Barring a trade into the top of the 2013 NFL draft order, the St. Louis Rams will find themselves in an unfamiliar position this April as holders of the No. 16 pick. Defensive tackle Michael Brockers was selected in 2012 as the 14th player off the board, after the Rams traded down—twice.
Maybe general manager Les Snead is comfortable in that part of the sequence. Of course, Snead would prefer to be on the clock in the back end of the draft—as the result of a long and fruitful playoff run—but he’ll get an opportunity to use a playoff team’s pick as well. The Rams also have the No. 22 pick as a result of the trade that sent the rights to draft Offensive Rookie of the Year Robert Griffin III to the Washington Redskins in 2012.
Entering the NFL’s free agency period, St. Louis has plenty of needs (detailed here) that can and need to be addressed with free-agent acquisitions and/or draft picks. The following five players should all be given serious consideration by Rams brass with their first pick, assuming that they don’t trade up.
Matt Miller’s Mock: Round 1, Pick 20
The chance that any of the big three offensive tackles—Texas A&M junior Luke Joeckel, Central Michigan senior Eric Fisher and Oklahoma senior Lane Johnson—is on the board when the St. Louis Rams are scheduled to draft at No. 16 is highly unlikely. They could use help on the offensive line, though, which is why 6’3”, 295-pound senior guard Jonathan Cooper from North Carolina should get a look from the Rams.
Cooper’s presence on the interior offensive line—rather than the selection of a tackle—would keep former second-round pick (and the highest-drafted Rams starter on the line) Rodger Saffold at left tackle, where he’s done a decent job protecting Sam Bradford. Saffold’s issue tends to be health, not skill.
Drafting an interior offensive lineman would also give the Rams leverage to renegotiate the lucrative deals they have with their veterans up front.
Matt Miller’s Mock: Round 1, Pick 8
Here is your obligatory the St. Louis Rams need a wide receiver note.
Cordarrelle Patterson spent just one year in the SEC, but he made it count by being named to the Associated Press’ all-SEC first team as an all-purpose player. At 6’3”, 205 pounds, the junior caught 46 passes for 778 yards and five touchdowns. He added 25 rushes for 308 yards and three more scores.
And he returned kicks. Patterson only returned four punts over the 2012 season, but he totaled 101 yards (81 long) and a TD in addition to 25 kickoff returns for 671 yards (98 long) and a TD.
The Rams have a ton of youth at the WR position as Chris Givens, Austin Pettis, Brian Quick and Titus Young are all younger than 25. This team should benefit from a free-agent veteran presence at the position. If St. Louis decides to go with more potential than production at wideout this offseason, Patterson could form a nasty tandem with Quick on the outside for years to come.
Matt Miller’s Mock: Round 1, Pick 21
The St. Louis Rams need speed on defense. They can most readily get it by plugging a guy with some wheels in at outside linebacker or safety.
Alec Ogletree (6’3”, 232 lbs) is a linebacker who used to be a safety. He had one interception and three sacks in 10 games as a junior, in addition to eight games with double-digit tackles. Maybe Ogletree was in a position to make plays purely as a product of lining up across from playmaker Jarvis Jones.
Even if that is the case—which is unlikely—St. Louis also has a linebacker that offenses already have to respect in James Laurinaitis.
Matt Miller’s Mock: Round 1, Pick 16
University of Texas safety Kenny Vaccaro is a versatile defensive back who can handle business in the middle of the field—whether it is over slot receivers or in the defensive backfield. With the St. Louis Rams, the latter will likely more often be the case; safety help is sorely needed for a team that is expected to release or renegotiate with its highest-paid safety, Quintin Mikell.
Matt Miller’s Mock: Round 1, Pick 10
Alabama offensive guard Chance Warmack is a mauler. The 6’3”, 320-pound senior would address the St. Louis Rams’ most glaring and consistent need: the offensive line. He would help keep defenders out of quarterback Sam Bradford’s face as well as drive people off the ball for the running backs to get going.
Warmack should be an anchor for whichever offensive line he joins. A couple of trends suggest that he may not be selected by the Rams: Jeff Fisher-coached teams have never taken an offensive lineman in the first round and no O-line guy has been taken higher than No. 17 overall since 1997. Chris Naeole went 10th to the New Orleans Saints.
The latter simply means Warmack should be on the board at 16. Coach Fisher shouldn’t be opposed to adding a protector of his caliber for Bradford.
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