Draft Picks Who'd Be Instant Starters for the Rams

Steven Gerwel@Steve_GerFeatured Columnist IVJanuary 28, 2013

PASADENA, CA - NOVEMBER 24:  Tight end Zach Ertz #86 of the Stanford Cardinal carries the ball after a catch against cornerback Sheldon Price #22 of the UCLA Bruins at the Rose Bowl on October 13, 2012 in Pasadena, California.  Stanford won 35-17.  (Photo by Stephen Dunn/Getty Images)
Stephen Dunn/Getty Images

The 2013 NFL offseason will be kicking into full gear in just over a month and the St. Louis Rams, like every NFL team, will be looking to maximize their productivity this Spring.

They'll certainly be looking to add quality depth along with several developmental projects, but more importantly, they need to find guys capable of winning one of the 22 starting jobs. 

Every member of the 53-man roster is important, but it's the starters—the guys who are on the field for the majority of the snaps—who are capable of making a drastic difference. 

Free agency will provide an opportunity to add starters at key positions, but in a league where prized rookies are expected to produce almost immediately, the NFL Draft will also play a major role in updating the Rams' starting lineup. 

Last year, the Rams were able to add two key starters with early draft picks (Michael Brockers, Janoris Jenkins), but they also used early picks on WR Brian Quick and RB Isaiah Pead, and neither player really made any impact in 2012. 

While it's not too late for Quick and Pead to turn their careers around, the Rams will have to do a better job at finding immediate starters in this year's draft, especially since the fanbase has developed a "playoffs or bust" mentality following a solid 7-8-1 record in 2012. 

With three picks in the first two rounds, including two first-round picks, the Rams are in an ideal position as far as upgrading their talent. 

But out of all of the prospects expected to go early in the draft, which ones can start immediately for the Rams? 

While every players selected early on possesses talent, not all of them are NFL ready. 

Here are several players who not only fill a need for St. Louis, but they're also capable of taking the field in Week 1 of the 2013 season. 

G Chance Warmack, Alabama

Along with being arguably the best offensive lineman in the draft, Chance Warmack may also be the most NFL ready. 

Warmack started 39 games at Alabama and was the centerpiece to one of the more dominant  college offensive lines in recent memory. 

Warmack has All-Pro potential and would start at left guard in Week 1. 

With Warmack, Scott Wells and Harvey Dahl manning the middle, the Rams would suddenly possess one of the most impressive interior lines in the NFL.

It's hard to imagine Warmack slipping to the Rams at No. 16, but they should certainly pull the trigger if that happens.  

G Jonathan Cooper, North Carolina

Jonathan Cooper is not on the same level as Chance Warmack, but he's very close. 

In most drafts, Cooper would be considered the top guard of the class, but it's hard to compete with a rare talent like Warmack, 

Cooper has plenty of experience under his belt with 35 collegiate starts and would immediately upgrade the left guard position for the Rams. 

Jeff Fisher has never used a first-round pick on an offensive lineman, but with such a glaring need at left guard and two very impressive candidates in this year's draft, he may be forced to break old habits. 

S Matt Elam, Florida

Craig Dahl is a free agent and will likely not be back in 2013, while 32-year-old Quintin Mikell is due a $9 million pay day (according to Spotrac), which will result in him being cut. 

The Rams will certainly attempt to re-sign Mikell to a more reasonable contract, but if those efforts fail then they'll be looking for two starting safeties this offseason. 

This dilemma could easily result in the Rams using one of their first-round picks on a safety, especially since this draft contains a number of talented safety prospects. 

Matt Elam is a hard-hitting playmaker out of the SEC and would look great in the St. Louis secondary. 

He is known to give up fundamental tackling in exchange for the big hit, but it's hard to imagine that St. Louis' veteran coaching staff wouldn't be able to fix that. 

Elam will likely go in the first round, but with multiple safeties receiving high draft grades, don't be surprised if the Rams wait until the second round, as one of the safeties will surely fall into their laps. 

S Kenny Vaccaro, Texas

Kenny Vaccaro is not a dynamite playmaker, but he's a sure tackler who lays the wood, which is exactly what St. Louis needs up top.

Vaccaro has generally been viewed as the top safety of the class, but things can drastically change following the combine and the college pro days.

If Vaccaro retains his first-round grade throughout the offseason, the Rams will likely look elsewhere. If he drops closer to the second round, they'll have to consider pulling the trigger.  

LB Manti Te'o, Notre Dame

It's a rather humorous selection at this point in time given the off-field "scandal" that has consumed him as of late. 

However, the story will inevitably die down and the distraction will be very minimal by September, so you have to look at Manti Te'o purely as a football player.

He missed a lot of tackles in the National Championship game and didn't look like a Heisman candidate, but since we now know he had big things on his mind at the time, the other games probably provide a more accurate gauge. 

Te'o is a dominate middle linebacker and his presence could allow the team to slide James Laurinaitis to the outside, resulting in a very scary linebacking trio featuring Te'o, Laurinaitis and Jo-Lonn Dunbar. 

Also, nobody truly knows what Fisher has planned for the defense with the hiring of Rob Ryan.

The Rams will likely stick to a 4-3 defense, but the presence of Ryan could help them adapt a 3-4 look in certain situations.

If that's the case, Te'o and Laurinaitis would be the two inside backers while Michael Brockers would play nose tackle.

The presence of Te'o certainly gives them some flexibility in that regard.  

Also, say what you will about the scandal. But his intangibles have never been questioned by those who actually know him, and his attitude would be welcomed in the locker room. 

If Manti drops to No. 16 or even No. 22, the Rams could be getting a huge bargain thanks to the scandal.

DT Sheldon Richardson, Missouri 

The Rams signed Kendall Langford to a four-year contract worth $24 million last year (according to Spotrac), but frankly, his play was disappointing and his production was very minimal. 

If the Rams wish to knock Langford back to No. 3 on the depth chart, they could use a first-round pick on hometown Missouri favorite Sheldon Richardson. 

Richardson recorded four sacks and 10.5 tackles for a loss in 2012. He gets great penetration and knows how to make a play in the backfield. 

Adding Richardson to a starting defensive line that also features Brockers, Chris Long and Robert Quinn would provide the Rams with an extraordinary level of talent up front. Every starter would be a former first-round pick. 

Also, if the Rams do adapt a 3-4 look on certain downs as a result of the Rob Ryan hire, this move would allow them to play Richardson and Langford at end (Langford was a 3-4 end with Miami), while Long and Quinn would become the rush linebackers (and Brockers would stick to nose tackle). 

So this is yet another defensive pickup that could give the Rams some flexibility. 

TE Zach Ertz, Stanford

The Rams have been in need for a No. 1 wide receiver for at least five years, but they fail to acquire one on a yearly basis. 

With no premiere receivers in this draft, it looks as though St. Louis will have to push through another season without a legitimate go-to-guy on the outside. 

However, Zach Ertz would be a nice consolation prize at tight end. 

The 6'6" Ertz has arguably the best hands in the draft and would immediately improve the Rams' point production in the red zone. 

If Fisher feels that Ertz has Rob Gronkowski or Jimmy Graham potential, it will be hard to pass him up, especially considering how anemic the St. Louis offense was in 2013. 


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