Tavon Austin, WR/KR, West Virginia
A defensive player and an offensive star were the overall favorites to meet up in St. Louis, but the decisions were far from unanimous. Even the order of the top two favorites has been mixed by various draft analysts.
Seventeen experts (below, in alphabetical order) settled on 11 different names for the Rams at either pick No. 16 or 22. Here, the prospects are ranked on a points system.
Because St. Louis holds two first-round draft picks, a player gets two points when his name is mocked to go there at 16. If he’s mocked to go to the Rams at 22, he’ll get one.
If two analysts project a player to be selected by St. Louis, the guy who was mocked at 16 and 22 in their drafts will be ranked ahead of the one who was projected at 22 both times.
All height/weight data courtesy of NFL.com.
Weight: 313 pounds
Mentions at No.16: None
Mentions at No. 22: McShay
ESPN’s Todd McShay was the lone draft analyst to attribute North Carolina’s Sylvester Williams—or any defensive lineman—as a St. Louis Rams target in the first round. His logic was that teams can’t have too much depth on the defensive line.
The Rams have enough, though.
Robert Quinn (No. 14, 2011), Chris Long (No. 2, 2008) and Michael Brockers (No. 14, 2012) have already been selected in the first round to play ball in St. Louis. They’ve already got the depth on their highly productive and pedigreed line locked up.
Of the big guys who sacked a quarterback last year, only Eugene Sims (three sacks in 2012) isn’t under contract through the 2014 season.
Weight: 213 pounds
Mentions at No.16: None
Mentions at No. 22: Davis
Safety is going to be a recurring position among St. Louis Rams mock selections, as it should be. St. Louis’ defensive backfield is strong at cornerback, following an outstanding season by the tandem of Cortland Finnegan and Janoris Jenkins. After releasing Quintin Mikell, its safeties are a different story.
NFL.com’s Charles Davis gives Eric Reid to Jeff Fisher, saying:
Many people have Florida safety Matt Elam rated higher – and he’s a tremendous player – but I’m a big fan of this rover from LSU. I like his superior length against tight ends in today’s game.
Reid’s size would be a good complement to the Rams’ sub-six-foot starting corners. There are plenty of veteran defensive backs on the market, though, and Elam doesn’t make it in the first round of Davis’ mock.
Both suggest that the Rams may find more value by waiting to draft a safety.
Weight: 231 pounds
Mentions at No.16: None
Mentions at No. 22: Brandt
Gil Brandt of NFL.com nominated Eddie Lacy for the primary ball-carrying duties with the St. Louis Rams in 2013 and beyond.
The problem with this pick is that Daryl Richardson played so well that he will require the football as a sophomore after he notched 638 total yards on 122 touches as a rookie.
Head coach Jeff Fisher isn’t interested in restricting the Rams' running back position to smaller guys, as CBS’ Jamey Eisenberg reported:
#Rams coach Jeff Fisher said they'll be in the market for another RB to help replace Steven Jackson. He wants a "big back".
— Jamey Eisenberg (@JameyEisenberg) March 20, 2013
Richardson and 2012 second-rounder Isaiah Pead are similarly sized. There are other big backs that can be had in the mid-to-late rounds of the draft, like Michigan State’s Le'Veon Bell, who mentioned himself that he uses aspects of Steven Jackson’s game.
Weight: 196 pounds
Mentions at No.16: None
Mentions at No. 22: Kiper
Justin Hunter is one of four wide receivers that will be covered in this space, introduced by none other than ESPN’s Mel Kiper, Jr:
Even if the Rams land a wide receiver in free agency, they should be looking for some young talent at the position in the draft. Hunter has size, speed and creates a home run threat on the edge.
The St. Louis Rams have young talent at the wide receiver position or, at the very least, they think they do. Chris Givens proved to be a tremendous deep threat in his rookie season, and second-round sophomore (No. 33 overall) Brian Quick is the next guy up for the departed Brandon Gibson on the outside.
Givens averaged 16.6 yards per catch last year, rattling off a string of five consecutive games with a 50-plus-yard reception. Quick only caught 11 balls last year, but as a 6’3”, 220-pound specimen, he has physicality that Kiper noted Hunter doesn’t possess.
Weight: 339 pounds
Mentions at No.16: None
Mentions at No. 22: Gbaja-Biamila, Smith
NFL.com’s Matt Smith pegged D.J. Fluker to play tackle opposite newly-signed Jake Long. He already hooked them up with a receiver at No. 16, so this would be a double-dip selection on the offensive end.
But where would Rodger Saffold play, if not right tackle?
The St. Louis Rams might as well wait to grab an interior lineman if that’s why they’re making the pick—since Smith already had Chance Warmack and Jonathan Cooper going back-to-back starting at No. 10 overall.
Long eliminates the need for St. Louis to send an offensive tackle’s name to the podium in the first round.
Weight: 208 pounds
Mentions at No.16: None
Mentions at No. 22: Brooks, Judge, Norris
The trio of analysts to place Matt Elam in the hands of the St. Louis Rams' brass had the same thing in mind as NFL.com’s Charles Davis; they just gave them a different safety.
But Elam doesn’t have the frame of Eric Reid, and Quintin Mikell might be back at a discounted rate. It’s easy to see the Rams going in a different direction at 22.
Weight: 206 pounds
Mentions at No.16: Davis
Mentions at No. 22: Gbaja-Biamila
The physicality that California wideout Keenan Allen offers is better-suited for the St. Louis Rams than the perhaps more dynamic, but weaker Justin Hunter of Tennessee.
Rams senior writer Nick Wagoner says of Allen:
He'd be a logical pick so long as he can prove healthy and capable of running a decent  time. He’s a physical type who can run a bunch of different routes and might be a nice complement to Chris Givens in time. His ability to play anywhere also makes him more valuable.
Allen would be a nice gift for Sam Bradford, who will already have Jared Cook to chuck passes to over the middle. Drafting Allen might prevent Brian Quick from emerging as a sophomore, though, which would be problematic for a guy who’s just a year removed from being drafted No. 33 overall.
Weight: 317 pounds
Mentions at No.16: Miller, Prisco
Mentions at No. 22: None
Chance Warmack was a trendy pick to go to the St. Louis Rams at the offseason’s inception, but now he’s getting mock-drafted earlier and earlier as it progresses.
Simply put, the Rams’ interior offensive line would be much-improved if Warmack is introduced to the unit. Despite playing a position that’s relatively undervalued on draft day, he might not be available when they pick.
Matt Miller lists him as the No. 2 player on his big board. If just one or two teams in the top half of the draft order agree, Warmack will be spoken for before St. Louis is on the clock.
Weight: 216 pounds
Mentions at No.16: Casserly, McShay, Smith
Mentions at No. 22: Jeremiah
Cordarrelle Patterson joins his Tennessee teammate, Justin Hunter, as wide receiver prospects linked to the St. Louis Rams in mock drafts.
It’s another indictment of the Rams’ already young outside weapons, Chris Givens and Brian Quick, who haven’t yet been given full-time opportunities to terrorize defenses. Patterson could be fantastic—and the Rams might have a year or two before they reach their peak as currently constructed—but ESPN’s Todd McShay notes that his greatness is far from guaranteed.
Patterson may well be the biggest risk/reward prospect in this class. If he pans out, the Rams get a player who can become one of the most dynamic weapons in the NFL. However, Patterson played just one year at the highest level of college football, and his learning curve will be steep. He has mind-blowing ability in space, but he's still learning how to get open and read coverages.
Sounds a lot like former Georgia Tech/current New York Jets wideout Stephen Hill: endless potential, but question marks in the experience department. Hill played three years in Division I, but caught 28 passes as a junior in a system that was less demanding of a pass-catcher than St. Louis would be on Patterson.
Hill was a second-round pick in 2012. He caught 21 balls for 252 yards and three touchdowns. Five grabs for 89 yards and two scores came in his first game, meaning he accumulated 16 for 163 and one TD in his last 10.
We’ll see what happens in year No. 2 for Hill. His head coach Rex Ryan, of course, expects improvement from the 6’4”, 215-pound speedster. If the Rams are looking for consistency—as Ryan still is from Hill—Patterson’s inexperience may prevent him from delivering as a rookie.
Weight: 214 pounds
Mentions at No.16: Brinson, Brugler, Jeremiah, Kiper, Kirwan
Mentions at No. 22: Casserly, Rang
Kenny Vaccaro seems to be the consensus top safety in this draft class. It’s a testament to the depth of the position in free agency and the NFL draft that he’s mocked to drop halfway through the first round—or farther—to land with the St. Louis Rams by seven of the 17 analysts.
NFL.com analyst Daniel Jeremiah discussed the Texas safety:
Vaccaro didn't test that well at the NFL Scouting Combine, but he is outstanding on tape. He would start from Day 1 for St. Louis; his versatility would be a luxury in Jeff Fisher's defense.
If Chance Warmack and Vaccaro are both on the board, the Rams should go with Warmack. If the Alabama mauler is gone, it’s hard to argue with infusing the draft’s best safety into their defensive backfield.
Weight: 174 pounds
Mentions at No.16: Brandt, Brooks, Judge, Norris, Rang
Mentions at No. 22: Brinson, Brugler, Kirwan, Miller, Prisco
This one’s too easy.
The St. Louis Rams lost their slot receiver—and No. 1 option in the passing game—in Danny Amendola to the New England Patriots. They added a potentially explosive tight end in Jared Cook from the Tennessee Titans in free agency, but have just three wideouts on the roster that caught a pass in 2012.
Chris Givens, Austin Pettis and Brian Quick combined for 83 catches, 1,115 yards and nine touchdowns last season.
Plenty of wide receivers have been mentioned as guys that St. Louis should go after. West Virigina’s Tavon Austin is the one dude who makes it seem like you know what you’re getting with him.
NFL.com’s Bucky Brooks had this to say about Austin:
The loss of Danny Amendola makes it imperative for the Rams to find an explosive slot receiver with big-play ability. Austin is a beast with the ball in his hands; a penchant for turning short passes into big gains will quickly make him Sam Bradford's top target.
Austin caught over 100 passes in each of his last two seasons as a Mountaineer. He touched the ball 186 times—including 72 carries—on offense as a senior, so injury shouldn’t be a major concern for the 5’8” receiver.
NFL slot guys (most notably, Percy Harvin, Wes Welker and Danny Amendola) have received an awful lot of attention lately for their ability to break games with their after-the-catch talent and ability to move the chains. Austin has both, and everyone knows it.
That’s why he might be gone before the Rams ever have a chance to get him, if they don’t trade up. Austin’s bandwagon is a runaway freight train at this stage of the game, and top 10 teams like the New York Jets and Cleveland Browns need some offensive explosiveness—what Austin provides—in the worst way.
If they don’t snag him in the first 10 picks, he’s still not guaranteed to drop to the Rams: some mid-to-late first-round GM might just be feeling froggy.
For more St. Louis Rams and league-wide NFL analysis, follow Jamal on Twitter: Follow @StatManJ