Sam Bradford, Franchise, St. Louis Rams
In 2009, the Rams were horrid. They couldn't pass, they could only run through the sheer will of Steven "Action" Jackson, and they couldn't score a touchdown if they were on the one with eight downs.
Their disappointing, but unsurprising play resulted in the St. Louis Rams posting a 1-15 mark and being awarded the #1 overall pick in the 2010 NFL Draft.
With that pick, the Rams took quarterback Sam Bradford out of the University of Oklahoma. Many draft pundits immediately declared it a wasted pick. Everyone thought he was too injury prone to last in the NFL.
Most (including myself) thought that the Rams should have invested that pick in Ndamukong Suh, the most hyped defensive lineman in over a decade.
How wrong we were.
Sam Bradford, along with second round pick Rodger Saffold, changed the trajectory of the entire St. Louis franchise, from cellar dwellers to a team on the rise.
Here are five moves that the Rams should make this off-season to continue the return to the days of "The Greatest Show on Turf."
Most mock drafts have Julio Jones going to the Rams at No. 14, and with good cause.
The 6'4" 220 lb. monster of a wide receiver from Alabama is the second best pass catcher in the draft, just behind A.J. Green. The Rams desperately need a deep threat to stretch the field to give Steven Jackson and Danny Amendola some room to work underneath.
Unless Green somehow falls down the draft boards and is sitting there when the Rams pick, Jones will be wearing the Blue and Gold next season.
Atari Bigby, when healthy, is one of the hardest hitting strong safeties in the NFL. The key words are "when healthy".
Bigby, currently a Green Bay Packer, is the definition of injury prone. Over his six NFL seasons, Bigby has averaged nine games per season, that's not great. Over those same six seasons, he's averaged a turnover every three games, that's pretty good.
Because of his injury problems, he should be relatively cheap. If the St. Louis medical staff can figure out a way to keep him healthy for a full season he would be the ideal run stopping strong safety that Steve Spagnuolo covets to pair with O.J. Atogwe, the Rams franchise turnover machine at the free safety slot.
Craig Dahl is a decent backup, but when you have backups starting, there's a need for an upgrade.
Ideally the Rams would be able to get Quintin Mikell or Roman Harper, but those two are more than likely going to be Plan A. Franchise tagged, making it virtually impossible for the Rams to acquire them, or Plan B. way out of the Rams price range (you'll see why later).
One of the glaring weaknesses for the Rams defense this season was outside linebacker.
When Na'il Diggs went down, St. Louis was forced to start not one, but two backups to line up with MLB James Laurinaitis. Diggs should be back in 2011, which means that the Rams MUST upgrade at least one outside linebacker slot.
While McIntosh isn't the best outside linebacker available, he's the one that's least likely to be re-signed. He struggled to adapt to the Redskins defensive scheme (which isn't going anywhere) and the 'Skins have a lot of other free agents who are a higher priority. He should come at a reasonable price, and he fills a need.
If, for some reason, the Vikings fail to sign Chad Greenway and then choose not to franchise him, the Rams might take a stab.
This one's a tie folks. Most draft pundits have Stephen Paea going in the late first/early second round. I think he'll still be around when the Rams pick in the second and getting younger on the defensive line is never a bad thing. Fred Robbins was a great signing, probably the steal of the off-season, but he's getting up there in years.
Who better to replace him with than the 6'1" 311 lb. monster from Oregon State with a nose for the ball, regardless of who has it.
I know what you're thinking: "He's only 6'1"? Isn't that a little small to be playing DT in the NFL?" The answer is "Maybe." But what this kid lacks in size, he makes up for with pure brute strength (44 reps of 225 lbs on the bench press), a nose for the ball, and a motor that never quits.
On to Mankins, the interior lineman from the Patriots. After a lengthy holdout this off-season, the Patriots agreed to not slap him with the franchise tag this off-season if he signed their $1.54 million dollar tender and report immediately. This makes Mankins one of the best, if not, the best guards available this off-season.
He'll command a lot of money, but with that money comes the attitude that's required to be a Pro Bowl guard in the NFL. The Rams need an upgrade at guard to help out with the running game and Mankins would be well worth it.
The photo pictured is fitting, as it represents what the Rams defense sorely lacked this season: a shutdown corner.
Ron Bartell would be a good second CB (or a great third CB), but he just isn't solid or consistent enough to be a shut down corner in this league.
Nnamdi Asomugha has said that he will only leave the Raiders to play for a Super Bowl contender. Money, however, has a tendency to change people's perspectives on things. It's up to the Rams to convince Asomugha that they are well on their way to being a respectable franchise and a perennial playoff contender once again. If that means throwing so much money at Asomugha that he can't possibly refuse, then so be it. If that fails, it's a good year to be looking for a corner back.
Champ Bailey is on the downside of his career at the age of 33, but considering how good he was, the downside is pretty darn good. He'll be looking to cash in on one more big money contract before he calls it a career, and the Rams are a fit. They have a hole to fill, they have the money to pay to fill that hole, and Bailey is the man to do that.
If St. Louis does sign Champ Bailey, Johnathan Joseph from Cincinnati may come relatively cheap after taking a step back in 2010. He would be the perfect corner to have Bailey mentor and groom as his replacement when he does decide to call it a career.
The Rams have continually failed at drafting a shutdown corner. They thought Tye Hill was going to be that guy when they drafted him. He flopped. He couldn't stay on the field, and when he could, he just wasn't that good. It's time for them to admit their mistakes, bite the bullet, and buy themselves a franchise corner.
Jacquizz Rodgers (pictured) - One of the best running backs in Pac-10 history. Small enough to drop into the third round, but he's got the speed (4.3 40) and the ability to be an impact player. Perfect guy to be a change of pace behind Steven Jackson and ultimately the perfect guy to replace him. Runs the right way, head and shoulders downhill, never stops moving his feet, and he never fumbles (one fumble in three years at OSU).
Mathias Kiwanuka - Talented pass rushing defensive end who gets lost amongst the terrific front seven of the New York Football Giants. Familiar with Steve Spagnuolo and the system he runs. With Chris Long's breakout year and James Hall's resurgence, it would be more of a luxury than a need.
Zach Miller - Great all around TE from the Raiders. Gives Bradford a reliable tight end underneath.
Phillip Livas - Great kick returner from Louisiana Tech. St. Louis needs someone other than Amendola or Avery fielding kicks. They can't afford any more injuries to wide receivers.
That's my slide show. Please leave your comments and suggestions below. If I've made any mistakes, let me know. If you have any suggestions, feel free to leave them. I'm planning on writing a 2011 Rams mock draft later on this year.