Rams Mock Draft: Instant Contributors St. Louis Can Find in Every Round
Welcome to a different kind of St. Louis Rams mock draft, one less concerned with precisional accuracy than with providing a more complete picture of potential contributors in every round.
Team needs will play a role in who the Rams take with their picks, but perhaps the most important determining factors will be what happens before the Rams get a chance to make their selections.
A single trade or unexpected selection can send the whole thing off in a different direction.
Not to mention potential free-agent signings that could fill positions of need prior to the draft.
Here now is a round-by-round list of players the Rams have a realistic chance of selecting who would be able to provide instant contributions.
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No matter which positions the Rams decide, or are forced to decide, to address in the first round, there will be plenty of quality candidates who will be able to instantly contribute.
But Jeff Fisher has never drafted an offensive lineman in the first round.
There is a first time for everything, right?
If Fisher and General Manager Les Snead decide that the Rams' need for an O-lineman is dire enough to justify a first-round pick, they will have options. Well, at least one.
Sadly, the top two tackles—Luke Joeckel and Eric Fisher—will most likely be off the board by the time the Rams' first pick comes up.
As previously mentioned, Oklahoma's Lane Johnson had a Senior Bowl performance that was impressive enough to have some dub him a top 10 pick.
D.J. Fluker will be available for the Rams, probably even at number 22 (the second of their two first-round picks). But there is a reason for that. Fluker's stock has been falling almost as fast as Johnson's has been rising. NFLDraftScout.com calls Fluker a borderline first-round pick. If Jeff Fisher ever takes a tackle in the first round, it's not going to be a borderline selection.
If Johnson is gone before the Rams pick at number 16, they would be wise to wait until a later round to select a tackle.
Fortunately for the Rams, they might have an opportunity to draft either of the top two guards available in the 2013 NFL draft.
Alabama's Chance Warmack is projected by some to fall as low as No. 16.
North Carolina's Jonathan Cooper, a great player in his own right who would provide an immediate upgrade, could be had with the second of their first rounders.
The only linebacker the Rams might have an opportunity to draft in the first round who would be worthy of such lofty consideration is Georgia's Alec Ogletree. Listed as an inside linebacker, Ogletree's 4.6 second 40-yard dash speed would make him a capable fit on the outside.
Baylor's Terrance Williams will likely be available. So could Tennessee's Justin Hunter and Cordarrelle Patterson. No to mention Cal's Keenan Allen and West Virginia's Tavon Austin.
All of these players could immediately contribute in the Rams' anemic offense, but the wide receiver group in this year's draft is so deep, the Rams might be better off waiting until the second round to address this particular need.
Texas' Kenny Vaccaro is the unanimous leader of the pack at the safety position. As such, he might be off the board by the time the Rams pick at No. 16.
Florida's Matt Elam is also worthy of first-round consideration. However, the safety pool is nearly as deep as the wide reciever's. The Rams could wait and still pick up a solid player in a subsequent round.
Notre Dame's Tyler Eifert and Standford's Zach Ertz are the two first-round options. Neither one is proficient at blocking, but that is something that can be coached up. Ertz has the better hands. If they take a first-round tight end, something Fisher has done in the past, it is probably going to be Ertz.
Mizzou's Sheldon Richardson could still be available at No. 16. So could Georgia's Jonathan Jenkins.
Though the Rams don't need help at defensive tackle nearly as much as they do at the positions listed above, Kendall Langford was somewhat of a disappointment in 2012, and Fisher has a penchant for taking nasty D-tackles early in drafts.
The Rams could shock just about everybody and take North Carolina's Giovani Bernard with one of their two first rounders.
Bernard is compact, quick and decisive. He is sure to be a handful for NFL defenses.
Alabama's Eddie Lacy, on the other hand, is a bull. This guy will run over defenders without breaking stride. If Steven Jackson leaves, Lacy could fill his role—not as adeptly, but he would be serviceable.
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Alabama's D.J. Fluker could still be around, though his suspect pass-blocking gives some pause.
Virginia's Oday Aboushi is a better pass protector than run blocker, but his high pad level in the running game could be improved through coaching.
Tennessee's Dallas Thomas is a well-rounded player who could step in immediately and be an upgrade over Barry Richardson.
Syracuse's Justin Pugh is rated as "exceptional" in pass protection and is above average in the running game too.
Oregon's Kyle Long (brother of Rams defensive end Chris Long) is listed as a guard but can play tackle too. He had a strong Senior Bowl performance that has placed him securely in second-round consideration.
Kentucky's Larry Warford also saw his stock rise at the Senior Bowl. What he lacks in agility he makes up for with power.
Oregon's Kiko Alonso and Florida's Jelani Jenkins head a weak second-round outside linebacker contingent. Don't worry, though. Things get better in the third.
This is where many of the draft's best wideouts will come off the board.
Check here for my list of those likely to be available. They won't all be great NFL players, but right now it's difficult to tell who will be.
If the Rams decide to address their wide receiver need in the second round, they would likely go for someone with good hands and separation abilities. Louisiana Tech's Quinton Patton and Oregon State's Markus Wheaton fit the bill nicely.
Eric Reid is now being projected by some to slip to the second round. He lacks ability in coverage, but if the Rams decide to get rid of Quintin Mikell instead of paying him $9 million next year, Reid would be a worthy replacement.
Georgia's Bacarri Rambo wins the cool name award, and he has standout ball skills.
His teammate, Shawn Williams, could also be a second-rounder, maybe even before Rambo—though the jersey sales alone have to be enough to justify using a second rounder on him.
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North Carolina's Brennan Williams was having a great season before a torn labrum cut it short. He is projected as a possible starting right tackle, just what the Rams need.
Wisconsin's Ricky Wagner is a solid, intelligent player. He won't be mistaken for a mauler, but he'll get the job done.
Cal's Brian Schwenke played at center in the Senior Bowl, and earned considerable praise for his performance, but he has the ability to play either guard position.
There should be good outside linebacker depth in the third round.
Mizzou's Zaviar Gooden should be there for the Rams. He has the speed to be a terrorizing presence and earned praise for his Senior Bowl performance.
Rutgers' Khaseem Greene is a sure tackler with good speed of his own.
Southern Miss' Jamie Collins is another solid tackler with good lateral mobility.
The likely headliner of third-round linebackers will be Florida State's Brandon Jenkins. Were it not for an injury-shortened senior season, he would be rated much higher.
During the Senior Bowl, Florida International's Jonathan Cyprien impressed so many so emphatically that he won't be around after the third round. This guy can "bring the wood."
Oklahoma's Tony Jefferson has some baggage, but he excels in coverage. If the Rams still have Quintin Mikell, Jefferson would be a fitting complement.
That Florida's Jordan Reed is widely considered to be the third best tight end in the draft, but is not projected to come off the board until the third round says a lot. He had solid offensive production for the Gators in 2012 but was shut down by Louisville in the Sugar Bowl.
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LSU's Alex Hurst is a viable fourth-round target at offensive tackle. He missed some of the 2012 season while dealing with a "personal issue," but impressed many with his early-season performances.
The Rams may begin looking to add cornerback depth in the fourth if Bradley Fletcher leaves through free agency.
Illinois' Terry Hawthorne had a disappointing senior season but looked good in the East West Shrine Game. He led the fighting Illini with seven passes defended.
Oregon's Kenjon Barner is an explosive back with great hands. Having played in Oregon's fast-paced, pro-style offense won't hurt either.
Fourth-round tight ends are looking pretty good right now.
Cincinnati's Travis Kelce was supposed to be the one to watch in the Senior Bowl before an injury kept him out. Still, he racked up 599 receiving yards while averaging 15 yards per catch. He is difficult to bring down, a very good YAC receiver.
Rice's Vance McDonald impressed everyone at the Senior Bowl with his ability to catch balls that no tight end has any business catching.
Don't forget about Tennessee's Michael Rivera. Like McDonald, he is a downfield receiving threat, a seam stretcher.
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Arkansas' Alvin Bailey is a massive human being with surprising quickness. He would be a great fifth-round pickup.
Connecticut's Sio Moore reads and reacts quickly and has 4.6 speed. He is not going to have an easy time getting off of blocks, but when he is free, he is dangerous.
Howard's Keith Pough impressed many scouts at the East-West Shrine Game with his intensity and leadership qualities. Like Moore, he is not big by linebacker standards, but outside backers in a 4-3 need to have quickness, and he can always add bulk.
Notre Dame's Zeke Motta has the rare combination of athleticism and size. He excels in pass coverage and is a sure tackler. The Rams could do worse in the fifth.
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The last two rounds of the draft are a crapshoot. A team is either trying to provide depth or simply take the best player available.
The Rams still may need depth at cornerback. If Danny Amendola doesn't come back, or maybe even if he does, they could use a kick/punt returner too.
Tyrann Mathieu could do both. Well, at least the kick returning.
His off-field issues combined with his diminutive size (he stands just 5'9") could cause him to slip all the way down to the sixth. If he is available at that point, he would be worth a selection for his punt-return abilities alone.
Georgia Tech's offensive guard Omoregie Uzzi is a strong run blocker but struggles at times with his awareness.
Duke wide receiver Conner Vernon doesn't have remarkable speed or agility, what he does have are great hands. He could be a Ricky Proehl-like possession receiver in the NFL.
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The seventh and final round of the draft is akin to grasping at straws. The goal here is to find someone who has a shot to make the team.
Much will depend on how their draft and free agency have played out to this point.
Mississippi State's defensive tackle Josh Boyd may still be around. Boyd has explosive quickness off the snap and uses his hands well. What he lacks is agility, an essential component to a defensive tackle's game.
Nebraska running back Rex Burkhead is a compactly built, hard-nosed player who runs low to the ground and has great vision. If Steven Jackson is not around, Burkhead would have a real shot to make the team.