NFL Draft 2011: Everything You Need to Know About the St Louis Rams
This offseason has been particularly hard to follow and the Rams have made a few changes since their final snap of 2010.
Since football is a game full of pride and no one is as proud as the fans, you are probably going to want to brag about your knowledge of the Rams and how they stack up heading into the 2011 season.
Now I completely understand, you were busy, college basketball sidetracked you, your job was tough, and somewhere along the line you stopped keeping up with your beloved Rams and now you need to do a whole bunch of cramming before you get back into football mode this weekend.
Well sit back in your chair, pull out your notebook, and turn all cellphones off until the end of the lecture.
This is St Louis Rams 101.
Chapter 1: Coaching Changes
Following a successful 2010 season, the Rams have made a few changes to their coaching staff:
-Offensive Coordinator Pat Shurmur was named head coach of the Cleveland Browns on January 7th.
-Eleven days later, the Rams named former Broncos head coach Josh McDaniels as the new offensive coordinator. McDaniels brings with him a spread offense that should better fit Sam Bradford's skill set. Yes Bradford will have to learn a new offense all over again, but at least he will have some familiarity with this one.
-In addition to being named offensive coordinator, McDaniels took over as QBs coach after current coach Dick Curl retired.
Josh McDaniels - Offensive Coordinator, Quarterbacks Coach
Pat Shurmur - Offensive Coordinator - Head Coach, Cleveland
Dick Curl - Quarterbacks Coach, Assistant Coach - Retired
Chapter 2: Don't Listen to the Experts, the Wide Receiver Position Isnt That Bad
Somewhere along the line everyone and their mother decided the Rams had this excruciating need for a receiver before they could become legitimate contenders.
It isn't that the Rams are solid at the position; a solid playmaker with good size would be welcomed with open arms in St Louis. That being said, the Rams really have plenty of talent at the position going into the 2011 season.
A lot of people didn't see it, but those of us that follow the Rams religiously saw it on numerous occasions last year.
-Mark Clayton began establishing himself as a legitimate threat on the outside before suffering a season ending knee injury in Week 5. In a little more than four games, Clayton amassed 23 receptions for 306 yards and two touchdowns.
-Donnie Avery was poised to have a breakout season before going doing with a season-ending knee injury in the pre-season. His elite speed and above-average hands gives him the potential to be a DeSean Jackson-like player for St Louis when he returns. If he can stay healthy upon his return, he provides the Rams a dangerous threat that can stretch the field.
-Danny Amendola showed the NFL-world last season that he is the next Wes Welker. He doesn't have blazing speed, but his quickness and elite-hands have him ready to emerge as one of the more dependable slot receivers in football. His mini-breakout season in 2010 should be followed up with a big-breakout this season.
-Danario Alexander overcame knee problems last year to flash incredible potential. His speed and good size have many fans hoping he can stay healthy on a consistent basis. It isn't every year where one of your undrafted free agents becomes one of your quarterbacks primary targets in a matter of weeks.
-Brandon Gibson, Laurent Robinson, and Mardy Gilyard all could be serviceable fifth receivers next year as well. Gibson is currently the better of the three, with Gilyard probably having the highest ceiling in terms of potential.
Therefore, if the Rams don't sign or draft a big-time wide receiver, you have no reason to panic.
Chapter 3: A Defensive Lineman Is the Likely First-Round Pick
If Alabama WR Julio Jones falls to the Rams, they won't hesitate in selecting the big, physical receiver.
Chances are he won't though, so expect the Rams to draft a defensive lineman.
With a current defensive-line consisting of the aging James Hall and Fred Robbins, it will be crucial for the Rams to begin finding their replacements soon.
-Aldon Smith, DE, Mizzou
-Corey Liuget, DT, Illinois
-Ryan Kerrigan, DE, Purdue
Chapter 4: They Need a Backup Running Back
Steven Jackson can be counted on to play through almost any injury he'll experience on the football field.
As he gets older however, the Rams are going to need to find someone to spell him in order to avoid completely running S-Jax into the ground.
Kenneth Darby is a restricted free agent this season, but I wouldn't expect the Rams to make a huge push to retain the running back.
A more likely scenario would find the Rams using a mid-round pick to select a capable backup with good hands that fits into Josh McDaniels' offense better.
This isn't a crucial need, as Darby played well enough last year that Rams fans would probably be okay with him being the backup moving forward, but it would be exciting to have a better 1-2 punch at the running back position.
Chapter 5: Safety Is a Giant Hole Now
Just in case you haven't heard, defensive standout OJ Atogwe is no longer a Ram, signing a 5-year deal with the Redskins shortly before the lockout began.
This, mixed with the lack of skill displayed by the rest of the safeties in St Louis, have the Rams looking very week at the safety position.
The only free safety the Rams have on their roster at the moment is Darian Stewart, a rookie who struggled at times last season and is in no way ready to assume a starting role.
At SS, Craig Dahl would be the starter, where he would look to improve on an average 2010 that saw him become the full time starter at the position.
Whether the Rams will address this need early in the draft is unknown, but the point is that unless they change something, the safety spot is going to be a liability.
Chapter 6: The 2011 Schedule Is Interesting
On paper, the Rams have the most difficult schedule in all of the NFL in 2011. They'll face four of the past five Super Bowl winners, they face contenders, even the lower-end teams they play are teams on the rise.
The schedule has set up a tough road for the Rams and should really show how far the team has come as a franchise.
For a complete breakdown of next years' schedule, go here.
Chapter 7: Don't Be Shocked If the Rams Make Trades on Draft Day
The Rams haven't shown many signs of willingness to trade neither up or down, but rarely are draft-day trades ever planned.
Heading into the draft, St Louis has needs at DT, OLB, S, OG, and DE. Trading down would give them more picks, thus allowing them to fill more holes a lot quicker.
At the same time, if they really want Julio Jones, they could trade up to grab the star WR.
Regardless, both moves would make sense, in fact, not trading their pick at all and just picking 14th would make sense.
Having a mid-round pick gives you a lot of options, so don't be too shocked by any 'surprising' moves the Rams make this weekend.
Chapter 8: They Have the Most Stable Quarterback Situation in the NFC West
In football everything starts with the quarterback position. Just last season the Rams saw what can happen when you have a confident quarterback under center.
When it comes to the NFC West, the Rams are above and beyond their divisional rivals heading forward.
Sam Bradford appears to be a star in the making. His accurate arm and high football-iq has many fans believing that the Rams have the next Peyton Manning on their hands. Its far too early to tell how good he is going to be, but a dramatic drop off in progress is highly unlikely.
Besides, with Josh McDaniels bringing Sam's bread and butter to the NFC West, the spread offense, we could see Bradford put together a big season.
They face the predicament of sticking with the veteran Matt Hasselbeck, moving forward with Charlie Whitehurst, or drafting a new quarterback to be the future of the franchise.
Hasselebeck has struggled to stay healthy over the last couple seasons, but still has the ability to be an adequate quarterback in the NFL.
Whitehurst has shown small flashes of potential, but he hasn't given the front office much reason to believe he can be the future under center.
In other unlikely news, how incredible of a story would it be if the Seahawks drafted Jake Locker?
The Cardinals have an even more difficult situation. Veteran Derek Anderson's accuracy disappeared last season and he quickly lost his job.
Rookies John Skelton and Max Hall both struggled to adjust to the speed of the NFL and neither appear to be ready to be the guy going forward for the Cardinals.
Both of the Smiths (Alex and Troy) are gone. It appears there is interest in San Francisco for giving Alex Smith another shot, but for now they are a mess at quarterback.
Several expect them to select Blaine Gabbert in the draft and I'm sure 49er fans would love to see that. As of right now though, they don't scare anyone in the passing game.
Chapter 9: They Will Not Make a Huge Free Agency Splash
Yes, the lockout just ended.
However, there isn't a new CBA deal and there are still plenty of kinks to work out in the whole mess.
The result? Expect a very short period of time between the opening of free agency and the start of the regular season.
The Rams are going to want people who know the system coming in and they won't have as much time as usual to meet with the free agents.
They have plenty of money to spend in free agency, but due to the circumstances that this lockout has caused, don't expect them to sign any huge names in the coming months.
Perhaps they'll sign a mid-level receiver or linebacker, but nothing more.
Chapter 10: They Are the Favorites to Win the NFC West in 2011
Ignore the fact that the Seahawks pulled off the upset in the season finale to steal the Rams' playoff spot last season. The NFC West belongs to the Rams.
In a completely non-biased analysis, the Rams looked better than the rest of the teams in the division last season. The Rams were a couple of defensive stops away from winning anywhere from 9-10 games in 2010, and they will look to further improve in 2011.
Their young, confident defense was solid all throughout the year, refusing to let most offenses get the best of them. Led by James Laurinaitis, they should continue to dominate this year.
McDaniels new offense should provide plenty of offensive firepower, pumping up the Rams offensive numbers and keeping the defense off the field for longer durations of times.
Basically, watch out for this team in 2011.
Chapter 11: Closing Statement
Well there you go, you are now fairly knowledgeable of the Rams current state.
Grab your No. 8 Bradford jersey, get over to a friend's house and watch how the draft plays out for gold and blue.
When your friends want to start talking about how everyone will stack up this year, reference this and let them know that this is the season the Rams turn some heads.
Happy Draft Everybody.