The 2014 NFL season may be one of the most important years in recent memory for the St. Louis Rams. They have spent year after year building up talent, having at least one pick in the top 15 selections since 2006. This year they will hold two draft picks in the first round, both selections also being in the top 15. They also had two first round selections in last years draft, picking up speedy wide receiver Tavon Austin, and the athletically bruising linebacker, Alec Ogletree. With their front office not budging on the stance of Sam Bradford being their perennial signal caller for the future; the Rams will not be in the bidding for one of the top quarterbacks in the draft. So as the first round review continues, NFL Draft Daily will decipher what positions they may view as a top priority in the upcoming draft in May.
With the second pick in the draft, St. Louis will have numerous options on the table with how deep this draft is for their needs of the team. Last year the Rams signed left tackle, Jake Long, in hopes to solidify the position and provide adequate protection to Bradford’s blind side. Unfortunately the big tackle has not played a full season since 2010 with his former team, the Miami Dolphins, and may be somewhat diminishing as one of the top tackles in the league. With all the injuries piling up on Long, it may be a safe bet to see the Rams lock up a future tackle at the position. The tackles in May’s draft have been considered some of the best in years, and better than the draft last year, that watched three offensive tackles get selected in the top five picks in that draft. Sam Bradford has had a few injury concerns himself, so St. Louis would be doing itself a dis-justice not adequately protecting their future quarterback.
Some of the top prospects to name at the tackle position are the likes of Jake Matthews, Greg Robinson, and Taylor Lewan. All are considered the cream of the crop at their position and would be tagged as franchise left tackles for any team. Greg Robinson is touted as the prospect with the most upside coming into the draft out of the three, improving his stock massively while performing at the combine. With their second first round pick in the draft there are multiple ways the Rams may go. Wide receiver is still a concern on offense, as well are safety and defensive back on defense. Tavon Austin was picked relatively high in their recent draft, but the quick wide receiver is more built for the slot position, not framed for a number one receiver on the outside. The safety position has also been an issue for a few years and their recent acquisition, Cortland Finnegan did not live up to the billing of his contract last year for the Rams at corner. With Sammy Watkins and Mike Evans as the two top wide receivers in the draft, it all depends on which one they like more. If St. Louis covets Watkins more they will have to use their second overall pick to nab him, experts feel the top receiver will be gone within the first five picks. If they like Evans, they may able to stick around at their thirteenth pick slot and be able to come away with a top receiver. Other prospects like Ha Ha Clinton-Dix may be available for the safety position; and there may be a chance Justin Gilbert may be around if the Rams want to give a corner a look.
As the NFL Draft Daily review winds down two prospects come to mind for St. Louis. With Jake Long’s body breaking down, and their insistence to stick with Sam Bradford, they need to protect the young man. Greg Robinson is the hybrid tackle in this draft with the most upside, and would provide any quarterback for the Rams excellent protection on the blind side for a decade. Another position of interest is also the wide receiver position, if they want Bradford to succeed they need to provide weapons for their quarterback. Mike Evans provides that big physical receiver that will catch any football in his vicinity. Evans showcased his abilities at the combine, catching balls fluidly with his hands while also running a 4.5 40 yard dash with his 6’5 frame. The young wide receiver out of Texas A&M has drawn comparisons to the likes of Vincent Jackson and Randy Moss, very high praise for a young man who has not touched an NFL field as of yet. The Rams could do no wrong drafting either player, providing stability on multiple fronts for the offense. Both draft picks provide a hope for a team that has not made the playoffs since 2004, its been too long for the fans patiently waiting in St. Louis.
This article is one in a series, published daily, which provides analysis, insight, and predictions leading up to the NFL draft and beyond.
Commentary by Justin Huffman