The first four days of 2013 NFL free agency saw 70 players move to new teams. The St. Louis Rams were able to give Sam Bradford a new weapon—the likes of which he has not had in his tumultuous three-year run as the starting quarterback—in former Tennessee Titans tight end Jared Cook.
But at this point, that is the only player the team as been able to add.
The Rams made a hard push to get free-agent offensive tackle Jake Long signed. But after a two-day physical and a third day of contract negotiations, Long left town without putting his name on a contract. He returned to south Florida where he is currently keeping both the Rams and the Miami Dolphins in a holding pattern while he takes his time to decide where he wants to play next year.
So, that's one hole filled, four remaining.
Let's take a look at how the Rams may choose to fill their remaining roster needs in the draft.
From an AP article posted on ESPN.com: "[Jeff] Fisher said he'd likely fill one of his safety vacancies with Darian Stewart, who played mostly special teams last year after getting injured early but made 13 starts in 2011."
To complement Stewart with a player like Vaccaro, who is, according to ESPN's Mel Kiper, "Extremely versatile, Vaccaro is sound in coverage, takes great angles and makes very good reads. But he's a physical player who can assist in run support and be effective near the line of scrimmage," would give the Rams a dynamically tough, yet versatile safety pairing.
With Colin Kaepernick, Russell Wilson and now Percy Harvin all in the NFC West, acquiring a safety who is both tough in the box and solid in coverage is essential to the success of the 2013 St. Louis Rams.
In 16 seasons with the Oilers/Titans franchise, Jeff Fisher never selected an offensive lineman in the first round of the draft. But that doesn't mean he is not open to the idea (per Jim Thomas, STLToday.com): “Yeah. I’d draft just about any position in the first round, except maybe a kicker or punter,” Fisher said. “We don’t need those.”
Now, it's possible that he was just being coy, and he obviously prefers to take his offensive linemen in later rounds and develop them, but if the Jake Long deal falls through, the Rams are going to need a starting right tackle.
Menelik Watson not only fills that hole, but—unlike D.J. Fluker—Watson has the athleticism to switch to left tackle if the Rams can't or won't extend Rodger Saffold's contract.
Watson has had an extraordinary journey to the NFL draft, which you can read about here.
He is raw; there is no doubt about that, but he has all the tools to be an All-Pro offensive tackle for many years to come—a cornerstone of the Rams franchise for the foreseeable future.
In the second round, the Rams will get to pick from a wide receiver litter full of talented players.
Quinton Patton might be there. So too might Aaron Dobson, DeAndre Hopkins and Robert Woods.
The 2012 season saw Baylor's Terrance Williams lead the nation in receiving with 97 catches for 1,832 yards and 12 touchdowns.
That's not a typo: 1,832 yards.
Williams is a dynamic threat outside the hashes with big-play ability in spades and also has the size (6"2", 208 pounds) to be a formidable red-zone weapon.
Imagine Brian Quick, Jared Cook and Williams all on the field for the Rams inside of their opponent's 20-yard line. It's a nightmare scenario for any defense.
Despite his prototypical size and speed, concerns about his lack of ideal hand size and arm length, and his occasional struggles with intermediate route running will cause him to fall to the second round—where the Rams should happily scoop him up.
Zaviar Gooden has been mentioned in connection with the Rams' third-round pick ad nauseam, but there is a reason for that.
The continued evolution of the quarterback position through the further implementation of the read option and pistol formation necessitates today's outside linebacker to be a combination of the speed and athleticism of a cornerback and the size and strength of a traditional linebacker.
Gooden fits that description perfectly.
He was a stud at the combine. The only category in which he placed outside of the top nine was the vertical jump. He was first in the 40-yard dash, the 60-yard shuttle and the three-cone drill while placing second in the long jump and fourth in the bench press.
He is the perfect guy to chase down Colin Kaepernick, Russell Wilson and Percy Harvin.
What he lacks are good instincts and the ability to get off of blocks. His speed and athleticism make him very good at getting around blocks, but—despite his impressive rep totals in the bench press—he struggles to disengage.
His poor instincts manifest themselves in his tendency to overrun plays, take false steps and struggle to diagnose routes.
His physical skills being as undeniable as they are, proper coaching must be able to fix most if not all of the holes in his game.
If that is the case, this guy is going to be a stud for a long time in the NFL, especially in the NFC West.
Bradley Fletcher signed a free-agent contract with the Philadelphia Eagles and will need to be replaced.
Dwayne Gratz is just the guy to do it.
Gratz so impressed B/R's own Matt Miller that he declared him a possible second- or third-round pick.
Most others, though, have him going in the fourth or fifth.
Gratz has prototypical size and strength and, by all accounts, solid technique in every aspect of his game.
A lack of recovery speed and hip stiffness are considered his main flaws.
His size and ball skills make him a solid mid-round pick and a capable replacement for Fletcher.
In my last mock draft, I had the Rams taking T.J. McDonald in the sixth round.
It's not looking like he is going to drop that far. If they want him (which they should), they will need to take him in the fifth.
Projected as an in-the-box safety, McDonald's punishing hits have drawn him comparisons to Bernard Pollard.
And his 4.59-second 40-yard dash means he has the speed to cover receivers, if not the instincts. Like Zaviar Gooden and his faults, coaching should help McDonald strengthen the weaker aspects of his game.
Having lost Craig Dahl and Quintin Mikell, the Rams will need to bring in at least two safeties this offseason. They could do worse than Kenny Vaccaro and T.J. McDonald.
If the Rams don't bring back either Rocky McIntosh or Mario Haggan, and don't sign an outside linebacker in free agency, they will need to add two in the draft.
Lerentee McCray was a 4-star recruit out of high school, but injuries persistently derailed the collegiate career of this 6'2", 250-pound linebacker. Even when healthy, he was rotated out of games with regularity. He will need to prove his stamina to any team who selects him.
At the very least, he projects as a capable special teams contributor with the potential to be much more.
The 6'3", 300-pound small school product has the size and strength to succeed in the NFL, but as one might expect, he lacks technique.
Harvey Dahl is entrenched on the right side of the line, and Rokevious Watkins is in line to get the starting job at left guard. Rob Turner will back them up, but there is no one behind him; last year's backup, Chris Williams, is an unrestricted free agent.
Technique can be taught. If Watford proves able to learn, he could take over for Dahl when his contract expires after the 2014 season.