance Warmack is the centerpiece of a relentless Alabama offensive line and is the top guard of the 2013 draft class.
Warmack is a Day One starter and will immediately upgrade the St. Louis offensive line.
Barrett Jones, Alabama
Barrett Jones doesn't have the raw talent and power that Warmack possesses, but he's a nice second-round consolation prize.
Jones can play every position on the line except left tackle, which makes him an extremely valuable asset.
St. Louis led the NFL in sacks this season (52.0)—an honor they shared with Denver—so perhaps it's wise to ignore the defensive line this April and focus on other positions.
The Rams finished 15th in run defense (117.5 yards per game), making it a very average season for the front eight as far as stopping the run.
Sure, they can create pressure, but the great defenses are always elite when it comes to shutting down the run, and 15th in the NFL is far from elite.
Rookie Michael Brockers was a standout at tackle, but 2012 free agent Kendall Langford was less than spectacular.
The Rams signed Langford to a four-year deal worth $24 million (according to Spotrac), so St. Louis was certainly expecting more for their money.
Since Jeff Fisher is a defensive coach, it wouldn't be surprising if he addresses this concern immediately by selecting yet another defensive tackle in the first round.
If this happened, the Rams would have four first-round talents starting on their defensive line (the others being Brockers, Robert Quinn and Chris Long), which would keep the defense fierce for years to come.
Current Depth: Michael Brockers, Kendall Langford, Jermelle Cudjo (Free Agent), Matt Conrath
Draft Day Options
Star Lotulelei, Utah
Star Lotulelei may be a better fits as a nose tackle in a 3-4 scheme, but he's too talented to simply ignore over a technicality.
After initially being criticized for a lack of pass-rush skills, Lotulelei turned in a career-high five sacks in 2012.
There's nothing a defensive coordinator loves more than 320-pound tackle who can also chase down a quarterback.
Just imagine how happy James Laurinaitis would be if he had Brockers and Star clogging up the gaps in front of him.
Sheldon Richardson, Missouri
Local favorite Sheldon Richardson will follow Justin Smith, Ziggy Hood and Aldon Smith as yet another Missouri standout on the defensive line.
The 295-pound Richardson doesn't possess the sheer size of Lotulelei, but he gets great penetration and can bring down a runner behind the line of scrimmage.