NFC West: Aaron Murray

EARTH CITY, Mo. -- The St. Louis Rams went heavy on the beef on Day 1 of the NFL draft, adding Auburn offensive tackle Greg Robinson and Pittsburgh defensive tackle Aaron Donald.

As we head toward Friday night's second and third rounds, the Rams have some pressing needs to address. Namely, they need help in the secondary with a nickel cornerback and a potential rangy safety type topping the list. The team could also look for their quarterback tonight, perhaps as early as their second-round choice at No. 44.

And we can't forget that the Rams showed interest in trading back up for Notre Dame offensive lineman Zack Martin on Thursday night, meaning they considered doubling down on big men up front. They could well be tempted again if someone they like is available tonight.

Here's a quick rundown of some options at those positions:

Defensive back: There was a big run on cornerbacks and safeties in Round 1, but there is plenty of depth to be had at cornerback. At safety, not so much. However, there are some intriguing options. Florida State's dynamic duo of Lamarcus Joyner and Terrence Brooks provide a couple of strong options, with Joyner providing corner/safety versatility and Brooks fitting the role as a rangy free safety. Nebraska cornerback Stanley Jean-Baptiste and Lindenwood cornerback Pierre Desir are intriguing prospects with size, but neither necessarily fits the bill to help in the nickel unless the Rams feel good about using Janoris Jenkins there or continuing to plug Rodney McLeod in there. In Mel Kiper Jr.'s Round 2 mock draft Insider, he has only Joyner, Brooks and Jean-Baptiste going in Round 2 amongst defensive backs.

Murray
Quarterback: The Rams want a quarterback who can push starter Sam Bradford, hence the interest in Johnny Manziel. Though they didn't feel comfortable enough with any of the prospects to draft them above other players at other positions they clearly liked better, they still want to get a quarterback who has starter potential even if it's not for 2014. There are still some intriguing names on the board like Fresno State's Derek Carr and Eastern Illinois' Jimmy Garoppolo. I think the Rams have some interest in both, especially Garoppolo, but it seems unlikely either will fall to No. 44 with some quarterback-needy teams ahead of them. That leaves some other options, including Alabama's AJ McCarron, Georgia's Aaron Murray and Pittsburgh's Tom Savage. The Rams have shown interest in all of them, and all figure to go in the second or early third round. If the Rams want a quarterback from that group, they might have to pull the trigger in the second round, because they might not be there in Round 3.

Offensive line: The idea of spending another premium pick on an offensive lineman is probably not appealing to fans who weren't impressed by the meat and potatoes approach of the team on Thursday night. But there are some names that could be intriguing should the Rams look to go this route Friday night. Nevada's Joel Bitonio and UCLA's Xavier Su'a-Filo are two names the Rams have expressed interest in and would be good fits. The Rams have more pressing needs in the secondary, but the value of Bitonio or Su'a-Filo could be hard to resist. In Round 3, someone like North Dakota State's Billy Turner or Furman's Dakota Dozier could draw interest.

Elsewhere: By no means are the Rams committed to taking a player from one of these positions. There are some good receiver prospects still available, and the Rams could go that way though I believe the Rams will pass on wideouts until later believing that none of the players left there are true No. 1 types. In other words, the players left might be projects similar to what they already have, so they might as well see it through with their current crop. Linebacker is a possibility also as the Rams showed interest in a player like Alabama's C.J. Mosley in Round 1. It would be a surprise to see the Rams go with a tight end, running back or defensive lineman Friday night.

Prediction: I believe the Rams will sit with their two picks and make their choices from the secondary, quarterback and the offensive line. My hunch is that it will be a defensive back and a quarterback, though projecting the rounds for each is more difficult. I'm going to press my luck and offer these choices for the Rams tonight:

Second round, No. 44 overall -- Florida State DB Lamarcus Joyner
Third round, No. 75 overall -- Georgia QB Aaron Murray
EARTH CITY, Mo. -- In what has become sort of a St. Louis Rams tradition, the team is sending a large contingent of primary NFL draft decision-makers back on the road to take a final look at some top prospects.

The NFL mandated teams complete their top 30 pre-draft visits by last Sunday, meaning the only way to see players up close is to go to them on their college campuses for private workouts. It's something coach Jeff Fisher and general manager Les Snead have done in each of their first two years in St. Louis and are doing again with one week before the NFL draft.

Earlier in the week, we reported the team was planning to visit with Auburn offensive tackle Greg Robinson, Alabama quarterback AJ McCarron and Georgia quarterback Aaron Murray. More reports surfaced Wednesday evening indicating the Rams are putting more miles on owner Stan Kroenke's private plane.

Topping the list is what is expected to be a Friday visit to College Station, Texas, where the team will work out wide receiver Mike Evans, offensive tackle Jake Matthews and quarterback Johnny Manziel. The Rams have made no secret of their interest in the first two players but Manziel's name has been popping up more frequently lately. The Rams are not going to take a quarterback at No. 2 but they sure wouldn't mind a team trading up to grab Manziel. And if he surprisingly slips to No. 13, Manziel can't be ruled out as a possibility for the Rams, though they would probably again look to trade first with a team looking for the quarterback.

Before heading to Texas A&M, the Rams will spend Thursday at Alabama where they are expected to put McCarron through the paces. The team could also look at tackle Cyrus Kouandjio and safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix but the primary purpose is to spend time with McCarron, a possible second-round choice to fit the team's need for a young quarterback.

ESPN's Chris Mortensen also reported the Rams' barnstorming tour would take them to Notre Dame, Tennessee and Ohio State. Visits to South Bend and Columbus would be no surprise given the team's pre-draft interest in Notre Dame defensive lineman Stephon Tuitt and Ohio State linebacker Ryan Shazier. But it's believed that offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer and line coach Paul Boudreau are also part of the traveling party, which would indicate a chance for a closer look at Fighting Irish offensive lineman Zack Martin and Buckeyes tackle Jack Mewhort.

A stop in Knoxville would also probably mean continued focus on the offensive line where the Volunteers have two prospects in tackles Antonio Richardson and Ja'Wuan James.

Another report had the Rams making a stop at Michigan, where they'd almost certainly be visiting another top line prospect they like in tackle Taylor Lewan.

All of those workouts would go on top of the team's trip to Clemson where it worked out receivers Sammy Watkins and Martavis Bryant and quarterback Tajh Boyd last week.

Last year, the Rams took a series of late trips for workouts, including one to West Virginia where the team confirmed its interest in receiver Tavon Austin but also fell for fellow wideout Stedman Bailey. The Rams traded up to No. 8 for Austin and selected Bailey in the third round. In 2012, the Rams went on a tour of the nation's top receivers and became smitten with Brian Quick on a visit to Appalachian State. They drafted him in the second round.

Considering the sheer number of workouts the team is reportedly setting up, it's impossible to know which way it might be leaning when it comes to the draft. But it's probably a good idea to acknowledge that at least one and perhaps more of their early picks will come from the group mentioned above.
There are few secrets about Bruce Arians as a coach.

He likes to throw long and deep, and he likes to put up a lot of points. And here’s another thing we know about Arians: He’s had some great quarterbacks.

With the draft less than a week away and speculation increasing that the Arizona Cardinals will take a quarterback with one of their six picks, what kind of quarterback Arians favors has become a hot topic.

Here is what we know: Arians has had a lot of success with taller quarterbacks who don’t run much. Just look at Peyton Manning, Ben Roethlisberger and Andrew Luck. They can run, but don’t in Arians’ system. And most every quarterback that fits those dimensions has succeeded in his scheme.

Here’s a look at the past six quarterbacks Arians has coached and the top 10 quarterback prospects in this year’s draft, according to ESPN:

The San Francisco 49ers will likely consider adding a quarterback in the mid rounds of the draft.

The team would like to develop a backup to young star Colin Kaepernick. His 2013 backup, veteran Colt McCoy, is a free agent. The team also has McLeod Bethel-Thompson, who could compete for the job.

Still, this is a deep draft, and the 49ers have a surplus of picks. And coach Jim Harbaugh is a huge fan of young quarterbacks. The 49ers looked at several last season. Here is a look at some of the quarterbacks who could attract interest in the mid-rounds:

Tajh Boyd, Clemson: Once considered a top-10 pick, Boyd could be tempting if he is available late in the third round.

David Fales, San Jose State: The local kid has the look of becoming a competent backup.

Jimmy Garoppolo, Eastern Illinois: He dominated at a low level. Could be worth a shot.

AJ McCarron, Alabama: He’s smart and a winner. Those are two wonderful quarterback traits.

Aaron Murray, Georgia: coming of an injury. Could be an interesting guy to stash.

Logan Thomas, Virginal Tech: He has all the tools. Could be worth developing.
Patrick Peterson and Chad Henne AP PhotoCornerback Patrick Peterson, left, and the Cardinals could make life hard for the Jags' Chad Henne.
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- The Jacksonville Jaguars finally took 0-16 off the table with their 29-27 upset of Tennessee in Nashville.

But that doesn't mean things are wonderful in Jacksonville. The team still ranks last in the NFL in total offense and rush defense and next-to-last in rushing offense.

To the Jaguars' credit, the players said those same things almost immediately after the game and have repeated them throughout the week. Finally getting that first victory doesn't change the fact that the team still has a long way to go.

The Arizona Cardinals have won back-to-back games for the second time this season and find themselves in the hunt for a playoff spot. The offense hasn't been especially productive, but the defensive front has been stellar, which is why the Cardinals are the NFL's third-best rush defense.

ESPN.com Jaguars reporter Michael DiRocco and Cardinals reporter Josh Weinfuss break down Sunday's matchup at EverBank Field:

DiRocco: Josh, running back Rashard Mendenhall has really struggled this season. Rookie Andre Ellington has clearly outplayed him, yet coach Bruce Arians seems to be sticking with Mendenhall. What gives?

Weinfuss: If I had the answer to that question, I would sell it to Arians, retire and be living on a beach. Nobody really knows. There are a few guesses as to why, but the most common one is that Arians is simply loyal to players he brings in. Mendenhall was Arians' handpicked running back, and the coach will go with him through thick and thin. There's also the fact that Arians doesn't consider Ellington an every-down back. Arians would rather give Mendenhall the brunt of the carries -- especially between the tackles -- while he uses Ellington out in space. That said, Arians won't shy away from using Ellington more than Mendenhall throughout the game if the rookie has the rhythm.

After getting their first win, are the Jags feeding off that momentum, or are they basking a little bit in not being a winless team?

DiRocco: The Jaguars certainly enjoyed their first victory, but I would call it a tempered excitement. In the locker room after the game, players talked about fixing mistakes and staying humble. That message was reiterated Monday and Wednesday. The players remember what happened after the Denver game. They played relatively well against the Broncos, trailing 14-12 at halftime before eventually losing by 16 in a game in which they were 28-point underdogs. They figured the progress they showed would naturally continue, but they followed that performance by playing two of their worst games of the season, against San Diego and San Francisco. The players say they've learned their lesson and that won't happen again. We'll have to see Sunday if that's the case.

Like the Jaguars, the Cardinals are searching for a long-term answer at quarterback. But they're also in contention for a playoff berth, so they're not likely to be picking near the top of the draft. Louisville standout Teddy Bridgewater, Oregon's Marcus Mariota and Texas A&M's Johnny Manziel are probably out. So which quarterbacks to do you think they have their eyes on, and which would be the best fit?

Weinfuss: I think this draft could be the long-term answer to the Cardinals' quarterback situation. If the Cardinals end up in the playoffs, they won't be picking near the top, which means they might get their hands on a college veteran. I've liked Aaron Murray from Georgia for a long time, and I think he's the type of player who can come in and have the talent to play right away. Another guy who could benefit the Cardinals is LSU senior Zach Mettenberger. They are both pocket passers who have big arms and are smart. Mettenberger might pick up an NFL offense quicker than Murray, because he's been running an NFL offense under offensive coordinator Cam Cameron. Arians' offense calls for a big arm, but I think Arians is seeing what life is like in the NFC West, facing mobile quarterbacks like Seattle's Russell Wilson and San Francisco's Colin Kaepernick, who can run and have big arms. Both Murray and Mettenberger could benefit from playing behind Carson Palmer for another season, if the Cardinals bring Palmer back. If a slinger like Clemson's Tajh Boyd is available, I wouldn't be shocked to see him drafted. At the same time, I also wouldn't be surprised if Arizona waits on a quarterback until the second or third round, hoping a gem like Wilson is available then.

Speaking of quarterbacks, is Chad Henne the short-term or long-term answer, and what will the Jags do with Blaine Gabbert?

DiRocco: Right now, Henne gives the Jaguars a better chance to win than Gabbert, but Henne isn't the long-term answer for the franchise. The Jags' first pick in the 2014 draft -- whether it's No. 1 or not -- will almost certainly be a quarterback. That's a clear indication that the team is ready to move on without Gabbert, who was the No. 10 overall pick in 2011. I would be surprised if he's on the roster next season. Henne will be a free agent after the season and might opt to go somewhere else to compete for a starting spot. If he decides to come back to Jacksonville, it would likely be to serve as a mentor to whichever quarterback is drafted.

Cardinals cornerback Patrick Peterson has shadowed top receivers Calvin Johnson, Steve Smith and Andre Johnson and did a good job against them. I'm assuming he'll draw Cecil Shorts on Sunday. Is that the case, and where do you think Peterson ranks among the league's top corners?

Weinfuss: If Shorts is the Jags' top receiver threat, then Peterson will most likely draw that assignment. Peterson prides himself on stopping the opponent's top receiver, as he has done in wins against Detroit and Houston -- despite two touchdowns by Andre Johnson that were barely inbounds. Peterson is no doubt one of the top two or three cornerbacks in the game, and depending on how you grade them, he could be the best. He's definitely the most athletic, but sometimes his fundamentals aren't as sound as they should be. He's shown that size doesn't matter as he takes on bigger players and makes them all but a nonfactor.

Is the Jacksonville defense better than people give it credit for, or is its 32nd ranking in stopping the run an accurate representation of the unit?

DiRocco: It's pretty bad. The defensive line, outside of Sen'Derrick Marks, has played pretty poorly. It has been physically handled way too often, has poor gap control and has had trouble with missed tackles. Linebacker Geno Hayes has been inconsistent, and there are three rookies in the secondary. Middle linebacker Paul Posluszny has been terrific, but he might not play this week because of a concussion.

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