6 College Football Studs Who Can Help Get St. Louis Rams to the Top of NFC West
The Rams are close.
The Washington Redskins' season now done, the Rams' two first-round draft picks are officially set at No. 16 and No. 22. Even though both picks come in the latter half of the first round, there should be plenty of players still available to fill the positions of need for the Rams.
Perhaps the most glaring of those needs is offensive tackle. Unfortunately, the depth of talent at that position shallowed considerably when Michigan's Taylor Lewan and Texas A&M's Jake Matthews both decided to return to school for their senior years.
If the Rams take a tackle in the first round, it may have to be a reach. Jeff Fisher and Les Snead are not likely to do that.
And in an article with "College Football Studs" in the title, I'm not likely to talk about any second-round talents whose stock has risen simply because other players decided to stay in school.
So, let's take a look at those college football players who have proved their studliness and who can help the Rams at their positions of need.
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We might as well start with the studliest of the studly who may still be available when the 16th pick rolls around.
If the Rams don't want to see Sam Bradford go the way of David Carr and other quarterbacks whose careers were ruined by the merciless poundings they took as the result of a lack of protection, they will need to add both an offensive guard and a tackle at some point in the 2013 offseason.
If Chance Warmack falls to No. 16, it will save them a considerable amount of money on the free-agent market.
Warmack, by all accounts, is nasty.
Warmack is a big, strong, nasty lineman with good smarts and athleticism. He shows awareness, is an easy mover in pass protection and has power as a run-blocker. The best guard I've evaluated in the past decade, Warmack is the rare interior lineman worthy of a top-10 overall pick.
Offensive guards typically don't go in the top 10—or the first round, for that matter—so while he may be worthy of a top 10 pick, it would not be shocking to see him fall to the Rams at No. 16.
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Sticking with the offensive line theme for now, North Carolina's Jonathan Cooper would make the Rams almost as happy as Chance Warmack if the latter gets taken before the 16th pick.
Cooper is a 6'3", 310-pound tenacious interior offensive lineman who blocks through the whistle. That is just the kind of guy you want protecting your quarterback.
While no slouch at run-blocking, his pass-blocking is his highest graded attribute. He would be a perfect fit for a Rams offensive line that struggled to protect its quarterback in 2012.
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Hunter, his teammate Cordarrelle Patterson and Cal's Keenan Allen are all rated very similarly. Any one of them could be the first wide receiver off the board.
Hunter fits the Rams' needs the best. Of the three of them, he is the one with the most big-play potential who has a proven ability to perform consistently.
Patterson has shown flashes of jaw-dropping athleticism, but 2012 was his first season of Division I football. In 2011 he was at a junior college in Kansas. Patterson would be best served by going to a team that can use him as a kick returner while refining his route-running skills and overall football IQ.
The Rams, still waiting on the Brian Quick project to bear fruit, don't have time to develop another wide receiver. Sam Bradford needs help now. Justin Hunter can provide it.
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Can the Rams pull off second-round steals two years in a row?
Man, it'd be cool if they could.
In 2011, Da'Rick Rogers led Tennessee with 67 catches for 1,040 yards and nine touchdowns. Those are elite-level numbers.
He was subsequently kicked off the Tennessee team for failing drug tests (notice the plural).
He played at Tennessee Tech in 2012 and perplexingly posted lower numbers against inferior competition, which is cause for some concern, though the reasons are unclear.
What is clear is that Rogers has the talent and the physical tools to be a first-round pick. We also know, thanks to the success story that is Janoris Jenkins, that the Rams don't shy away from prospects with a history of getting into trouble.
If they are able to forgo a wide receiver in the first round and pick Rogers in the second, they may again come out looking like the smartest guys in the room.
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The venerable Scouts Inc. has only one safety in their top 32. His name is Kenny Vaccaro.
Even if they made an error by not having LSU's Eric Reid above Vaccaro, the latter fits better with the Rams anyway.
After suffering through a season in which Craig Dahl was routinely beaten in coverage, the Rams need a safety who can keep up with NFL receivers. Kenny Vaccaro is that guy. His coverage skills garnered the highest possible rating from Scouts Inc.
Reid, on the other hand, is widely considered to be a liability in coverage.
The Rams already have a safety who excels against the run in Quintin Mikell. Kenny Vaccaro would be the perfect complement on the other side of the field.
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Lance Kendricks' improved play over the last month of the season made upgrading the tight end position less of an immediate need.
Still, no one knows what Kendricks will bring in 2013, and his tendency to have stone-like hands will remain disconcerting until he proves he can make catches over a longer period than just one month.
The Rams need a weapon at the tight end position. Zach Ertz fits the bill. He has above-average big-play ability and ball skills, and his separation skills are exceptional.
An NFL team can never have too many offensive weapons. If the Rams decide to address some of their other needs through free agency or lower-round draft picks, Zach Ertz would be a welcome addition to Sam Bradford's arsenal.