From left: coach Jeff Fisher, first-round picks Tavon Austin and Alec Ogletree, GM Les Snead
Tavon Austin of the St. Louis Rams is the kind of player that makes you want to dust off your copy of Madden, create and install him into the offense and discover ways to create havoc on the virtual gridiron until he steps on the real thing.
From Austin in the first round to Zac Stacy in the fifth, the Rams used each of their 2013 NFL draft picks to load up with potential starters on both sides of the football.
Most of them look to be immediate starters—fitting, since the Rams finished their draft before the fifth round concluded. Along with Jake Long and Jared Cook, many of St. Louis’ key components will be new faces next season.
There are some spots, of course, that will remain the same.
All contract information courtesy of Spotrac.com.
Starter: Sam Bradford
No. 2: Austin Davis
No. 3/Emergency: Kellen Clemens
Sam Bradford is here to stay as the starter of the St. Louis Rams. Kellen Clemens was recently signed to a one-year, $870,000 deal. The move came before the NFL draft, but served to be a substitution for the Rams taking a flier on a young QB—so far, at least.
Between the 20s Starter: Daryl Richardson
Goal-Line/Short-Yardage Back: Zac Stacy (R)
Second String: Isaiah Pead
Third String: Terrance Ganaway
Fullback: Lance Kendricks
Special Teams: Chase Reynolds
The NFL’s active leading rusher is no longer in a St. Louis Rams uniform: New Atlanta Falcons running back Steven Jackson took his talents to the Georgia Dome for his home games.
He left his 257 carries from 2012 to be split among Daryl Richardson, Isaiah Pead and Terrance Ganaway—until Zac Stacy joined the mix on Day 3 of the NFL draft.
Richardson took 98 carries last season and will look for a bigger piece of the pie in 2013 as one of the team’s most tenured backs. Les Snead gushed about Stacy after taking him at No. 160 overall (from R.B. Fallstrom of The Telegraph):
He was one of probably the last guys on our board that we were really, really jacked about[…]The rest was just going to be people we liked but (were) not jacked about, so at that point in time we said, “Let’s go get him.”
Stacy gives the Rams a strong interior runner that Ganaway had the dimensions (6’2”, 240 lbs) to be, so the former New York Jets sixth-rounder might continue to be buried on their depth chart.
Pead hopes to rebound from a “miserable” rookie season to get more touches as a sophomore.
Jared Cook’s arrival allows St. Louis to deploy Lance Kendricks as a fullback more often, if they choose to do so.
Y/Slot Receiver: Tavon Austin (R), Austin Pettis
Z Receiver: Stedman Bailey (R), Brian Quick
X Receiver: Chris Givens
Special Teams: Nick Johnson, Raymond Radway
Only the coaches know if they’ll keep seven receivers active in each game. Perhaps that’s why the St. Louis Rams still haven’t brought in an undrafted free agent at wide receiver—they already think they have enough.
Tavon Austin is going to line up all over the field, getting the ball in space wherever possible. His primary position will likely be the spot Danny Amendola vacated when he bolted to the New England Patriots: The slot.
Stedman Bailey is more of an outside guy who is also smallish, but size isn’t a concern for college football’s leader in touchdown catches, with 25, in 2012. St. Louis hopes that Brian Quick is able to be a physical presence on the outside, but it appears that they brought in reinforcements just in case.
Chris Givens will still be around to run past dudes.
Starter: Jared Cook
No. 2: Lance Kendricks
No. 3: Mike McNeill
Special Teams: Cory Harkey, Cameron Graham
Lance Kendricks improved as a second-year player, scoring his first four touchdowns. Ultimately, he will be usurped by the St. Louis Rams’ first big free-agent get in Jared Cook.
At 6’5” and 248 pounds with 4.5 40-yard dash speed and a 41-inch vertical, Cook is that gigantic, dynamic middle-of-the-field target that Sam Bradford has lacked since he arrived in the NFL.
He’s relatively durable, never having played fewer than 13 games since entering the league. Unfortunately, his career has been marked by potential rather than production to this point: His most productive season included 49 reception, 759 yards and three touchdowns.
Cook’s skills are evident, though. It’s safe to say he’ll be a focal point of the offense in 2013.
Left Tackle: Jake Long
Left Guard: Barrett Jones (R)
Center: Scott Wells
Right Guard: Harvey Dahl
Right Tackle: Rodger Saffold
Reserve Tackles: Joe Barksdale, Ty Nsekhe
Reserve Guards: Rokevious Watkins, Shelley Smith, Chris Williams
Reserve Center: Tim Barnes
Notice something different about the names projected to be starters? Jake Long and Barrett Jones weren’t in St. Louis a year ago, Scott Wells (nine games missed), Harvey Dahl (two) and Rodger Saffold (six) spent much of 2012 ailing, and Saffold is projected to play a different position.
We’ve heard this story before, but a complete overhaul of the St. Louis Rams offensive line gives Sam Bradford a fighting chance at standing upright more often.
The Rams got a couple of guys with more of a pedigree than what has become the norm up front. Jones has been a national champion three times. Long is a former No. 1 overall pick.
Starting Left End: Chris Long
Starting Right End: Robert Quinn
Starting Defensive Tackles: Michael Brockers, Kendall Langford
Reserve Defensive Ends: William Hayes, Eugene Sims
Reserve Defensive Tackles: Jermelle Cudjo, Matt Conrath
The St. Louis Rams return 39 sacks’ worth of production from their defensive line, which accounted for 75 percent of their league-leading 52 sacks in 2012.
Kendall Langford was a third-rounder in 2008. The other three starters were selected in the first half of the first round of their respective draft classes; this is a talented front.
That’s why the Rams traded down on Thursday night, instead of drafting the free-falling Florida defensive tackle Sharrif Floyd at No. 22 overall and making their line unequivocally the NFL’s best—which it arguably is, anyway.
Starting Left Outside Linebacker: Alec Ogletree (R)
Starting Middle Linebacker: James Laurinaitis
Starting Right Outside Linebacker: Jo-Lonn Dunbar
Reserve Outside Linebackers: Sammy Brown, Jabara Williams
Reserve Middle Linebacker: Josh Hull
Leading tackler James Laurinaitis figures to be a mainstay in the middle of the St. Louis Rams defense for a long time. General manager Les Snead gave head coach Jeff Fisher a new toy on the outside in first-rounder Alec Ogletree.
The two will join Jo-Lonn Dunbar, forming a fierce linebacker tandem to play behind their talented defensive line up front. Replacing 30-year-old Rocky McIntosh, Ogletree introduces a speed element that the Rams lacked with the sturdy veteran.
Starting Left Cornerback: Cortland Finnegan
Starting Strong Safety: T.J. McDonald (R)
Starting Free Safety: Darian Stewart
Starting Right Cornerback: Janoris Jenkins
Reserve Cornerbacks: Trumaine Johnson, Brandon McGee (R)
Reserve Safeties: Matt Daniels, Rodney McLeod, Quinton Pointer
The St. Louis Rams added Miami sprinter Brandon McGee to their cornerback ranks, which include 2012’s NFL leader in defensive touchdowns, rising sophomore Janoris Jenkins.
Maybe that’s what the Rams would say about all of their picks, but if he’s the player that Jeff Fisher thinks he can be, all that matters is that St. Louis got him.
That guy knows a little bit about DBs.
Twenty-nine-year-old Cortland Finnegan will again bring his brand of toughness to be the leader of the defensive backfield operation.
Kicker: Greg Zuerlein
Holder/Punter: Johnny Hekker
Long Snapper: Jake McQuaide
Kick Returners: Tavon Austin, Chris Givens, Isaiah Pead
Punt Returners: Tavon Austin, Austin Pettis
The kicking game should be taken care of by the same guys that did it in 2012: Greg Zuerlein, Johnny Hekker and Jake McQuaide.
The St. Louis Rams will be sure to utilize Tavon Austin’s versatility in the return game. Even if he doesn’t actually run all of the kicks back—smart teams will boom it away from him—he’ll make an impact on special teams.
Les Snead told ESPN’s Mike Sando following Round 1: “Tavon will play a similar position as Danny [Amendola]. He will also return punts and return kickoffs.”
Jamal Collier is the St. Louis Rams draft correspondent for Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter @StatManJ.