St. Louis Rams' 2015 Offseason Draft Scouting Guide

Steven Gerwel@Steve_GerFeatured Columnist IVJanuary 2, 2015

St. Louis Rams' 2015 Offseason Draft Scouting Guide

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    Jeff Roberson/Associated Press

    The NFL playoffs will begin this weekend, but the St. Louis Rams will watch from home instead. While the other teams battle for a Super Bowl title, the Rams will look to the draft so they're not left out again a year from now. 

    Luckily, the Rams have been able to stockpile an impressive surplus of young, exciting talents. There are only a few key needs remaining, so a successful draft could very well push this team over the edge and secure a playoff berth in 2015. 

    This article will serve as an early guide to the upcoming draft by highlighting the team's picks, the top needs and a few key prospects to watch. 

Rams' 2015 Picks

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    Craig Ruttle/Associated Press

    The Rams will own the No. 10 overall pick in the upcoming class. Considering the team snagged a Pro Bowl rookie in Aaron Donald with the No. 13 pick in 2014, it's safe to say that the Rams will walk away with a decent player as long as they utilize competent scouting. 

    St. Louis will be short on picks this year. According to NFL.com, general manager Les Snead sent the team's fourth- and sixth-round selections to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in exchange for safety Mark Barron, who was the No. 7 overall pick in 2012. 

    The picks are unofficial until the playoffs end and compensatory picks are established. For now, here are the picks the Rams will play with: 

    • Round 1, No. 10 Overall
    • Round 2, No. 42 Overall
    • Round 3, No. 74 Overall
    • Round 5, No. 150 Overall
    • Round 7, No. 225 Overall

Top St. Louis Needs

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    Tom Gannam/Associated Press

    Quarterback

    Sam Bradford missed the entire 2014 season and has now missed 31 of 80 possible starts at the NFL level. He has suffered three season-ending injuries since 2009 (his final year at Oklahoma), and he cannot be counted on as the undisputed starter. 

    Even when healthy, Bradford offers more potential than results. His 6.2 yards per attempt over his career leaves a lot to be desired, and his 1.5 touchdowns over interceptions ratio is rather shaky for a guy who supposedly doesn't turn the ball over. 

    Even so, backups Shaun Hill and Austin Davis are far worse. 

    Hill had eight turnovers in nine games, which is not what you'd expect from a 34-year-old veteran.

    In the final game against the Seattle Seahawks, he threw the worst interception you'll ever see—he tried to throw the ball away, but instead chucked the ball right into the arms of a defensive tackle. In fact, that was the second time Hill was picked off by a defensive lineman in two weeks (though the one against the New York Giants was on the receiver). 

    Davis has more big-play ability than Hill, but he was even worse at avoiding turnovers (which is really incredible). Davis had 12 turnovers in nine games. 

    Both Hill and Davis have incredibly weak arms and are totally incapable of throwing the deep ball. That made it impossible for the Rams to take advantage of their speedy receivers on offense. 

    As of now, the Rams can only choose between Bradford's average play and injuries or the erratic play of Davis and Hill. It's a tough position to be in, which is why St. Louis must do everything in its power to find a good quarterback this offseason. 

    Offensive Line

    The offense must take a monumental step forward before the Rams can win with consistency. That's not going to be possible if St. Louis is unable to find adequate replacements for center Scott Wells and right guard Davin Joseph. Both veterans appeared overwhelmed this season, and they must go in order for the line to take a step forward.

    Left tackle Greg Robinson had his rookie struggles, but the 2014 No. 2 overall pick is still raw. In college, he played in Auburn's run-first attack, so his pass blocking still needs to be refined. Even so, we saw enough positives in his first year to feel confident moving forward. 

    Left guard Rodger Saffold and right tackle Joe Barksdale both had down years, but Saffold was banged up for most of the season, and Barksdale got little help on the right side from Joseph and Wells. Both players will likely bounce back once the line is upgraded. 

    Robinson, Saffold and Barksdale are the core. All three players are young and are just about to enter their prime years. If the Rams replace the two struggling veterans with competent upgrades, the offensive line should dominate for years to come. 

    Linebacker

    The Rams finished 20th in run defense (102.2 yards per game), and that's unacceptable for a team with so much defensive talent. 

    The defensive line typically does its part to stop the run, but the support from the linebackers is not good enough. If the Rams find Alec Ogletree some help, that will go a long ways toward tightening up the run defense. 

    James Laurinaitis is an excellent leader on defense, and he's a smart football player, but physically, he's not capable of plugging up the gaps and stopping the run. He has enough talent to play a role in 2015, but the Rams need a run-stuffer to pair up with Ogletree. 

    If the Rams find a nasty linebacker in the draft capable of meeting the ball-carrier at the gap and stopping him in his tracks, then St. Louis should have a top-10 run defense next season. 

Quarterback Prospects

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    Jae C. Hong/Associated Press

    Marcus Mariota, Oregon

    Marcus Mariota and Jameis Winston are battling for the honor of being the No. 1 overall pick. Given Winston's character concerns, it's safe to assume that Mariota is winning for now, but things can change drastically over the next several months. 

    There's some concern that Mariota is the product of Oregon's high-octane system, but other than that, there's not a lot to dislike about Mariota as a prospect. 

    At 6'4" and 219 pounds, he's a little thin for the NFL, but he can surely add five to 10 more pounds of bulk in the weight room this offseason. 

    Under center, Mariota does it all. He has a strong arm and can make all the NFL throws, and his efficiency is off the charts. He entered the Florida State game with a 68.3 percent completion rate and a remarkable 38 touchdowns against two picks. 

    Not to mention, he can turn any offense into a dynamic attack with his legs. He reached over 700 rushing yards on the season against Florida State, and he now has over 700 yards on the ground in each of his three seasons, including 29 career rushing touchdowns. 

    For a Rams offense that has been flat and dull—the opposite of Mariota—for the better part of a decade, adding the Duck would be a dream come true. 

    Whether or not that's feasible for the Rams, who are well out of Mariota's range with the No. 10 pick, remains to be seen. 

    Jameis Winston, Florida State

    When arguing who has been the NCAA's best overall athlete over the last two years, it's impossible to leave Winston out of that conversation. His skill set is unreal. 

    Winston won the Heisman Trophy after a remarkable 2013 season that resulted in a national championship for the Seminoles. He ended the year with 4,057 yards, 40 touchdowns and only 10 picks to go along with 219 rushing yards and four touchdowns.

    His 2014 season has not been as remarkable, but it's still impressive. He entered the game against Oregon with 3,559 passing yards, 24 touchdowns and 17 picks. Seven of his picks came in two games—Florida and Louisville.

    Winston also has the well-documented character concerns. According to Fox Sports' Kevin Vaughan, these concerns include property damage, sexual assault allegations, shoplifting and inappropriate conduct on campus. 

    Winston's off-the-field concerns and decline in play raises some red flags. However, if those concerns knock him down to the Rams at No. 10, it'd practically be a no-brainer.  

    Though FSU's code of conduct hearing recently cleared Winston of the sexual assault allegations, a lot will depend on the Rams' own evaluation of his character. If they still have concerns, that should automatically knock Winston off their draft board.

    Brett Hundley, UCLA

    The Rams have plenty of fans in Los Angeles, so Brett Hundley is obviously a fan favorite for the upcoming draft. He's very raw, but he has incredible talent. 

    After three seasons as the Bruins' starter, Hundley has averaged 3,278 yards, 25 touchdowns and eight picks per year with a 68 percent career completion rate. 

    Like Mariota and Winston, Hundley is also a threat on the ground. He rushed for a career-high 748 yards and 11 touchdowns in 2013. Overall, he has 1,651 rushing yards and 28 touchdowns in his career. 

    Hundley has a tough time staying in the pocket and making smart decisions, but there's little doubt that he has all the physical tools to succeed at the NFL level. 

    Hundley should not be on St. Louis' radar at No. 10 overall, but he could be an option later on. Quarterbacks are typically over-drafted, so there's a chance Hundley will end up going in the first round and the Rams will miss out. If not, he'd be an excellent target for the Rams' No. 42 overall selection. 

    He won't be ready to start in Year 1. If the Rams draft Hundley, they'll be depending on Bradford to stay healthy for at least most of the 2015 season, which is a big risk. 

    If Hundley has the luxury of riding the bench for a year and learning the game, he could be a long-term answer at the position. 

    Other Targets

    Dak Prescott, Mississippi State (Second or Third Round)

    Sean Mannion, Oregon State (Fourth or Fifth Round)

    Garrett Grayson, Colorado State (Second or Third Round)

    Cody Kessler, USC (Mid to Late Round)

    Bryce Petty, Baylor (Mid to Late Round)

Offensive Line Prospects

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    Reed Hoffmann/Associated Press

    C Reese Dismukes, Auburn

    Les Snead is an Auburn alumni, and Jeff Fisher is also connected to the school, as his son played there last season. Auburn players are always on St. Louis' radar, hence the Robinson and Tre Mason picks in the 2014 draft. 

    Center is arguably St. Louis' biggest offseason need, and it just so happens that Auburn has a pretty good center joining the 2015 class in Reese Dismukes. 

    Traditionally, Fisher prefers to use a veteran at center, which is why free agency is likely the route the Rams will take. If not, this regime will certainly jump at the opportunity to add another Auburn player to the roster. 

    Dismukes thrived in Auburn's run-first approach, so he fits the power-run scheme that St. Louis is trying to implement. 

    The second round is a possibility for Dismukes, but it's probably a bit too high. The third round would be ideal, or, the Rams might trade back in the second round (recouping their lost fourth-rounder in the process) and select him between No. 55 and No. 62 overall. 

    If the Rams select Dismukes, he should be an immediate starter. 

    T Brandon Scherff, Iowa

    When the Rams are on the clock at No. 10 overall, there's a good chance that Iowa tackle Brandon Scherff could be the best available player. 

    Tackle is not necessarily St. Louis' biggest need on the line, but the Rams should be able to adapt. 

    If the team grabs Scherff, he could take over for Joseph at right guard. Or he could start at right tackle, and Barksdale can move to guard. 

    Like Dismukes, Scherff is an excellent run-blocker, so he'll fit St. Louis' desire to run the football. 

    G La'el Collins, LSU

    The Rams will get more value out of the No. 10 pick if they go with an offensive tackle, but the team needs help on the interior line more than anything. 

    If St. Louis opts for a pure guard, LSU's La'el Collins is likely the safest bet. He's not worth a top-10 pick, but he could be a good candidate in the second half of the first round in a trade-down scenario. 

    He's not a dominant run-blocker like Scherff and Dismukes, but he's still competent in that area. He's excellent in pass protection, and that's a great quality considering the Rams struggled to keep their quarterbacks upright in 2014. 

    G Arie Kouandjio, Alabama

    Arie Kouandjio is yet another excellent run-blocker. If the Rams put him at left guard next to Robinson, Mason will have mile-wide run lanes to burst through. 

    However, Kouandjio is not totally refined as a pass-blocker, so it might be risky playing him next to Robinson (who is also questionable in pass protection). As such, right guard would probably be the ideal position for Kouandjio. That would also allow Saffold to remain at left guard (where he's starting to get comfortable).

    Kouandjio is not worth St. Louis' high second-round pick, but he's an excellent third-round target if he drops that far. He should be a Day 1 starter in St. Louis. 

    Other Targets

    T Ronnie Stanley, Notre Dame (First Round)

    T Ereck Flowers, Miami (FL) (First Round)

Miscellaneous Prospects

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    Scott Cunningham/Getty Images

    WR Amari Cooper, Alabama

    The Rams are not totally eager to get a wide receiver, but if Amari Cooper somehow falls to No. 10, that's not something St. Louis can ignore. 

    Tavon Austin has been a disappointment as a receiver, and the Rams have failed to utilize him on deep balls. With Cooper, he's more of a complete receiver, so it'll be easier to get him involved in the passing game. 

    Cooper is a game-changing talent and is a threat to score every time he touches the ball. With Cooper and Austin on the same offense, along with bigger receivers such as Brian Quick and Kenny Britt, the Rams will have a plethora of weapons. 

    It'll still take a competent quarterback to utilize all the weapons, but if the Rams snag Cooper, any quarterback St. Louis brings in will be walking into an incredible situation. 

    WR Dorial Green-Beckham, Oklahoma

    Dorial Green-Beckham has off-the-field concerns that will hurt him, but he's basically a Randy Moss and Calvin Johnson clone. As a prospect, he's in the top five among this class, but the Rams might be able to get a bargain by selecting him No. 10 (or even later than that in a trade-down scenario). 

    As of now, Green-Beckham has been mocked everywhere from Round 1 to Round 3, but that's irrelevant. He's a world-class athlete, and his combine performance will solidify his first-round status—that's a guarantee. 

    Like Moss and Megatron, Green-Beckham is everything NFL scouts look for in a receiver. He has size, a 4.37-second 40-yard-dash time along with incredible strength and playmaking skills. 

    Will the Rams be able to overlook his immaturity and legal issues? That remains to be seen. 

    CB Ifo Ekpre-Olomu

    After three offseasons with Snead and Fisher, one thing we've learned is that they value the cornerback position...a lot. 

    Signing Cortland Finnegan was one of the first moves the duo made in 2012. A few months later in the 2012 draft, the Rams grabbed Janoris Jenkins in the second round, combined with Trumaine Johnson in the third. The team grabbed fifth-rounder Brandon McGee in the 2013 draft, along with second-round pick Lamarcus Joyner and sixth-rounder E.J. Gaines in 2014. 

    The Rams have addressed the position every single year under Fisher, so would it really be a surprise if they did it again? 

    One of the best corners this year is Oregon's Ifo Ekpre-Olumu. He's a little short at only 5'10", but he has great speed and will immediately improve the Rams' abysmal coverage. 

    Adding another corner high in the draft sounds insane, but Jenkins gambles too much in coverage, Johnson has injury concerns and Joyner still has a lot to prove. 

    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. 

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