There are still areas that need improvement—it's impossible to address every need and minor concern in one draft—but it's hard to be pessimistic over St. Louis' results from this past weekend.
Tavon Austin is a solid replacement in the slot for Danny Amendola, only with more top-end speed and potential, while Stedman Bailey will replace Brandon Gibson as a reliable possession receiver.
Alec Ogletree and T.J. McDonald are hard-hitting defenders who are perfect fits for a Jeff Fisher defense, while Barrett Jones is a Swiss Army knife on the offensive line and can play virtually any position.
And last but not least, Brandon McGee and Zac Stacy are late-round projects with serious potential.
The Rams are still lacking talent at running back and safety, but even so, they used the draft to become a better football team.
But does the mainstream media share the optimism with the St. Louis faithful?
Here are report cards from several major sources, combined with an analysis of their grades.
Chris Burke's Comments (Sports Illustrated):
The NFC West is going to be pretty, pretty good. St. Louis stacked up as the third-best team in that division heading into the draft, behind San Francisco and Seattle, and the Rams loaded up. They traded up for electrifying WR Tavon Austin, then added his former college teammate Stedman Bailey — oh, and LB Alec Ogletree — after trading down later. St. Louis also found a possible starting safety in T.J. McDonald, a proven and versatile lineman in Barrett Jones and do-everything RB Zac Stacy.
As Burke pointed out, the NFC West is expected to be one of the toughest divisions in football in 2013 (if not the toughest), but St. Louis came through with a stellar draft that will keep the team competitive in the division.
With five players ready to compete for starting jobs or heavy playing time (Austin, Ogletree, McDonald, Bailey, Jones) and two players who will likely make the 53-man roster (McGee, Stacy), it's hard to argue against Burke's generous grade.
Burke didn't mention any negatives, such as the lack of a viable replacement for Steven Jackson, but as mentioned in the intro, you can't do everything in one draft.
Vinnie Iyer's Comments (The Sporting News):
The Rams added more exciting receiving pop for Sam Bradford with the West Virginia duo of Tavon Austin and Stedman Bailey, who are built to remain fine complementary playmakers on St. Louis’ fast indoor track. Jeff Fisher also got a speedy linebacker who can cover (Georgia's Alec Ogletree) and the slobberknocking safety (USC's T.J. McDonald) he covets. Alabama guard/center Barrett Jones was quite a steal in Round 4, but Vanderbilt running back Zac Stacy can be a bigger one in Round 5.
Ideally, we'd like to see a higher grade since there's so little to complain about from this draft, but the Rams did miss out on the second round entirely and failed to secure a top running back, so there are some imperfections—as minor as they may be.
Mel Kiper's Comments (ESPN):
I really liked this draft, and found myself in agreement with my colleagues. Oh, and they still have an extra first-rounder next year. The NFC West arms race is not just a two-team affair.
It's easy to find reasons to criticize Kiper—such as his inexplicable Jimmy Clausen love in 2010—but unlike many members of the media as of late, Kiper is open-minded enough to realize that the NFC West is far from a two-team race.
This draft allows the Rams to be even more competitive in the division, and based on Kiper's favorable grade, he's in agreement.
Evan Silva's Comments (Yahoo Sports):
Austin was the premier offensive-skill player in the 2013 draft, and Snead offset his losses in the trade up to No. 8 by trading down from the 22nd spot. He still came away with a day-one starter in Ogletree, whose character issues are concerning but not as much under coach Jeff Fisher. Bailey was a great value late in round three and fortifies St. Louis' receiver depth behind Austin, Quick, and Chris Givens. The McDonald pick lowers the Rams' grade because he is a tight-hipped, straight-line safety with inconsistent physicality. Jones projects as no more than an NFL reserve.
Silva did give the Rams a "B-", which is a satisfactory grade by definition, but since you'd be hard-pressed to find a draft report card that grades any team below a "C", this grade is actually quite low.
The main concern is that the grade was lowered because of Jones, who was actually a great Round 4 value pick and was expected to go much higher if not for injuries. Saying he projects as no more than a reserve is just asinine.
In reality, Jones will be competing for the starting left guard job the moment he arrives in St. Louis.
As for McDonald, there are legitimate concerns about his coverage ability, but as a hard-hitting safety who fits the Jeff Fisher mentality, he was worth the third-round pick.