The 2012 NFL season has reached its official conclusion following the Super Bowl, which means the offseason is on the verge of kicking into full gear.
Fans will be forced to struggle through a seven-month period of no football, but the fun of free agency and the NFL draft is always a nice consolation.
For the St. Louis Rams, the upcoming offseason is all about obtaining the extra push necessary to finally get into the postseason after nearly a 10-year drought, which can be accomplished with a combination of solid signings in free agency and competent drafting.
This article will focus on the latter.
The best thing the Rams can do in the 2013 NFL Draft is add offensive talent with the premier picks, while beefing up the depth on defense with the late picks.
The anemic St. Louis offense was 23rd in yards per game (329.0) and 25th in points per game (18.7), but a collection of talented rookie prospects could certainly solidify the unit.
The St. Louis defense is tough and capable of hanging with any team in the league, but the depth needs to be improved in order to push the unit into the elite category.
Read on for a full seven-round mock that addresses the team's most desperate positions while also keeping value in mind.
School: Alabama Crimson Tide
Size: 6'3", 320 Pounds
Projected Round: 1
Rams fans are well aware that Jeff Fisher has never drafted an offensive lineman in the first round.
That pattern strongly indicates that Fisher believes mid-round linemen can be developed into solid starters and that a strong unit can be formed without sacrificing high draft picks.
The Rams passed on David DeCastro after he fell in their lap last year, so it's possible they'll once again refuse the temptation of drafting an elite guard.
However, Sam Bradford cannot afford to wait for long-term developmental projects to come around. He needs high-end support immediately.
Chance Warmack is the best interior lineman in the draft and would be an immediate starter next to Rodger Saffold on the blindside.
Additionally, a combination of Warmack, Scott Wells and Harvey Dahl in the middle would instantly give the Rams one of the best interior offensive lines in the NFL.
Warmack fills a need and would clearly be the best player available at No. 16 overall.
School: California Golden Bears
Position: Wide Receiver
Size: 6'3", 210 Pounds
Projected Round: 1
There has been plenty of hype on Cordarrelle Patterson out of Tennessee and he is currently being viewed as the best play-making receiver in this draft, which may turn out to be true.
But Patterson could be long gone before the Rams are even on the board. And even if he's not, does St. Louis really need to use a high pick on another project at wide receiver?
The Rams used the 2012 No. 33 overall pick on Brian Quick—a complete non-factor in 2012—and there's still hope he'll turn into a weapon in the near future.
In the meantime, another long-term investment is not the answer.
The Rams would be better off selecting an NFL-ready receiver who can contribute immediately, which is what they'd be getting with Keenan Allen.
Allen could very well be the best receiver of the draft, and his 6'3" height gives the offense a weapon on the outside.
This gives St. Louis a promising option at receiver while Quick continues to develop.
And long-term, if Allen and Quick both pan out, it would result in a very potent aerial attack in the future.
School: Stanford Cardinal
Position: Tight End
Size: 6'6", 252 Pounds
Projected Round: 1-2
The Rams need to get serious about providing Sam Bradford with weapons, which means grabbing two pass catchers with their first three draft picks.
In this scenario, the Rams solidified their line with Chance Warmack, and now they've added two of the top aerial weapons available from this class.
The current tight end fad in the NFL could easily result in Zach Ertz being selected in the first round, but his questionable blocking could knock him into the second round.
St. Louis has no interest in his blocking. It's his big-play ability and sure hands that will attract the attention of Jeff Fisher and Les Snead.
At 6'6", Ertz immensely improves the red zone offense and gives St. Louis a weapon with Rob Gronkowski and Jimmy Graham potential.
The Rams need to up their point production in order to see the postseason next year, and Ertz will help in that department from day one.
School: Georgia Bulldogs
Size: 6'0", 210 Pounds
Projected Round: 2-4
Now that the offense has been thoroughly addressed with three premier picks, it's time for the Rams to address another strong need—a starting safety.
Quintin Mikell will be cut, as he's due $9 million in 2013 (according to Spotrac), while the underwhelming Craig Dahl is set to enter free agency.
With two starters leaving, it's hard to believe that the Rams won't address the position in free agency. Whether they re-sign Mikell or bring in William Moore (or another top-notch free-agent safety), it's a need they'll surely attend to before the draft.
But even if they do make a key signing at safety, they still need a second starter, which is where Bacarri Rambo of Georgia comes into play.
Even as a third-round prospect, it's doubtful that he'd be any worse than Dahl, even if he's tossed into the mix before he's ready.
Rambo missed the first four games of the 2012 season and ended the year with just one sack and one interception, but he was electric in 2011 with eight interceptions and 56 tackles.
Rambo can start immediately and will greatly improve as he gains experience.
School: University of Southern California Trojans
Size: 6'3", 205 Pounds
Projected Round: 2-4
In case Rambo does not impress the coaching staff during training camp, it would be wise for the Rams to grab another rookie safety with the potential of being a first-year starter.
T.J. McDonald was considered a lock for the first-round after the 2011 season, but a slight decline in 2012 has him sinking like a rock.
Like fellow Trojans safety Taylor Mays, McDonald has been accused of being sloppy in coverage.
Regardless, McDonald is an incredible athlete and his overall level of talent is too tough to ignore this late in the draft.
Safety is currently a need for the Rams, but adding McDonald—along with Rambo and a veteran free agent—suddenly gives them a surplus of talent at the position.
We saw the Rams do the same thing at cornerback last season. They took a position deprived of talent and turned into a strength in just one offseason.
In this scenario, the Rams utilize the same strategy with the safety position.
School: Missouri Tigers
Position: Outside Linebacker
Size: 6'2", 230 Pounds
Projected Round: 4-6
Jo-Lonn Dunbar had a solid year at outside linebacker and was a pleasant surprise for the 2012 Rams, but they still need another linebacker on the opposite side.
Zaviar Gooden, as a member of the Missouri Tigers, would be a welcomed hometown pick who happens to fill a clear need.
Gooden was never a game changer and may require some development before he's ready to start, but he has great speed and all the tools necessary to play outside linebacker in a 4-3 system.
At this point in the draft, Gooden would be a bargain.
School: Michigan State Spartans
Position: Running Back
Size: 6'2", 244 Pounds
Projected Round: 4-6
Steven Jackson will test the free-agency market and there's a chance he's done with the Rams, although both sides will attempt to hammer out a fair agreement.
If Jackson is gone next season, the Rams will need some immediate help at running back.
Daryl Richardson and Isaiah Pead are both small, speedy backs and neither player is built to carry the ball over 25 times a game.
At 6'2" and 244 pounds, Le'Veon Bell has enough bulk to take a beating and was extremely productive in 2012 with 1,793 yards and 12 touchdowns for the Michigan State Spartans.
Bell is a solid outside runner but is surprisingly ineffective up the gut, especially for someone who weighs nearly 250 pounds. This may result in a significant slide on draft day.
The Washington Redskins drafted Alfred Morris in the sixth round a year ago and he ended his rookie season with 1,613 yards and 13 touchdowns, so it's certainly possible for the Rams to find a gem at running back late in the draft.
Bell could very well be that guy.
School: South Carolina Gamecocks
Position: Defensive End
Size: 6'8", 267 Pounds
Projected Round: 5-7
The Rams tied with Denver for a league-high 52 sacks, so they certainly possess talent up front and have no pressing needs.
However, William Hayes—the No. 3 defensive end behind Chris Long and Robert Quinn—will be entering free agency and could be difficult to retain given his seven-sack 2012 performance in limited playing time.
If Hayes is gone, St. Louis needs to add depth at defensive end, which could result in a late-round pickup, such as Devin Taylor.
Taylor was part of a fierce defensive front at South Carolina and had nine sacks in his final two seasons.
Taylor faced stiff SEC competition throughout his college career, which gives him a clear advantage over the small-school prospects.