St. Louis Rams' Day 1 2014 NFL Draft Primer

Steven GerwelContributor IIIMay 8, 2014

St. Louis Rams' Day 1 2014 NFL Draft Primer

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    Michael Conroy/Associated Press

    Day 1 of the NFL draft is finally upon us, and this article is your ultimate guide on what to expect from the St. Louis Rams in the opening round. 

    Since the Rams have two selections in the first round, there has been an endless surge of rumors and speculation. This article will keep you up-to-date on the rumors, while also highlighting other areas of interest, such as the latest comments from experts, the team's top remaining needs, as well as my latest mock draft. 

    Please follow this article to get the latest scoop on what is happening with the Rams. After the Rams make a selection, be sure check out the draft tracker for analysis and commentary on every Rams selection.

Departures and Additions

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    Michael Conroy/Associated Press

    Key Additions

    WR Kenny Britt, Tennessee Titans

    QB Shaun Hill, Detroit Lions

    CB Greg Reid, Florida State

    DT Alex Carrington, Buffalo Bills

    LB Etienne Sabino, New York Giants

    WR T.J. Moe, New England Patriots

     

    Key Departures 

    G Harvey Dahl, Unsigned

    G Shelley Smith, Miami Dolphins

    G Chris Williams, Buffalo Bills

    CB Cortland Finnegan, Miami Dolphins

    TE Mike McNeill, Carolina Panthers

    S Darian Stewart, Baltimore Ravens

    S Matt Giordano, Unsigned

Team Needs

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    Butch Dill/Associated Press

    Safety

    The most glaring roster need is at safety. Starters T.J. McDonald and Rodney McLeod remain on the roster, but McLeod was the weak spot of the 2013 defense. 

    The only other safety capable of starting—Darian Stewart—signed with the Baltimore Ravens. As a result, there's no question the Rams need a starting-caliber safety. It's just a matter of which round. 

     

    Cornerback

    The cornerback position has two promising starters in place (Janoris Jenkins, Trumaine Johnson), but the depth is dangerously thin. Second-year pro Brandon McGee has been a disappointment, so the team needs another high-end corner from this draft. 

    Expect the Rams to target a corner sometime in the first three rounds. 

     

    Offensive Line

    Jake Long is recovering from a devastating knee injury, and there's no guarantee he'll be 100 percent by Week 1, leaving Rodger Saffold—a proven regular on the St. Louis injury report—as the only healthy left tackle at the moment. 

    The Rams cannot play Russian roulette with such an important position, which is why Greg Robinson makes a lot of sense. Robinson can fill in at left guard—a major need on the line—and bump out to left tackle in the highly likely event of Long or Saffold going down. 

     

    Wide Receiver

    The Rams have a number of young, talented receivers on the roster, but no one has proven capable of stepping up and filling the No. 1 wide receiver role. 

    Brian Quick was drafted to eventually fill that role, but he has been a disappointment. Kenny Britt was signed in free agency and is a candidate for that role, but he's made it clear over his career that he cannot be depended on. 

    As a result, there's no shame in targeting either Sammy Watkins or Mike Evans in Round 1.

Top Targets

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    Targets at No. 2 Overall

    T Greg Robinson, Auburn

    Robinson is a dominate run-blocker and has the raw athleticism to eventually become a dominate pass-protector. He's capable of starting at left tackle Day 1, but for the Rams, who already have Jake Long, he'll be groomed at guard before taking over on the blind side. 

    Robinson's run blocking fits what the Rams want to do on offense, and his tenacity belongs in the NFC West. 

     

    WR Sammy Watkins, Clemson

    Watkins is the most dominate pass-catcher in this draft, and his ability to take short catches for big gains is perfect for St. Louis' "dink and dunk" offense. 

    Watkins, combined with the electric Tavon Austin, will give the Rams a number of dynamic weapons on offense. 

     

    DE Jadeveon Clowney, South Carolina

    With Chris Long and Robert Quinn on the roster, there is not an immediate need for Jadeveon Clowney, but the Rams cannot completely ignore the best prospect of this class. 

    The Rams do not currently have a need for a defensive end, but in the NFL, situations can change over night. With that in mind, sometimes it's best to just lock up the best player available and worry about the rest later. 

     

    T Jake Matthews, Texas A&M

    Jake Matthews is an alternative to Robinson. Unlike Robinson, Matthews is more polished as a pass-blocker, but he has less overall potential. 

     

    DE/OLB Khalil Mack, Buffalo

    Khalil Mack is a defensive wild card and can line up at either defensive end or linebacker. He's a small-school prospect, but his athleticism is certainly NFL-caliber. 

    A defensive team, such as the Rams, can certainly find use for a player such as Mack. 

     

    QB Johnny Manziel, Texas A&M

    Johnny Manziel was not initially considered a serious candidate until the rumors surfaced (see the next two slides). The Rams will only take Manziel if they can secure a trade for Sam Bradford

    Most likely, the Manziel hype is merely a smoke screen. 

     

    Targets at No. 13 Overall

    CB Justin Gilbert, Oklahoma State

    Justin Gilbert is the top cornerback of this draft class and fills a need for St. Louis, as the Rams are dangerously thin at cornerback. 

    Gilbert gives the Rams a legitimate starter with Pro Bowl potential opposite Jenkins. 

     

    CB Darqueze Dennard, Michigan State

    Gilbert is in danger of being selected before St. Louis comes on the clock at No. 13. If that happens, Darqueze Dennard is a perfectly reasonable alternative. 

     

    DT Aaron Donald, Pittsburgh

    Aaron Donald has had a tremendous offseason and has done nothing but raise his stock. The Rams need another defensive tackle to plug in next to Michael Brockers, so keep an eye on Donald. 

     

    S Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, Alabama

    Safety is St. Louis' biggest roster need, and Ha Ha Clinton-Dix is the top safety of this draft class. This regime has demonstrated time after time that it values the cornerback position over safety, but Clinton-Dix is an interesting candidate nonetheless. 

     

    WR Mike Evans, Texas A&M

    If the Rams miss out on Watkins with the top pick, there's no need to panic. There's still another No. 1 receiver in this draft who can possibly be had at No. 13, and his name is Mike Evans. 

    Evans has the size and playmaking skills the Rams need on the outside. Bradford will jump for joy if Evans' name is announced at No. 13. 

     

    T Taylor Lewan, Michigan

    Taylor Lewan has well-documented off-the-field concerns, according to ESPN, so he certainly comes with some risk. But if the Rams miss out on tackles Robinson and Matthews at No. 2, Lewan is another option. 

     

    T/G Zack Martin, Notre Dame

    Since the Rams have an immediate need at guard, it might make more sense to pass on Robinson and Matthews and instead grab Zack Martin as the long-term answer at left guard. 

    With Martin's diversity, he can be the emergency left tackle if both Saffold and Long go down with injuries (not exactly an unlikely scenario given their history). 

What Are the Experts Saying?

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    Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

    Aaron Donald at No. 13? 

    According to a tweet by ESPN's Nick Wagoner, Bill Polian supported the idea of the Rams potentially taking Pittsburgh defensive tackle Aaron Donald at No. 13 overall, claiming that Donald is "worth his weight in gold." 

    Bleacher Report's Matt Miller backed up these comments on Twitter, stating that we should "keep an eye on Aaron Donald. They've (the Rams) been working out 3-tech pass-rushers."

     

    The No. 2 Pick Between Johnny Manziel and Greg Robinson? 

    ESPN's Chris Mortensen stated in a radio interview with 101 ESPN that he believes the Rams will be targeting either Johnny Football or Greg Robinson at No. 2.  

    These two names have been popping up a lot this week, so I'll keep an eye out for more comments on these players. 

     

    Is Jadeveon Clowney St. Louis' True Desire? 

    NFL.com's Ian Rapoport tweeted that if the Houston Texans pass on Clowney at No. 1 overall, the Rams will have a dramatic decision to make with that second pick. 

    Does the team pass on Clowney, who does not fill a need but is the consensus top prospect of this class? Or, do they auction off the pick?

     

    Double-Dipping on Offensive Linemen? 

    Michael Silver of Yahoo Sports feels that the Rams are not only interested in using the No. 2 pick on Robinson or Matthews, but they might also be willing to grab an offensive lineman with the No. 13 pick as well. 

    Silver feels that going heavy on offensive linemen in Round 1 will serve the Rams well against the tough NFC West defenses. 

    "I think (Fisher's) mentality is, 'I'm going to load up on beef and come hard at those defenses'. I think they could even draft two offensive linemen, depending on how things go," said Silver. 

    This is not a strategy that will satisfy the fans hoping for more flash on offense, but Silver's opinion carries a lot of weight. He'll be joining Fisher and Snead in the St. Louis war room during the draft, so he has first-hand insight into St. Louis' strategy and should be taken seriously as a result. 

Latest Rumors and Reports

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    Patric Schneider/Associated Press

    Hello Johnny Football, Goodbye Sam the Ram? 

    Jason La Canfora of CBSSports.com indicated on a CBS radio show that the Rams and Minnesota Vikings have engaged in talks regarding a trade that would send Sam Bradford to Minnesota. 

    Such a trade would indicate that the Rams are interested in selecting a quarterback early in the draft, and if you believe the report by NFL Media Insider Ian Rapoport regarding the Rams' super-duper-secret-classified meeting with Manziel, logic would point to Manziel being that quarterback. 

    A clever smokescreen? Probably so. An interesting development? No doubt. 

    For what it's worth, beat writer Jim Thomas of STLtoday.com tweeted that the Rams are "not shopping Bradford," according to one of his sources. 

     

    Rams Ready to Pass on Sammy Watkins...Or, Are They? 

    Thomas published an article on STLtoday.com this week that seems to indicate that the Rams are ready to pass on Clemson standout Sammy Watkins. 

    "Watkins and Austin is a nice daydream for Rams Nation. But all indications are that a Sammy Watkins-Tavon Austin tandem will not materialize."

    Thomas apparently has a feeling the Rams have other plans on draft day, but he doesn't totally dismiss the possibility of the Rams adding Watkins. 

    "And despite all the signals from Rams Park about standing pat at wide receiver — including some public statements by coach Jeff Fisher and general manager Les Snead — it’s believed there are some in the building who would like to take Watkins."

    It seems the Rams are leaking the usual draft-day "maybe, maybe not" tone when it comes to Watkins. No surprise there. 

     

    Greg Robinson the Top Target at No. 2? 

    Peter King of Sports Illustrated recently reported that he's getting a feeling from the Rams that Robinson is in fact St. Louis' top target at No. 2 overall. 

    "I sense the Rams like Greg Robinson at two—over Sammy Watkins and Jake Matthews. A St. Louis contingent went to Auburn on Thursday to work out Robinson; no negatives surfaced," said King. 

    No surprise here, as Robinson can easily be considered the second-best prospect of this class behind only Clowney.

Latest Mock Draft

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    Sue Ogrocki/Associated Press

    If you have yet to check out Bleacher Report's latest seven-round mock draft for the Rams, it can be found here

    Here are the picks from the latest mock: 

    Round 1 (No. 2): T Greg Robinson, Auburn

    Round 1 (No. 13): CB Justin Gilbert, Oklahoma State

    Round 2 (No. 44): DT Timmy Jernigan, Florida State

    Round 3 (No. 75): FS Terrence Brooks, Florida State

    Round 4 (No. 110): RB Tre Mason, Auburn

    Round 5 (No. 153): CB E.J. Gaines, Missouri

    Round 6 (No. 188): LB Max Bullough, Michigan State

    Round 6 (No. 214): OL Laurent Duvernay-Tardif, Canada

    Round 7 (No. 226): QB Connor Shaw, South Carolina

    Round 7 (No. 241): RB Henry Josey, Missouri

    Round 7 (No. 249): TE A.C. Leonard, Tennessee State

    Round 7 (No. 250): LB Devon Kennard, USC