Early Projections for St. Louis Rams' Final 53-Man Roster
The 2013 NFL draft is over and teams are wrapping up their undrafted free-agent signing sprees, which leaves just one more task at hand before the start of the season—finalizing the 53-man roster.
All the offseason shopping between the draft and free agency has resulted in bloated NFL rosters that are at or near the 90-man limit. But those 90 players will be put through a series of mini-camps, as well as a grueling late-summer training camp, until the coaching staff chisels the roster down to the final 53.
The St. Louis Rams lost eight starters this offseason—Quintin Mikell, Steven Jackson, Danny Amendola, Brandon Gibson, Rob Turner, Barry Richardson, Rocky McIntosh, Craig Dahl—which opens up plenty of job opportunities and gives the new faces something to compete for.
The Rams are a young team with plenty of players returning from 2012, but the 2013 team will certainly have a new look.
So based on the 2012 roster and the perceived value of the newcomers, here's a prediction of the final 53-man roster.
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Sam Bradford (Starter)
Quarterback is possibly the most predictable position this season.
Sam Bradford will be the starter for the fourth consecutive year, while Austin Davis and Kellen Clemens will compete for the backup job.
Clemens was the backup last season, but Davis showed promise in the preseason a year ago and will be a threat in his second season.
Either way, all three passers will likely end up with a roster spot.
Running Back (Four)
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Daryl Richardson (Starter)
With no clear-cut starter in the backfield, it's anyone's guess on who'll be pounding the rock for the majority of 2013.
Daryl Richardson was second on the team in carries in 2012 (98) and has seen more NFL action than any other back on the roster, but he's undersized for an every-down back at just 198 pounds.
The 197-pound Isaiah Pead is also undersized, but as a former second-round pick from the 2012 draft, the Rams will give him every opportunity to see the field.
Rookie Zac Stacy and second-year player Terrance Ganaway are both built to carry the ball 20 or more times a game, but neither has taken an NFL snap on offense, and both players will need to be coached up.
The Steven Jackson era is over. There won't be a featured back in St. Louis anymore; the four backs will split the workload unless one player clearly emerges above the rest.
Wide Receiver (Five)
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Chris Givens (Split End)
Tavon Austin (Slot Receiver)
Brian Quick (Wideout)
At this point, second-year pro Chris Givens and the newly drafted Tavon Austin are the only receivers guaranteed to see significant playing time.
As for the third starting receiver, it's anyone's guess.
Brian Quick was the No. 33 overall draft pick just a year ago, so obviously the coaching staff would love for him to step up and start producing, but the addition of Stedman Bailey in the third round of last week's draft will provide Quick with some real competition.
Also, don't count out third-year pro Austin Pettis, who's an addition of the last regime but made some solid strides last season—30 catches and four touchdowns—after an irrelevant rookie year.
The Rams finally have weapons at wide receiver, so players will no longer see action by default. This season, the receivers will have to fight for playing time.
Tight End (Three)
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Jared Cook (Starter)
Lance Kendricks had a promising sophomore effort with 519 yards and four touchdowns, which was a solid step up from his 352 yards and zero touchdowns as a rookie.
Kendricks is a player on the rise, but the Rams couldn't resist pursuing a game-changing talent such as Jared Cook in free agency.
The 6'5" Cook will be Bradford's best friend inside the 20-yard line and will remain on the field for the majority of the snaps.
Kendricks will see plenty of action, but the Rams will primarily rely on him as a blocker in the run game.
Offensive Line (10)
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Jake Long (Left Tackle)
Rokevious Watkins (Left Guard)
Scott Wells (Center)
Harvey Dahl (Right Guard)
Rodger Saffold (Right Tackle)
Every starter on the St. Louis offensive line—minus Harvey Dahl—has clear injury concerns, but it's the most talented line the Rams have had since the "Greatest Show on Turf" era.
Jake Long is a perennial Pro Bowler and arguably the best left tackle in the game when healthy. He has missed six games over the past two seasons, but compared to the rest of the St. Louis offensive line, he's a glowing example of good health.
Rodger Saffold and Scott Wells are both solid starters, but they missed a combined 15 games last season. Not to mention, Saffold will have to adjust to right tackle as a result of the Long signing.
At guard, Rokevious Watkins landed himself on injured reserve in Week 1 last season, but Dahl is a consistent starter and knows how to stay healthy.
Luckily, the Rams have depth to provide a safety net.
Shelley Smith, Chris Williams and Joe Barksdale all saw playing time in 2012 and none of them noticeably struggled.
The Rams also drafted the decorated rookie Barrett Jones in the fourth round; Jones can play nearly every position on the line.
Jones will replace Rob Turner as the versatile wild card on the line and will provide the Rams with a backup plan in case Wells goes down again.
Defensive End (Four)
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Chris Long (Left End)
Robert Quinn (Right End)
Defense end will be identical to the 2012 group, which is a good thing.
Chris Long and Robert Quinn are both borderline Pro Bowl talents (surely one of them will finally get the nod this season), while William Hayes recorded seven sacks in a backup role last season.
Eugene Sims is at the bottom of the depth chart, but he'll also see a fair share of reps.
Defensive Tackle (Four)
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Michael Brockers (Right)
Kendall Langford (Left)
Like defensive end, the Rams will also retain the same group of tackles they had in 2012.
Michael Brockers missed the first three games of his rookie year, but he still managed 31 tackles and four sacks. The presence of Brockers elevated the St. Louis defense to the next level last season, so he certainly has a bright future.
Kendall Langford was solid but unspectacular in his debut with St. Louis a year ago, but coming from a 3-4 defense in Miami, it was surely a tough adjustment.
With a year of 4-3 experience under his belt, expect Langford to come on strong in 2013.
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James Laurinaitis (Middle)
Jo-Lonn Dunbar (Strong Side)
Alec Ogletree (Weak Side)
The three starting linebackers are locked in, and the trio is the strongest the Rams have seen in a decade.
Depth is the only question, which means the youngsters will have to step up.
Sammy Brown and Jabara Williams will provide special teams value, but both players need to be coached up before they're ready for action on defense.
Josh Hull has value on special teams, but his most important role is backing up James Laurinaitis in the middle.
Laurinaitis has not missed a start in his career, which means Hull has not seen a lot of action, but it's certainly a scenario the Rams need to prepare for.
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The Rams lost Bradley Fletcher in free agency, which means they lost a valuable backup with experience as a starter, but his loss is something they'll survive.
With two electric starters in place—Janoris Jenkins and Cortland Finnegan—the Rams have no concerns with their top two guys, but the depth needs some work.
Trumaine Johnson showed flashes as a rookie last season and will be a solid No. 3, but Quinton Pointer and rookie Brandon McGee both lack experience and will need work before seeing any action.
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T.J. McDonald (Free Safety)
Darian Stewart (Strong Safety)
Safety is likely the biggest question mark on the roster, as Darian Stewart is the only St. Louis safety who has started an NFL game.
T.J. McDonald is a hard-hitting rookie who will solidify the run defense, but his pass coverage needs work.
Ray-Ray Armstrong looks the part and has the talent to succeed, but the undrafted rookie hasn't played a whole season of football since 2010.
Rodney McLeod and Matt Daniels both have potential and could surprise people, but it's not something the Rams can count on.
Special Teams (Three)
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Greg Zuerlein (Kicker)
Johnny Hekker (Punter)
Jake McQuaide (Long Snapper)
Greg Zuerlein and Johnny Hekker both had their ups and downs during their rookie season, but expect more consistency from both players.
Zuerlein has the talent to be the best kicker in the league, but his perfect 13-for-13 start was spoiled last season after going 10-for-18 the remainder of the season (55.5 percent), which is not acceptable for an NFL kicker.
But even with the rookie's struggles, the Rams are confident in their specialists.