- Mike Sando, NFL Insider
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16. Tavon Austin, WR, West Virginia
Kiper's give: Danny Amendola will be catching passes from Tom Brady in 2013, so the Rams can certainly afford to place a high priority on a slot weapon. Austin is one of the true home run threats in this draft, and while he's perfect to work in the slot, given his speed, route-running skills and soft hands, this is a player you can get creative with. The loss of Amendola leaves a void, but Austin could even be an upgrade.
Sando's take: There's a tendency to overstate the Rams' need level at wide receiver after the team parted with Amendola and Brandon Gibson in free agency. Chris Givens and Brian Quick could grow into a productive combination. Free-agent addition Jared Cook will help the receiving game even though he's listed as a tight end. The same goes for Lance Kendricks. The Rams have already invested quite a bit in their efforts to arm quarterback Sam Bradford. Quick and Kendricks were second-round picks. Austin Pettis was a third-rounder. Cook cost $19 million in guaranteed money. There are still question marks about this group, however. Austin's presence would only improve the odds for St. Louis. He would probably help in the return game right away even if he needed time to develop as a receiver. Kiper had Austin going 14th overall in his previous mock. He did not project Austin as a first-round selection in either of his two previous mocks for 2013.
22. Kenny Vaccaro, S, Texas
Kiper's give: The departure of Craig Dahl for San Francisco isn't what I'd call a personnel emergency, but there's not a lot left behind him. Darian Stewart and Rodney McLeod are currently penciled in as the starters, so drafting Vaccaro guarantees you an upgrade at safety in a division where safeties are vital. San Francisco, Seattle and Arizona all can test you deep, and in a couple of cases, you need safeties who can fly up to make plays on QBs who are willing to run.
Sando's take: Dahl's departure tells only part of the story. The Rams' move to release Quintin Mikell reduced Mikell's cap charge to $6 million for 2013, a substantial savings, but it also increased the team's need at the position overall. The Rams need young talent at safety whether or not Mikell re-signs at a lower rate sometime in the future.
46. Montee Ball, RB, Wisconsin
Kiper's give: Minus Steven Jackson, their depth chart at running back is set with this addition.
Sando's take: Scouting reports on Ball suggest he runs like the big running back Rams coach Jeff Fisher wants to add. While Ball isn't especially large by NFL standards at 5-foot-10 and 214 pounds, the Rams could use him in committee. Isaiah Pead, a second-round choice in 2012, projects as the change-of-pace back. Daryl Richardson was a revelation as a seventh-round choice last year. Kiper's partner in draft analysis, Todd McShay, thinks the Rams could consider drafting a bigger back after the first couple rounds. He pointed to Michigan State's Le'Veon Bell and Stony Brook's Miguel Maysonet as players to consider if Ball weren't the choice in the second round. Neither was selected during the first two rounds of this latest mock from Kiper. Eddie Lacy, a running back Kiper projected to Green Bay at No. 26, would be a reach for the Rams in the first round, according to McShay. "This running back class is not very good," McShay said, "but I think you can get a Le'Veon Bell, who can catch the ball out of the backfield very well, or a Miguel Maysonet. There are other guys you could bring in to help at the running back position, even if it's Montee Ball in the second round."
Mel Kiper Jr.'s fourth mock draft for 2013 covers two rounds. After a look at projections for the San Francisco 49ers, we continue with the St. Louis Rams.