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Thursday, April 3, 2014
Analyzing Kiper Grade A draft: Rams

By Nick Wagoner

The St. Louis Rams figure to have a variety of options when May's NFL draft rolls around. In free agency, the team has mostly remained silent but recently ramped up activity to add depth at quarterback, defensive tackle and wide receiver.

As one of two teams with a pair of first-round picks, the Rams can go different ways with their top selection, which is No. 2 overall. A common prediction among the mock draft crowds has seen offensive linemen regularly mocked to St. Louis at that spot. In this edition of Mel Kiper Jr.'s mock, Insider he takes a slightly different tact and offers his preference for the player each team should take in the first three rounds. When it comes to the Rams, that flexibility allows for him to stray from so-called conventional wisdom.

In each of Kiper's previous mock drafts, he's had the Rams opting for one of the top two offensive tackles, either Texas A&M's Jake Matthews or Auburn's Greg Robinson. Both of those picks are logical and the team couldn't go wrong with either player. The same can be said of the player Kiper opted for in this version, Clemson receiver Sammy Watkins.

I don't believe the Rams can make a mistake by taking either of those tackles, Watkins or South Carolina defensive end Jadeveon Clowney, but I've also been consistent in my belief that Watkins is the one that fits the best. The Rams have been lacking a clear top receiving option since Torry Holt's prime and haven't been able to find a wideout capable of posting even 800 yards in a season, let alone 1,000. Scouts believe Watkins is one of the top receiver prospects to enter the draft in years and the first one the Rams have been in position to draft.

Although No. 2 might seem a bit rich for a receiver without the size and speed combination of a Calvin Johnson, Watkins is still considered a top three-to-five prospect overall. Against the dominant defenses in the NFC West, Watkins would give the Rams a player capable of putting more points on the board, which is the team's greatest need in 2014.

At No. 13, Kiper goes back to a more familiar fit for the Rams in Alabama safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix. The Rams have an obvious need at safety and Clinton-Dix is widely regarded as the best in class, which again makes this a logical move should the Rams want to go this way.

There are other players to be had who would also fit positions of need. Notre Dame offensive lineman Zack Martin would make an ideal left guard who, like Rodger Saffold, would excel inside while providing maximum value as a swing tackle in the event of injury. A top cornerback such as Michigan State's Darqueze Dennard, who would be a good scheme fit in Gregg Williams' defense, would also make sense.

It would be a bit easier to pass on someone like Martin if Kiper's second-round choice remained on the board at No. 44. Virginia offensive tackle Morgan Moses is a fast riser who comes from a school with a strong pedigree of producing solid NFL tackles. Moses would be a fine fit and potentially even a steal at that point in the draft.

Kiper caps his three-round mock by sending linebacker Christian Jones to the Rams at No. 75 overall. Jones would also make sense as a fit, but I don't see the need for help at linebacker to be as pressing as other places. By this point, the Rams have taken a receiver, a safety and an offensive lineman. Although linebacker is on the list, it still ranks below other positions, namely quarterback and cornerback.