Report Card Grades for St. Louis Rams Undrafted Free Agent Signings
The St. Louis Rams had a phenomenal draft thanks to the luxury of owning two top-15 selections, but even after the draft reaches an end, the rookie additions do not end.
The signing of undrafted rookie free agents is one of the more underrated offseason activities, and it's certainly something the Rams take advantage of every year.
Last year alone, the Rams added two capable rookie free-agent linebackers in Ray Ray Armstrong and Daren Bates, along with running back Benny Cunningham and safety Cody Davis. All four players made contributions in 2013.
Clearly, adding undrafted players is more than a formality. It's a chance to upgrade the roster without making a major investment.
This article will cover St. Louis' 2014 undrafted rookie class and provide a grade for each signing.
Note: Every player presented in this article has been confirmed by the official website of the St. Louis Rams.
TE Alex Bayer, Bowling Green
The Rams have two reliable starters at tight end—Jared Cook and Lance Kendricks—as well as a promising up-and-comer in Cory Harkey, but the competition behind those three players is nonexistent.
The addition of Bowling Green's Alex Bayer gives St. Louis another pass-catching tight end to compete with Harkey for the team's No. 3 tight end job.
It's nice that the team has someone to push Harkey, but St. Louis needs a blocking tight end more than another receiving TE.
CB Marcus Roberson, Florida
The availability of Marcus Roberson is a bit baffling. CBS Sports had him rated as a third-round prospect, and many mocks had him as a Day 2 possibility.
Shockingly, Roberson went completely undrafted, so the Rams capitalized on the situation and signed him as a free agent.
There's a lot of competition in the secondary, but Roberson is certainly worth a look.
CB Jarrid Bryant, South Dakota
The addition of South Dakota's Jarrid Byrd gives the Rams another camp body to compete at cornerback, but this signing pretty much accomplishes nothing.
The Rams have Janoris Jenkins and Trumaine Johnson locked in as the starters, as well as Greg Reid, E.J. Gaines, Brandon McGee, Roberson and this year's second-round pick, Lamarcus Joyner, as depth.
Between those seven cornerbacks, the competition is already extremely fierce. Unfortunately for Bryant, there will have to be numerous injuries at the position for him to have a remote chance at winning a job.
WR Austin Franklin, New Mexico State
The Rams failed to address the wide receiver position in the draft. That, combined with the four-game suspension of Stedman Bailey and the recent incident involving new wideout Kenny Britt, will possibly open up some spots at the position.
At 5'11" and 189 pounds, Austin Franklin of New Mexico State is a smaller receiver who relies on speed and route-running more than physicality—much like Bailey.
If Franklin has a superb training camp, he could very well be Bailey's replacement when he serves his suspension at the beginning of the season.
S Avery Cunningham, Central Michigan
Avery Cunningham is a small-school prospect out of Central Michigan, but don't let that fool you. The school produced last year's No. 1 overall pick, tackle Eric Fisher.
The 5'11", 200-pound Cunningham will have a tough time in training camp standing out among St. Louis' backup safeties. Cody Davis, Matt Daniels and Rodney McLeod will be competing with Cunningham for a job, and all three players have NFL experience.
However, since safety was the weak spot of the defense last season, the Rams need all the competition they can get.
DT Deantre Harlan, Bacone
This is not a knock against Deantre Harlan. But considering the talent the Rams have on the defensive line, Harlan has a better shot at releasing a double-platinum album by next week than making the final roster.
Coming to St. Louis' training camp as an unknown defensive lineman hoping to make the team is a daunting task. If he miraculously happens to make the squad, it certainly says a lot about him as a player.
LB Aaron Hill, Minnesota
The Rams have some solid competition at linebacker. Armstrong, Bates, Sammy Brown and Phillip Steward all have NFL experience and appear to be the favorites for employment in 2014.
Aaron Hill has an uphill battle when it comes to making the team, so he'll have to prove his worth on special teams in order to have a shot.
FB Kadeem Jones, Western Kentucky
The Rams have a number of running backs competing for a job, but few of those backs have the ability to lineup in the three-point stance as a fullback.
Kadeem Jones out of Western Kentucky is a legitimate fullback at 5'11" and 246 pounds. And due to a lack of competition, Jones may very well be the undrafted rookie with the best shot at making the roster.
Tight end Lance Kendricks has some experience in the backfield as a fullback, so Jones' job is still far from guaranteed. However, if he can play solid special teams, he'll make the decision difficult for the coaching staff.
T Emmanuel, McCray, Ole Miss
The Rams have four starting-caliber tackles on the roster in Jake Long, Greg Robinson, Joe Barksdale, Rodger Saffold. Since Robinson and Saffold will likely play guard for the entire 2014 season, the Rams still could use another tackle capable of stepping in as an injury replacement.
Emmanuel McCray saw solid competition throughout his SEC career at Ole Miss, so he'll be a step ahead of the competition.
LB Johnny Millard, Cal Poly
According to his Cal Poly profile, Johnny Millard is a two-year collegiate starter at outside linebacker with experience on both the strong and weak side.
As with the other undrafted linebackers, Millard will have a tough time separating himself from other top-notch competition, but he's worth a look nonetheless.
T Abasi Salimu, Nicholls State
Small-school standout Abasi Salimu out of Nicholls State has the ability to play both guard and tackle, which certainly helps his odds.
There's plenty of competition on both lines this year, so Salimu has a lot of work to do before he stands out in the eyes of the coaching staff.
WR Jamaine Sherman, East Texas Baptist University
Jamaine Sherman is listed at 6'3" and over 200 pounds on his college's profile. He has the size the Rams need in a receiver, but he lacks experience against top-notch competition, so NFL camp will be an intense transition for the young wideout.
On a positive note, he shares the same birthday with myself and Jerry Rice (Oct. 13), which could indicate future greatness.
RB Trey Watts, Tulsa
Zac Stacy, Tre Mason and Cunningham are all guaranteed to make the roster and will contribute on offense, but the Rams need competition to light a fire under Daryl Richardson and Isaiah Pead.
Tulsa's Trey Watts is a smaller speed back, much like Richardson and Pead. If the 190-pound Watts ends the preseason as the most consistent runner of the three, he'll make the final roster.
Both Richardson and Pead have suffered from inconsistency, so the addition of Watts will push them to improve.
DT Ethan Westbrooks, West Texas A&M
The entire Harlan slide basically applies to Ethan Westbrooks as well.
Westbrooks led the nation in sacks in 2012 with 19.5, so he definitely fits the mold of a St. Louis defensive end, but this signing is still simply about adding an extra camp body.
The Rams have far too much talent on the defensive line for an unknown to have any real shot at making the squad, regardless of college production.
LB Tavarius Wilson, North Alabama
As mentioned in the Hill slide, the Rams have pretty stout competition at linebacker, so it's an uphill battle for any undrafted linebackers hoping to make the squad.
Tavarius Wilson comes out of North Alabama. (He is a former teammate of Janoris Jenkins). He played on the inside in college, but at 239 pounds, he's too light to be an inside linebacker in the NFL.
As a result, he'll have to beat out Brown or Steward for a job, which is a tough task.