St. Louis Rams 2014 Draft: A Scouting Guide for East-West Shrine Game

Steven Gerwel@Steve_GerFeatured Columnist IVJanuary 17, 2014

St. Louis Rams 2014 Draft: A Scouting Guide for East-West Shrine Game

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    It's that time of year. NFL scouts are flying all over the country to watch prospects perform at various combines and events in preparation for the 2014 NFL draft.

    One of the biggest draws for scouts, other than the official NFL Scouting Combine, is the East-West Shrine Game.

    The East-West Shrine Game takes premier college players from across the country, assigns them to a team based on their school's geographical location, and holds practices and a scrimmage for NFL scouts and coaches.

    The game allows some of the lesser-known college standouts to make a statement and show their skills. In fact, the St. Louis Rams were able to find quite a gem at the East-West Shrine Game a year ago—a young juggernaut back known as Zac Stacy.

    If you decide to follow the game, here are several players who could be on St. Louis' radar.

T Justin Britt, Missouri

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    Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

    Height: 6'6" 

    Weight: 315 pounds

    Roster: East 

    Jake Long suffered an ACL tear late in the 2013 season, according to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, and there's no guarantee he'll be ready for Week 1.

    Long's injury, combined with Rodger Saffold entering free agency, will force the Rams to search for a new tackle this offseason. 

    If the Rams are unable to grab a high-end tackle in the draft, such as Jake Matthews or Greg Robinson, they'll compensate by searching for a mid- to late-round gem. And that gem could be Missouri's Justin Britt. 

    Britt lacks the elite athleticism of Robinson and the thoroughbred genetics of Matthews, but he's a promising developmental project. 

    The former Tiger was a three-year starter at Mizzou and has experience at both right and left tackle. His 2012 season ended prematurely with a knee injury, according to ESPN, but he put the injury behind him with a healthy 2013 campaign.

    Thanks to Missouri's well-balanced offense, Britt has experience as both a run-blocker and a pass-blocker against stiff SEC competition, making him an appealing mid-round option.

G James Stone, Tennessee

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    Height: 6'3"

    Weight: 302 pounds

    Roster: East 

    Like Britt, Tennessee's James Stone has experience against the top defenses in all of college football. 

    Stone was a two-year starter and has the ability to play either center and guard, making him exceptionally appealing for St. Louis, as center Scott Wells and guard Harvey Dahl will likely both be cut for salary-cap reasons.

    If St. Louis re-signs Saffold as a guard and sticks with Tim Barnes at center, Stone will compete with Barrett Jones and Chris Williams for the other starting guard job. If he fails to win the starting job, he'll back up all three interior offensive line positions.

    If the Rams are unable to land a top-notch guard, such as Baylor's Cyril Richardson, Stone would be a nice alternative. He should be drafted anywhere between the third and seventh round, depending on his performance at the Shrine Game and NFL Scouting Combine (assuming he's invited).

WR Allen Hurns, Miami

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    Height: 6'3"

    Weight: 195 pounds

    Roster: East

    The last thing St. Louis needs is another project wide receiver with limited experience. But if the Rams fail to lock up Sammy Watkins in the first round, they'll need another big receiver to push Brian Quick for playing time.

    Allen Hurns was a key component to Miami's aerial attack in 2013. Hurns caught 62 passes for 1,162 yards and six touchdowns.

    Hurns had just modest production during his first three seasons at Miami, but his breakout year in 2013 put him on the map.

    Adding Hurns to the roster will put the heat on Quick, forcing him to either step up and start playing like the No. 33 overall pick or get out of the way for a player who is ready to produce.

CB Ross Cockrell, Duke

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    Height: 6'0"

    Weight: 190 pounds

    Roster: East

    In the physical NFC West—the SEC of professional football—the Rams need physical corners who can tackle and play the run.

    At 6'0" and 190 pounds, Ross Cockrell has slightly more bulk than the average cornerback, which means the coaching staff might be able to mold him into a physical run defender—something the Rams are lacking at corner.

    Cockrell's stock will be determined by both his 40-yard dash time and his measured quickness. After all, physical corners aren't very useful if they cannot cover anyone.

    The Rams drafted Trumaine Johnson in the third round of the 2012 draft and Brandon McGee in the fifth round last year. Clearly, the front office enjoys targeting corners in the middle of the draft, so Les Snead will have his eyes on Cockrell.

G Ryan Groy, Wisconsin

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    Evan Habeeb-USA TODAY Sports

    Height: 6'5"

    Weight: 320 pounds

    Roster: West

    Ryan Groy is primarily a guard, but he has limited experience at left tackle. With the proper coaching, he can be molded into a Swiss Army Knife for the offensive line.

    Groy was a two-year starter at Wisconsin. The Badgers frequently produce NFL-caliber offensive linemen, such as Gabe Carimi, Travis Frederick, Peter Konz and Joe Thomas, which makes Groy interesting as a late-round pick.

RB Brennan Clay, Oklahoma

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    Height: 5'11" 

    Weight: 198 pounds

    Roster: West

    The Rams picked both Isaiah Pead and Daryl Richardson in the same draft two years ago, so offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer obviously desires a change-of-pace back.

    Richardson had some flashes as a rookie but has apparently hit a wall, while Pead is...well, we all know where he stands. And that means the Rams may be on the lookout for another speedy back to complement Zac Stacy.

    Brennan Clay had over 1,000 yards from scrimmage and six touchdowns in 2013. He was a bit underutilized during his Sooner career, but he has the ability to pick up yards as a back or receiver.

    Clay's pure straight-line speed will be tested in the upcoming months. If he excels, expect him to be on St. Louis' radar.

OLB Devon Kennard, USC

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    Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

    Height: 6'3"

    Weight: 255 pounds

    Roster: West

    There's no guarantee the Rams will re-sign linebacker Jo-Lonn Dunbar. He provides attitude to the defense, but after his suspension and decline in production, no one will blame St. Louis for cutting him loose. 

    Since James Laurinaitis and Alec Ogletree will be on the field for the majority of the snaps, there's no need to use another high pick on a linebacker. Since nickel packages are so common in today's NFL, it's hard to justify making heavy investments into three different linebackers.

    As a result, St. Louis will look for a late-round gem such as Devon Kennard. 

    Kennard missed the 2012 season with a torn chest muscle, according to the LA Times, but he bounced back in 2013. And as a team captain at USC and one of the top defensive recruits coming out of high school, Kennard is the type of player the Rams need.

CB E.J. Gaines, Missouri

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    Height: 5'11"

    Weight: 195 pounds 

    Roster: West

    Rams fans are all over this one; E.J. Gaines played his superb collegiate career just 112 miles East on I-70. 

    Gaines finished the 2013 season with 75 tackles, four tackles for a loss and five interceptions, as well as a fumble recovery for a touchdown against Auburn in the SEC Championship Game.

    Gaines is a physical player with promising coverage skills, and his effort shows on the field every week. He would be a phenomenal pickup for St. Louis as a No. 3 corner behind Janoris Jenkins and Trumaine Johnson.

    Steven Gerwel is the longest-tenured Rams Featured Columnist at Bleacher Report and serves as the Rams' game-day correspondent. You can find more of Gerwel's work by visiting his writer profile or by following him on Twitter.