Stedman Bailey and Tavon Austin
Les Snead’s second draft as the St. Louis Rams’ general manager cemented him as one of the NFL’s most promising young front office minds. By trading up and down with two separate picks in the first round—one of which he acquired from a blockbuster deal as a rookie GM—Snead came away with two players that he fiercely coveted in Tavon Austin and Alec Ogletree.
By moving up from No. 16 to No. 8 and then down from No. 22 to No. 30, the Rams essentially swapped their second- and seventh-rounders for the Atlanta Falcons’ third and sixth. They also exchanged third-round picks with the Buffalo Bills.
Finally, they packaged their pair of sixth-round picks on Day 3 to land Vanderbilt running back Zac Stacy.
The end result was a 2013 draft class consisting of seven players: Austin, Ogletree, safety T.J. McDonald, wide receiver Stedman Bailey, offensive lineman Barrett Jones, cornerback Brandon McGee and Stacy. Snead and head coach Jeff Fisher likely had a role in mind for each of them before they turned their names in to be called.
Injuries can disrupt the best-laid plans, but the following might be what the Rams had in mind when they saw these guys’ names still on the board.
When the St. Louis Rams watched Steven Jackson, Danny Amendola and Brandon Gibson walk away in free agency, they also lost the focal point of their rushing attack and their top two most-targeted players in the passing game.
That leaves 494 combined rushing attempts and targets unaccounted for off the top—more than half of St. Louis’ scrimmage plays in 2012.
Tavon Austin figures to get a piece of both. He’ should walk into Week 1 as the team’s No. 1 target in the passing game, at least filling the void created by Amendola’s departure.
Amendola was targeted 101 times in 11 games.
At that rate, Tavon would garner 147 looks from Sam Bradford. If he catches just 68 percent of those—Percy Harvin hauled in 72.9 percent from Christian Ponder with the Minnesota Vikings in 2012—Austin’s looking at a 100-catch season as a rookie.
Let’s give him that.
Harvin averaged 10.9 yards per reception, which is far from elite under normal circumstances. But Harvin got a lot of looks behind the line of scrimmage, explaining why his conversion rate is so high. Suppose, conservatively, that Austin averages the same; it could be more if St. Louis takes more shots with him downfield.
We’ll give him eight touchdowns: the average of the top rookie wideout's output over the last five years.
The over/under for Austin’s rushing attempts has to be around 40: 2.5 a game. Even with 72 rushes in 2012, he averaged nine yards per carry. Seven yards a pop in the NFL wouldn’t be out of the question with creative play-calling to get him the ball in space. A couple of touchdowns in the running game wouldn’t be, either.
He’ll also return kicks.
Receiving Stats: 100 catches, 1,090 yards, 8 TD
Rushing Stats: 40 carries, 280 yards, 2 TD
Scrimmage Stats: 130 touches, 1,370 total yards, 10 TD
Alec Ogletree’s coverage ability and speed have been lauded throughout the NFL draft process. With his combination of skills and size, Ogletree should be a three-down linebacker next to James Laurinaitis—and could be just that as early as his rookie season.
The St. Louis Rams may not have traded down if they didn’t expect their guy to still be free-falling at No. 30 overall.
Ogletree should be a defensive starter from day one, helping ease the loss of the departed Rocky McIntosh.
The St. Louis Rams lost both of their starting safeties, Quintin Mikell and Craig Dahl, this offseason. They weren’t replaced by any veterans, so the first safety whose name they called in the 2013 NFL draft is a pretty good bet to get some serious run next to Darian Stewart.
USC product T.J. McDonald is that guy.
McDonald is tall (6’2”) and long (33 1/8” arms), which could be assets in coverage. However, he’s also a hard-hitter at 219 pounds and would be a presence in the box.
Unless a personnel decision is made affecting the back end of the defense, McDonald is penciled into the strong safety spot.
Stedman Bailey could play the role of Brandon Gibson in the 2013 iteration of the St. Louis Rams offense. Gibson played 16 games in 2012, attracting 82 targets and catching 51 (62.2 percent) for 691 yards (13.5 average) and five touchdowns.
With Brian Quick, Chris Givens, Austin Pettis and Jared Cook all vying for Sam Bradford’s attention—Cook will probably be most successful in that regard—Bailey may not be the second-most targeted weapon.
He could see four balls a game, though. If he catches 65 percent of those, he’d be at 42 receptions over 16 games. Covering the same amount of ground as Gibson did per catch (13.5 yards) would result in 567 yards.
Five Rams pass-catchers scored at least three touchdowns in 2012. That should be Bailey’s floor, as well.
Receiving Stats: 42 catches, 567 yards, 4 TD
Versatile former Alabama offensive lineman Barrett Jones should be able to carve out a spot in the rotation as a rookie. Currently, veterans speak for four of the O-line’s five starting positions: Jake Long (left tackle), Harvey Dahl (right guard), Scott Wells (center) and Rodger Saffold (presumably right tackle).
The left guard spot is up for grabs, though, and Jones could stake a claim to that.
If Rokevious Watkins wins the starting job, Jones would instead project to be a utility interior offensive lineman. Watkins played just one game as a rookie last season before being sidelined with an ankle injury.
A massive problem that Jeff Fisher and Les Snead inherited when they took the job with the St. Louis Rams was the team’s glaring lack of depth at the cornerback position. They attacked it from the top down: In a single offseason, they added starters Cortland Finnegan and Janoris Jenkins and Trumaine Johnson.
Miami cornerback Brandon McGee adds more cheap talent to that meeting room; he’s the team’s fifth corner. Quinton Pointer is the other; he played six games as a rookie in 2012.
Steven Jackson vacated 257 rushing attempts and 54 targets by bolting for the Atlanta Falcons. Though Zac Stacy is a powerful runner at 5’8”, 216 pounds, he’s not going to get all of those handoffs and looks.
Daryl Richardson (98 rushing attempts in 2012) and Isaiah Pead (10) are hungry. Those dudes need to eat.
Jackson averaged 4.1 yards per carry in 2012. With a workload similar to Richardson’s rookie campaign and an improved offensive line, 4.5 yards per tote should be within Stacy’s wheelhouse. He wasn’t asked to catch the ball much in college, but he did cash in double-digit touchdowns in each of the last two seasons at Vanderbilt.
Rushing Stats: 98 rushes, 441 yards, 6 TD
Receiving Stats: 5 catches, 43 yards
Jamal Collier is the St. Louis Rams draft correspondent for Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter @StatManJ.