Friday, January 10, 2014
An early look at Rams' draft needs
By Nick Wagoner
ST. LOUIS -- ESPN NFL draft analyst Kevin Weidl completed his series on draft needs Friday afternoon with a look at the NFC West in this Insider piece.
Throughout the division, Weidl sees an obvious need for offensive line help, including the St. Louis Rams. We covered that need earlier Friday but Weidl provides some names for the Rams to consider.
Here's what Weidl had to say on the subject of drafting an offensive tackle:
"If the Rams do elect to hold on to the pick, Texas A&M OT Jake Matthews makes sense here. Matthews fills a pressing need, and at this point appears to be the clear-cut No. 1 offensive tackle, although Auburn's Greg Robinson could make a push as we get further into his evaluation. Furthermore, Jake Long has dealt with durability issues the past few seasons and continuing to bolster protection for Sam Bradford, who will return from a season-ending knee injury this year, makes sense here."
Both Matthews and Robinson figure to be of interest to the Rams and both have appealing ties to the top Rams decision makers, coach Jeff Fisher and Les Snead. Matthews is the son of Bruce Matthews, who was a standout tackle for Fisher in Houston/Tennessee. Robinson is coming from Snead's alma mater Auburn, where he was teammates with Fisher's son Trent.
Fisher has a long history of not drafting a top offensive tackle so early but he also has rarely been in position where he needs one. Adding one early in the 2014 draft would give the Rams a complement to Long and serve as a potential long-term replacement. Much of what the Rams do on the line could come as a result of what happens with Rodger Saffold in free agency.
After offensive tackle, Weidl points to safety and strong-side linebacker as other key needs for the Rams. At safety, he mentions Alabama's Ha Ha Clinton-Dix as a possible first-round choice and follows by naming one of my favorite players in college football, Florida State's LaMarcus Joyner, as an option past the first round.
The Rams seem set on having T.J. McDonald in one of the safety spots moving forward but could use a playmaking type to complement him.
As for the strong-side linebacker spot, Weidl mentions top prospects like UCLA's Anthony Barr, Buffalo's Khalil Mack and Alabama's C.J. Mosley. While the Rams are probably unlikely to bring back Jo-Lonn Dunbar to handle that spot again, they do have Ray Ray Armstrong in place and may continue to develop him in 2014. Either way, I don't view another linebacker as a serious need for the Rams, certainly not one to spend a high pick on given other needs. Dunbar and Will Witherspoon played only about half the snaps this season.
Beyond that, the Rams could use help at cornerback and receiver. To this point, Snead has indicated the Rams are content with their current receiver group but that doesn't necessarily mean they are. At this time of year, teams are loathe to share too much information. If the Rams actually aren't interested in a potential top wideout such as Clemson's Sammy Watkins, they should be.
Any interest in bolstering the receiver group or any other position will reveal itself further as we get closer to the draft in May.