With the NFL Scouting Combine just over a week away, we have one last chance for early mock draft predictions before the boards are drastically shuffled following the combine.
The combine, while overrated and blown out of proportion, can result in certain players shooting up the boards, or it can cause players to sink like a rock (costing them millions in the process).
For the St. Louis Rams, the scouts will be on the sidelines trying to eyeball the hottest offensive playmakers and linemen. But given Jeff Fisher's defensive roots, they'll also be on the lookout for a hard-hitting safety or a vicious outside linebacker.
We can only speculate on St. Louis' actual draft day strategy, but in the meantime, here is a mock draft that would certainly help the team improve in 2013.
School: Tennessee Volunteers
Position: Wide Receiver
Pre-Combine Height: 6'3"
Pre-Combine Weight: 205 Pounds
Predicted 40-Yard-Dash Time: 4.34 to 4.45 Seconds
In my last mock draft, I had the Rams selecting Keenan Allen over Cordarrelle Patterson because Allen is the more NFL-ready player and St. Louis already has a project receiver in 2012 second-round pick Brian Quick.
However, Patterson is considered the most explosive playmaker at the wide receiver position from the 2013 class and will have a chance to put an exclamation mark on that title during the NFL Combine.
If Patterson can blow away the scouts in Indy, he could certainly grab St. Louis' attention at No. 16 overall.
With the addition of Titus Young and Patterson, the Rams will be suddenly be very young and talented at the receiver position, especially if they can retain Danny Amendola in free agency.
School: Stanford Cardinals
Position: Tight End
Pre-Combine Height: 6'6"
Pre-Combine Weight: 252 Pounds
Predicted 40-Yard-Dash Time: 4.60 to 4.80 Seconds
My last mock had Zach Ertz going in the second round, but that may be wishful thinking considering the recent tight end fad that has taken the NFL by storm.
Sam Bradford needs top-notch weapons in order to take his game to the next level. With two of the top playmakers of this class being selected with the first two picks, the Rams would be taking a major step towards accomplishing just that.
The 6'6" Ertz would be Bradford's best friend in the red zone and could provide unfair mismatches downfield. His solid hands and playmaking skills make him a very intriguing option.
School: Florida Gators
Pre-Combine Height: 5'10"
Pre-Combine Weight: 202 Pounds
Predicted 40-Yard-Dash Time: 4.45 to 4.60 Seconds
The Rams will cut Quintin Mikell for salary cap reasons and they'll most likely let Craig Dahl walk in free agency.
With two starters gone, there's some urgency to address the safety position, unless they have confidence in Darian Stewart, which is doubtful.
The Rams will most likely pick up one starter at safety in free agency, whether they re-sign Mikell or bring in a new starting-caliber safety.
For the other safety position, they'll likely fill the void with a high draft pick. If that's the case, Matt Elam is an exciting option if he slips into round two.
Elam is a hard-hitting ball hawk who will add a level of intimidation to the St. Louis secondary. He sometimes misses tackles in exchange for the big hit, but that's surely something the veteran coaches in St. Louis can straighten out.
School: Tennessee Volunteers
Pre-Combine Height: 6'5"
Pre-Combine Weight: 310 Pounds
In this scenario, the Rams unfortunately miss out on high-level offensive line talent, which is somewhat of a disappointment depending on your point of view.
They certainly need help up front, but using high picks on offensive linemen is not Jeff Fisher's style.
Last season, the offensive line in St. Louis was an absolute train wreck. The Rams responded with the signing of Scott Wells, and that was really their only high-profile addition to the line.
With just that one addition, combined with a number of low-level pickups, the current coaching staff was still able to drastically improve a depleted offensive line.
If they experienced such a dramatic improvement up front without sacrificing a lot of resources, why can't they do the same this offseason?
Don't be surprised if the Rams only make modest additions to the offensive line this offseason.
With that in mind, Dallas Thomas would be a decent pickup in the third round.
Thomas has the potential to start immediately on the right side, and he faced plenty of stiff competition in the SEC, which makes it more likely that he'll be productive right away.
School: Texas A&M Aggies
Position: Running Back
Pre-Combine Height: 5'11"
Pre-Combine Weight: 220 Pounds
Predicted 40-Yard-Dash Time: 4.49 to 4.69 Seconds
With Steven Jackson set to test free agency, the Rams could be stuck with undersized speedsters Daryl Richardson and Isaiah Pead.
There's nothing wrong with having a lot of speed in the backfield, but the Rams need a more well-rounded back who can take a beating and carry the ball 20 or more times a game.
Christine Michael is a solid option who is flying below everyone's radar due to being underutilized in college.
Michael had just 88 carries in 2012, but he picked up 488 yards and 12 touchdowns. He averaged 5.2 yards per carry over his four-year career at A&M and punched in 34 career touchdowns.
At 220 pounds, Michael is built like an every-down back. If Jackson does not return, this is a move the Rams may be forced to make.
School: Missouri Tigers
Position: Outside Linebacker
Pre-Combine Height: 6'2"
Pre-Combine Weight: 230 Pounds
My last mock had the Rams taking Zaviar Gooden in round five and nothing changes this time around.
James Laurinaitis is a rock in the middle and Jo-Lonn Dunbar is more than solid on the outside, but the Rams need another outside backer to complete the trio.
Hometown Missouri favorite Zaviar Gooden is a great value for this round and he has the potential to be a long-term starter at his position.
Even if he's not ready to start, he should be able to contribute on special teams immediately.
School: Louisiana State Tigers
Position: Defensive Back
Pre-Combine Height: 5'9"
Pre-Combine Weight: 178 Pounds
Predicted 40-Yard-Dash Time: 4.44 to 4.58 Seconds
This is the controversial pick of this mock draft.
At this point, Tyrann "Honey Badger" Mathieu has smoked his way into hot water and is considered a gamble, making his draft status a complete crapshoot.
If Mr. Badger experiences a monumental slide on draft day, the Rams need to consider pulling the trigger.
The Rams took a gamble on another weed-loving defensive back a year ago, a guy named Janoris Jenkins, and that risk is certainly paying off so far.
Mathieu's talents do not translate to the NFL as well as Jenkins', but he is still an absolute playmaker, and that's something that cannot be taught.
Mathieu would be an immediate special teams contributor. In the meantime, he will be the fifth defensive back and would eventually compete for a starting safety gig.
It's very difficult and rare to find a player of Mathieu's caliber this late in the draft. It's certainly possible he won't last this long, but St. Louis needs sprint to the podium if he's still around in round six.
Additionally, Mathieu would be the Rams' sixth player selected from the SEC in this scenario. Not that they should make decisions based solely on a player's conference, but it's always encouraging to see you team acquire players from the nation's top football conference.
School: New Hampshire Wildcats
Position: Defensive Tackle
Pre-Combine Height: 6'4"
Pre-Combine Weight: 302 Pounds
The final round is all about small-school projects with serious NFL potential.
Jared Smith was a star for New Hampshire with nine tackles for a loss and four sacks in 2012. He even showed some potential on special teams with four blocked kicks.
Smith can provide some depth and contribute on special teams immediately. Eventually, he could be developed into a capable starter, especially with the great coaching staff at Rams park working with him.