Reassessing St. Louis Rams' Offseason Plan and What's Left to Address
The St. Louis Rams are piecing together the finishing touches to their offseason plan, and we can bet that plenty of questions will be answered a month from now.
The Rams were very quiet in free agency, so it's almost guaranteed that the team is prepared to make some noise in the upcoming NFL draft.
However, the team has only so many draft selections. As a result, certain positions are bound to be neglected, and not every fan will be satisfied with the results.
Regardless of what the Rams do—or don't do—in the upcoming draft, the questions posed in this article are bound to be answered one way or another.
Draft a No. 1 Wide Receiver or Keep the Fantasy Alive?
Does the team feel a need to draft a No. 1 wide receiver, or will the position be ignored?
This is a major offseason question that will have a direct impact on the field. Not only that, but this will tell us a lot about the mindset and integrity of St. Louis' management.
Rams general manager Les Snead drafted Brian Quick with the No. 33 overall pick in 2012. It was a highly questionable pick at the time, and Snead has been working hard to defend the decision ever since.
Quick, who was just one slot away from being a first-round pick, has just 29 career receptions and fewer than 500 yards receiving. A single 97-yard performance against the Carolina Panthers accounts for over 20 percent of his career production.
Quick has been unable to make a difference, and the Rams are faced with a grim realization—that two of the team's three second-round picks from 2012 are busts.
And with Sammy Watkins up for grabs at No. 2 overall, it's time for Snead to finally address this issue.
Will the Rams admit they made a mistake and attempt to fix it with Watkins or another receiver early in the draft? Or, will this game of charades continue with management insisting that Quick is a Pro Bowl player in the making?
It's bad enough that the Rams possessed three second-round picks in 2012 and pulled in just one adequate starter (Janoris Jenkins). In fact, that's pretty pathetic.
But there's something even worse: pretending that no mistakes were made and doing nothing to solve the problem, all in the name of saving the ego.
Is Backup Running Back Truly a Non-Issue?
Running back is a position few Rams fans are discussing. Zac Stacy demonstrated that he's a valuable starter and Benny Cunningham is seemingly a reliable No. 2, so it appears running back is not a need.
However, when it comes to a run-oriented offense, there is no such thing as too many backs.
Does the team have any faith in Daryl Richardon or Isaiah Pead? Can either player be relied on if Stacy or Cunningham are injured?
The Rams certainly don't need to use a high draft pick on a back, but it would be wise for St. Louis to remain vigilant by bringing in fresh competition.
Cornerback or Safety at No. 13?
The Rams need help at both cornerback and safety, but which position warrants an early draft pick?
In this draft class, there's a pretty clear drop-off in safety talent beyond Ha Ha Clinton-Dix and Calvin Pryor, but there's also a drop-off beyond cornerback Justin Gilbert and Darqueze Dennard (though not as drastic).
So if the Rams want a top-tier talent at either position, it will have to happen in the first round. And based on the team's history, since the arrival of Jeff Fisher in 2012, it's pretty clear which position the team values more.
Since Fisher and Snead took over, there has been zero indication that the team values safeties over cornerbacks.
The Rams made no effort to re-sign Quintin Mikell in free agency following the 2012 season. As a result, safety was a major need last offseason, and the team responded by waiting until the third round to draft T.J. McDonald (not exactly a sign of urgency).
Also, three of the five safeties on the roster last season entered the league as undrafted rookies. McDonald, along with journeyman veteran Matt Giordano, were the only exceptions. The team clearly has a desire to develop undervalued safeties rather than fork out a large investment.
As for cornerback, that's a different story...
The very first thing Fisher and Snead did after joining the Rams was to sign ex-Tennessee Titan cornerback Cortland Finnegan to a $50 million contract. Several months later, the team spent a second-round draft pick on Janoris Jenkins. And a few hours after that, the team grabbed Trumaine Johnson in the third round.
So based on the evidence, if it comes down to a safety or cornerback at No. 13 overall, it's obvious what the Rams will do.
Go for a Dominate Defense or Seek Balance?
Pragmatists and logical thinkers are expecting the Rams to beef up the offense in the upcoming draft in an effort to bring the offensive unit up to par with an already stout defense.
However, there's a riskier option that could pay huge dividends: Go all in on defense.
Neglecting the offense is certainly not ideal, but the Rams are two or three solid draft picks away from possessing one of the best, if not the best, defenses in the NFL. Not to mention, top-notch defensive play seems to be the recipe for success in the hard-nosed NFC West.
After watching the Seattle Seahawks manhandle the pass-oriented Denver Broncos in the Super Bowl, would it really be that shocking if the Rams conclude that Jadeveon Clowney is more useful to the team than Sammy Watkins?
Sure, the Rams need help at wide receiver, but the 2014 NFC West title will likely be won by the team that fields the best defense...not the team with the best aerial attack.
If the Rams draft Clowney and a defensive back in the first round, it will anger fans who yearn for better offensive production. But if this happens, just remember that NFC West is a defensive arms race. Offense takes a back seat in this division.
Are the Rams in the Market for a Defensive Tackle?
The Rams have one of the best defensive lines in football, so what's keeping them from having the very best?
Clearly, the team is waiting for Michael Brockers and Kendall Langford to reach their full potential. When that happens, the Rams will have the most frightening defense in football. But to ensure the current defensive tackles are ready to give their maximum effort, perhaps the team should bring in competition to make things interesting.
The team added Alex Carrington in free agency, according to NFL.com, but that move was strictly for depth. Adding another tackle, one with starting potential, could elevate the play of the entire unit.
Pittsburgh's Aaron Donald is an intriguing candidate with the No. 13 overall pick. But if the Rams are unwilling to make that kind of investment, a mid-round draft pick will also help the cause.
The point is, neither Brockers or Langford have maximized their potential. If adding another highly touted tackle to the mix can make that happen, it will be well worth it.