Thursday, May 1, 2014
Rams making their final rounds
By Nick Wagoner
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.