Early Projections for St. Louis Rams' Final 53-Man Roster
The St. Louis Rams have several months before the coaches must trim the roster down to 53 men, but this time around, the decisions will not be nearly as difficult.
In the past, it was nearly impossible to predict the team's final roster. The talent was so diluted that there was just a thin line between the incumbent starters and the rookie newcomers. Any walk-on player had a realistic shot at securing a job on the final 53-man roster.
Now, with legitimate talent at nearly every position, any casual fan can formulate a somewhat accurate prediction of St. Louis' 2014 roster.
This article will be my first roster prediction since the end of the draft. There aren't any major surprises or snubs in this article, as I'm striving for accuracy, but look over the slides and let me know in the comments section if you think anyone is missing.
Sam Bradford (Starter)
Shaun Hill (Backup)
Sam Bradford is obviously the team's starting quarterback, and newcomer Shaun Hill will replace Kellen Clemens as the No. 2 passer behind Bradford.
Notice anyone missing?
That's right...rookie draftee Garrett Gilbert is not on this final roster. Expect the young rookie to spend a year on the practice squad, which will open up space on the roster for a player who's actually capable of contributing.
Gilbert is certainly not a blue-chip talent, so it's not as though opposing teams will plot to steal him from St. Louis' practice squad. This simply gives him a chance to learn the playbook without occupying a roster spot.
Running Back (4)
The only debate at the running back position is the dispute over who the Rams will keep as the fourth back for special teams.
Isaiah Pead has been somewhat productive on special teams, even if his play is nothing spectacular, but Chase Reynolds—a career specialist—will give him a good fight in camp.
If the special teams play between the two players is equal, the Rams will likely stick with Pead. He has more potential as a contributor on offense, and that will come in handy if there's an injury to any of the top three.
Tight End (4)
Mike McNeill is no longer with the Rams, so there's an opening for the team's fourth tight end spot. Alex Bayer, an undrafted rookie out of Bowling Green, is a player to keep an eye on for that job.
As for the starters, Lance Kendricks will double as the team's fullback and contribute as a blocker in the run game, while Jared Cook will basically be an extra receiver for Bradford.
Cory Harkey and Bayer will be the backups, and both will contribute on special teams.
Wide Receiver (5)
Second-year receiver Stedman Bailey is suspended for the first four games, so it's hard to predict what will happen after then. Either one of the receivers above will be out of luck, or the team will just roll with six receivers (and neglect another position instead).
For now, barring any major surprises, it's likely that the five receivers above will be on the Week 1 roster.
If the Rams do cut a receiver for Bailey, it'll likely be Kenny Britt, Brian Quick or Austin Pettis. All have similar skill sets, so the Rams can afford to lose one of the three. A strong case can be made for all of them, but Quick is the one with the least NFL production and could very well be the one on the chopping block.
Offensive Line (10)
Jake Long (Left Tackle)
Greg Robinson (Left Guard)
Scott Wells (Center)
Rodger Saffold (Right Guard)
Joe Barksdale (Right Tackle)
Barrett Jones (Backup Guard, Backup Center)
Tim Barnes (Backup Center)
Brandon Washington (Backup Guard)
Sean Hooey (Backup Tackle)
Mitchell Van Dyk (Backup Tackle)
With the addition of Greg Robinson, the starting offensive line will certainly be a team strength. The group is prone to injury, but that's really the only concern with this group. The level of talent is excellent.
The depth is fairly solid, but there's a lot of inexperience. Barrett Jones is capable of backing up basically every position other than left tackle, but he has seen zero playing time at the NFL level.
Tim Barnes is the most capable backup of them all. He started four games in 2013 and can handle stepping in at any time in the highly likely event of a Scott Wells injury.
Defensive Line (8)
Robert Quinn (Right Defensive End)
Michael Brockers (Starting Defensive Tackle)
Aaron Donald (Starting Defensive Tackle)
Chris Long (Left Defensive End)
William Hayes (Backup Defensive End)
Eugene Sims (Backup Defensive End)
Kendall Langford (Backup Defensive Tackle)
Alex Carrington (Backup Defensive Tackle)
Obviously, I'm in a no-win scenario when it comes to predicting the end result of Michael Sam's first training camp. Whether my prediction has him making the roster or falling short, either outcome can be misinterpreted as either a personal vendetta, or favoritism.
So, rest assured that this list was compiled strictly from football logic, with no political interference whatsoever.
The Rams have four capable defensive ends, all of whom are capable of starting in this league. Asking a rookie newcomer to make the team as a defensive end is a daunting task. Unless there's an injury to one of the four ends listed above, there's no logical explanation as to how Sam—or any of the other rookie linemen—can possibly make the roster.
Sam's only hope, other than benefiting from a teammate's injury, is to shine on special teams. If that happens, it's likely the coaching staff will at least consider keeping an extra end on the roster.
Eight defensive linemen is pretty much the bare minimum. The team can always expand the group to nine players, and in that case, it's basically open season for that ninth spot.
James Laurinaitis (Middle Linebacker)
Alec Ogletree (Outside Linebacker)
Jo-Lonn Dunbar (Outside Linebacker)
The three starters listed above are the favorites for Week 1, but there's a good chance Ray-Ray Armstrong can outplay Jo-Lonn Dunbar for a starting job on the outside. Dunbar struggled last season, while Armstrong displayed eye-popping athleticism on special teams.
Alec Ogletree will start on the outside, but he'll likely double as James Laurinaitis' backup in the middle. If Laurinaitis goes down, Ogletree will move inside and Armstrong (or Dunbar) will take over Ogletree's spot on the outside.
Daren Bates, along with Sammy Brown and Phillip Steward, will contribute heavily on special teams.
Janoris Jenkins (Starting Cornerback)
Trumaine Johnson (Starting Cornerback)
Lamarcus Joyner (Starting Nickelback, Slot Cornerback)
T.J. McDonald (Starting Safety)
Mo Alexander (Starting Safety)
Greg Reid (Backup Cornerback)
Brandon McGee (Backup Cornerback)
Marcus Roberson (Backup Cornerback)
E.J. Gaines (Backup Cornerback, Backup Safety)
Rodney McLeod (Backup Safety)
Ten defensive backs is a bit overkill, but with so many young and talented defensive backs on the roster, the Rams will not want to give up on any of them.
When Bailey returns from his suspension, expect the Rams to carry six receivers and cut one of the cornerbacks instead.
Brandon McGee is a strong candidate for release after Bailey returns, but Marcus Roberson and Greg Reid are other possibilities.
Special Teams (3)
Greg Zuerlein (Kicker)
Johnny Hekker (Punter)
Jake McQuaide (Long Snapper)
The Rams have an extremely reliable trio of specialists, and the group will remain intact for 2014. Barring injury, there will be no changes to the trio.
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.